Ben Norton EU International

EU Admits New Cold War is Not ‘Democracy vs. Autocracy’: ‘On Our Side, There Are a Lot of Authoritarian Regimes’

The European Union’s top foreign-policy official Josep Borrell admitted the West’s new cold war on China and Russia is not a conflict of “democracies vs. authoritarians,” conceding, “On our side, there are a lot of authoritarian regimes.”
Photo by Guillaume Périgois on Unsplash

By Ben Norton / Multipolarista

The European Union’s top foreign-policy official, Josep Borrell, admitted that the new cold war that the West is waging on China and Russia is not a conflict of “democracies vs. authoritarians.”

“On our side, there are a lot of authoritarian regimes,” the EU’s de facto foreign minister conceded.

Borrell’s comments directly contradicted those of US President Joe Biden, who claimed in his first State of the Union address in March that the new cold war is a “battle between democracy and autocracies.”

The top EU diplomat instead recognized that the new cold war is a struggle in which economic “systems are in rivalry,” and that most of the Global South “do not want to be forced to take sides in this geopolitical competition,” because “they feel that the global system does not deliver,” and “because they blame us.”

Borrell said the international political order is in a period of “messy multipolarity,” describing it as “a world of radical uncertainty,” where the “speed and scope of change is exceptional.”

He made these remarks in a speech on October 10, opening the 2022 Ambassadors Conference in Brussels. Borrell explained:

There are many crises around the world, which are the trends that move this world.

First, a messy multipolarity. There is the US-China competition. This is the most important “structuring force”. The world is being structured around this competition – like it or not. The two big powers – big, big, big, very big – are competing and this competition will restructure the world.

And this will coexist with a broader “democracies vs. authoritarians”, a big divide. I would not insist a lot on it because on our side, there are a lot of authoritarian regimes. We cannot say “we are the democracies”, and the ones which follow us are also democracies – that is not true. That is not true.

Yes, there is a fight between the democratic systems and the authoritarian systems. But authoritarianism is, unhappily, developing a lot. Not just China, not just Russia. There is an authoritarian trend. Sometimes, they are still wearing the democracy suit, but they are no longer democracies. There are some who are not democracies at all – they do not even take the pity to look like democracies.

So, this competition is a structuring force. The fight between democracies and authoritarians is there. But it is much more than that.

In this same speech, Borrell confessed, “Our prosperity was based on China and Russia.” He acknowledged that the West’s neoliberal economic model was “based on cheap energy coming from Russia,” “access to the big China market,” and low-paid Chinese workers.

World of ‘mess multipolarity’ where many large ‘swing states’ refuse to take a side

This world of “messy multipolarity” is “not purely bipolar,” Borrell explained. He said there are “middle powers” and “swing states” that don’t take a firm side in the new cold war:

The world is not purely bipolar. We have multiple players and poles, each one looking for their interest and values. Look at Turkey, India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia. They are middle powers.

They are swing states – they vote on one side or the other according to their interests, not only their theoretical values.

But these people – I mention them again: Turkey, India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia – are players and poles. This creates this messy multipolarity.

These people – and there are a lot of people inside – are there, and not always following us.

As an example of an independent leader of a “swing state,” Borrell said, “Look at Mexico’s President [Andrés Manuel López Obrador]’s recent speech.”

“You heard what the Mexican President said about us recently,” the top EU diplomat said with a touch of anger.

Borrell was referencing a letter in March in which López Obrador condemned the European Parliament as “flunkies of the reactionary and coup-plotting strategy of the corrupt” right-wing oligarchs in Mexico.

López Obrador told the EU to “evolve, leave behind your obsessive meddling disguised as good intentions,” emphasizing, “Don’t forget that we are no longer a colony of anyone. Mexico is a free, independent, and sovereign country.”

EU acknowledges most of Global South is neutral in new cold war

In his speech, Borrell went on to admit that much of the Global South is neutral in this new cold war between the US and EU on one side and China and Russia on the other:

And in the middle of that, we have the Global South. These people do not want to be forced to take sides in this geopolitical competition.

More [importantly], they feel that the global system does not deliver, and they are not receiving their part. They are not receiving enough recognition. They do not have the role they should have according to their population and their economic weight.

And when facing these multiple crises – these multipolar crises – financial, food and energy crises – it is clear that they are not there following us because they blame us, rightly or not.

Two prominent former US diplomats made similar observations in September, noting that the countries representing 87% of the world’s population have refused to join the West’s new cold war.

EU admits its ‘systemic rival’ China has improved the lives of its people

The EU’s top foreign-policy official went on to clarify that the West’s conflict with China is a clash of opposing economic systems.

Even while he referred to China as “our systemic rival,” Borrell acknowledged that average people’s lives have materially improved in China, and that is why Beijing has popular support.

Borrell insisted that Europe must defend its model as the world’s “best combination” of “political freedom, economic prosperity, and social cohesion.”

This foreshadowed explicitly neocolonialist remarks Borrell would make three days later on October 13, claiming “the world needs Europe” as a “beacon” and beautiful “garden” to civilize the barbarous “jungle” in “most of the rest of the world.”

Borrell concluded his October 10 speech imploring diplomats at the EU Ambassadors Conference to adopt a darker “Hobbesian” philosophy and to “bring the voice of Europe” to the rest of the world, in order to show their model’s supposed superiority over China’s:

When we say that China is our rival, systemic rival, systemic rival means that our systems are in rivalry. And the Chinese are trying to explain to the world that their system is much better.

Because, well, maybe you are not going to choose your head of government, but you will have food, and heat, and social services, you will improve your living conditions.

Many people in the world, yes, they go and vote and choose their government, but their material conditions are not being improved. And in the end, people want to live a better life.

We have to explain what are the links between political freedom and a better life. We, Europeans, we have this extraordinary chance. We live in the world, in this part of the world, where political freedom, economic prosperity and social cohesion are the best, the best combination of all of that. But the rest of the world is not like this.

Our fight is to try to explain that democracy, freedom, political freedom is not something that can be exchanged by economic prosperity or social cohesion. Both things have to go together. Otherwise, our model will perish, will not be able to survive in this world.

We are too much Kantians and not enough Hobbesians, as the philosopher says. Let’s try to understand the world the way it is and bring the voice of Europe.

Information war is a huge part of the new cold war

In order to try to convince the world that Europe’s economic model is superior, the top EU foreign-policy official stressed that information warfare is imperative, in a international “battle of narratives.”

Borrell described a “competitive world where everything is being weaponised. Everything is a weapon: energy, investments, information, migration flows, data, etc. There is a global fight about access to some strategic domains: cyber, maritime, or outer space.”

He told the EU diplomats, “I need you to be much more engaged in this battle of narratives. It is not something secondary. It is not just winning the wars by sending tanks, missiles, and troops. It is a big battle: who is going to win the spirits and the souls of people?”

“I need my delegations to step up on social media, on TV, in debates. Retweet our messages, our [European] External Action Service materials,” Borrell stressed.


Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

* indicates required
Benjamin Norton
Benjamin Norton

Ben Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the founder and editor of Multipolarista, and is based in Latin America.

6 comments

  1. Holy Mackerel‼️Refreshing on many counts. Many thanks for this exposure to someone in the ‘leadership’ in touch with reality.

  2. Borrell misses the point: “Our fight is to try to explain that democracy, freedom, political freedom is not something that can be exchanged by economic prosperity or social cohesion.”

    Unfortunately, he glosses over the fact that Western democracy is mostly dead; an illusion of democracy papering over a grim reality of crony capitalism, captured regulatory systems, bought and paid for politicians (thanks Citizens United), economic exploitation, and self-serving oligarchy.

    Thus people in the West are getting neither democracy and political freedom, nor economic prosperity. At least China and Russia are trying to deliver on the economic prosperity front. No, that’s not enough all by itself; political autonomy is also important, but nowhere it seems, is that on offer.

  3. Compare Josep (Gardener!) Borrell with Lavrov, or Wang Yi, or Jaishankar as foreign ministers. I won’t mention an even lower level candidate with a name rhyming with Winken. A multipolar world with countries all allowed their own way of governing and living is attractive to thinking people all over the world, even perhaps some of the Western readers of this report.

  4. Interesting posit – his idea that new, new world order will be defined by the struggle between the biggest powers.

    It jives with my idea that when the US coup-ed the Ukraine government in 2014, the global world order was thrown asunder (like a completed puzzle on a table, now thrown into the air hovering, each piece detached from the other) it is worth noting that in this model, the Russian invasion did not cause the destruction of the world order – the 2014 coup did.

  5. and … In how many of the “Democracies” have there been held National Referendums on World War III?

    After all, is that not how a ‘democracy’ would go to war? Let the people vote on the question? Should that have not been the Big News Story of the recent months? How in nation after nation, democracy after democracy, people are going to the polls to vote to decide the question? How will France vote this weekend? Will the French democracy support the war? How will Spain vote?

    If the ‘democracies’ are going to war, should we not have seen this wave of referendum votes?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: