Yet unlike in 1989, the US and Europe are now cash-strapped and described as "exhausted." The rising powers of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (the BRICS) hold an estimated $4 trillion in foreign reserves and make up one-third of the world's 6 billion population. And they are posing new challenges to the world order shaped by the West.
From Europe, many see the BRICS as less interested in shared ideas of a multilateral world, and more inclined toward a nationalistic, multipolar world that emphasizes their own new strengths and interests. The result is fading authority and consensus on the world stage. The cold war "spheres of influence" between two powers are long gone. The new world order of American dominance has faded. But no clear leadership or rules have replaced this. New fights between trends of human rights and democracy – and sovereignty – have no rules as of yet.
The clash came into stark relief in a UN resolution on Syria this month. The resolution called on the regime of Bashar al-Assad to halt its "violent offensive at once." That offensive has been in the news every day since March: The United Nations stated Oct. 14 that more than 3,000 protesters have been killed in the bloodiest episode of the Arab Spring.