Thirty years ago, billionaire financier George Soros articulated a plan for a “New World Order” that he wanted to promote through his philanthropic efforts.
I first came across Soros’s old essays when I was working on the biography of my mother-in-law, Rhoda Kadalie. She knew Soros from his work in South Africa. She broke with him later, but kept a few of his publications in her collection.
There are some interesting, long-lost gems. In one address in South Africa in 1994, for example, Soros amusingly admitted that he once pulled his funding out of that country because local activists seemed more interested in seizing his money than in producing results.
Today, Soros is presumed by his critics to be an evil manipulator intent on destroying society. Certainly some of the radical prosecutors he has backed, and the far-left groups funded by his Open Society Foundations, have earned him an infamous reputation, though it is debatable whether the 92-year-old is running his own operation anymore.
Regardless, thirty years ago at least, Soros seemed genuinely concerned about freedom.
The term “New World Order,” which fueled many conspiracy theories at the time, came from a speech in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush to Congress. It simply referred to hope for cooperation between former enemy nations. But Soros tried to give the idea more substance.
In a paper Soros self-published in 1993, he laid out his own vision for what a “New World Order” would look like, and what NATO’s role in it would be.
He was not optimistic: he thought the West was failing to integrate Russia and its former satellites into the free world. So Soros suggested a solution, through a reformed NATO.
He began with a description of his philosophical approach to statecraft.
Soros warned of situations in which “the discrepancy between perception and reality is very wide and shows no tendency towards convergence.” In those situations, he argued, changes can happen rapidly and are impossible to control. He also distinguished between “open societies” and “closed societies” by arguing that open societies accept that humans have an imperfect understanding of reality, while closed societies proclaim truth from on high.
Soros then applied those ideas to understanding the post-Soviet world.
The greatest danger, he said — writing in the early 1990s, during the Yugoslav Wars — was that nationalist dictatorships would replace communism in formerly closed societies, and drive those societies to military conflict and economic catastrophe.
(Interestingly, Soros did not anticipate that milder forms of nationalism, emphasizing freedom and sovereignty, could emerge.)
The solution Soros prescribed was “collective security.” But the U.S. could not be the world’s policeman, he said, and the United Nations was a failure, as was the European Union, which was showing signs of disintegration.
NATO was the only institution that had not been tried yet, and Soros believed that NATO had “the potential of serving as the basis of a new world order in that part of the world which is most in need of order and stability.”
To that end, NATO had to be made strong enough to “project its power and influence” into the post-Soviet world. (He noted that Russia objected to NATO expansion, but ascribed that to wounded “national pride.”)
While “military intervention” might be necessary in some cases, Soros preferred using NATO — or a larger “Partnership for Peace,” which could even include Russia — to liberalize societies peacefully, through investment.
The first thing to note about Soros’s argument is that he did not preclude an alliance between Russia and the West. Indeed, he welcomed it — on the condition that Russia would adopt a liberal, Western model of society and governance.
The second interesting element of his argument is that he did not rule out using military force to compel post-Soviet states to liberalize, because he believed that “closed societies based on nationalist principles” were a threat to the rest of the world.
It is unclear how widely Soros’s ideas about intervention were accepted. He himself later opposed a war in Iraq to impose democracy by force.
But there may be echoes of his idea driving U.S. policy in Eastern Europe today. It seems that the goal of military assistance to Ukraine today is not just to repel Russian invasion, but — as President Joe Biden infamously said — to force Russian President Vladimir Putin from power.
The administration, pessimistic about Ukraine’s chances at first, came to believe there may be a chance to liberalize Russia by force.
That is not the way Soros wanted to do it, ideally — but neither did he exclude it.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.