New World Order: conspiracy theory meaning explained as US President Joe Biden refers to it in business speech

While the ‘new world order’ is no doubt changing, it has very little to do with the conspiracy theory

President Joe Biden has stoked the first of conspiracy theorists by referring to a “new world order” in a speech.

Speaking about the implications of Russia’s assault on Ukraine. at a meeting of the Business Roundtable lobbying organisation, Biden said “things are shifting.”

“There’s going to be a new world order out there, and we’ve got to lead it. And we’ve got to unite the rest of the free world in doing it.”

But what exactly did the US President mean, and was he referring to the famed conspiracy?

Here is everything you need to know.

What is the New World Order conspiracy theory?

The New World Order conspiracy theory is the belief that a secretive totalitarian cabal of world governments are attempting to establish an international order that would see the people of earth suppressed under a globalist regime.

The common theme is that a secretive elite (for instance, the “Illuminati”) is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian one-world government, which would replace sovereign nation-states.

Many historical and modern day figures have been alleged to be part of a secret collective that operates through many front organisations to orchestrate significant political and financial events.

The popularity of the theory first rose during the Cold War, when the American right’s paranoia of Russia saw it begin to embrace and spread dubious fears of Freemasons, Illuminati and the Jewish religion as the alleged driving forces behind an "international communist conspiracy."

Russian President Vladimir Putin waves during a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow. Photo by Ramil Sitdikov / POOL / AFP

With the Cold War in the rear view mirror, the theory increasingly the stuff of science-fiction, with Hollywood conspiracy-thriller television shows like The X Files helping to keep the New World Order in the public consciousness through the 90s.

As to those behind the New World Order, theorists point to everything from the Illuminati, to a Nazi “fourth Reich” to a reptilian alien race that lives within the hollow shell of our own planet as the ones pulling the strings.

Why do politicians talk about it?

While it’s true that politicians and other influential figures have made - and continue to make - reference to a “new world order”, they are not referring to it in a conspiratorial sense.

Usage of the phrase can be traced back as far as the early 20th century, when figures like Churchill used the term to refer to a new period of history characterised by a dramatic change in world political thought and in the global balance of power after World Wars I and II.

In the wake of those global conflicts, a number of international bodies formed, in part to try to implement a framework that would stop such widespread wars from ever breaking out again.

The United Nations in 1945 and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949 are perhaps the two most notable examples, and this form of global governance was established to address worldwide problems that go beyond the capacity of individual nation-states to resolve.

During the late-2000s financial crisis, high-profile politicians like then UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown used the term when advocating for a comprehensive reform of the global financial system, reinvigorating New World Order conspiracism,

Why is there more talk about it now?

The term “new world order” has reared its head again in recent weeks, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

When politicians and pundits refer to a new world order - especially with reference to the situation in Ukraine - they are instead using the phrase to refer to the state of global affairs.

The complex relationships between countries, the power held by certain individuals, nations’ standing on the world stage; all are expected to shift and change in the wake of Putin’s invasion.

The conflict is seen to be a major escalation in world international tensions, an influential shift not seen since the World Wars.

And with Putin’s war crimes unlikely to be forgotten for generations, even if the war were to end tomorrow, its repercussions would be felt for decades.

Therefore, the “new world order” really is changing.

Ukraine’s former deputy prime minister, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, has said: "Putin will not stop his attack on Ukraine. He wants to have Ukraine under control and he wants a new world order where he will have a major say.”

The way things are going - with much or Russia’s advances stalled through inspirational Ukrainian resistance - that new world order may not look exactly as Putin had planned, but it will definitely look much different than before.

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