The Twenty-First Century presents
BSSB.BE project-syndicate.org 03.02.2016
The start of 2016 has been anything but calm. Falling equity prices in China have destabilized markets worldwide. Emerging economies seem to have stalled. The price of oil has plunged, pushing petroleum producers into crisis. North Korea is flexing its nuclear muscles. And in Europe, the ongoing refugee crisis is fomenting a toxic tide of nationalism, which threatens to tear the European Union apart.
Add to this Russia’s neo-imperial ambitions and the threat of Islamic terrorism, and comets streaking across the sky may be the only thing missing from a picture of a year shaping up to be one of prophetic doom.
Wherever one looks, chaos seems to be ascendant. The international order forged in the fires of the twentieth century seems to be disappearing, and we have not had even the faintest glimpse of what will replace it.
It is not difficult to put names to the challenges we face: globalization, digitization, climate change, and so forth. What is not clear is the context in which the response will come – if at all. In which political structures, by whose initiative, and under which rules will these questions be negotiated – or, if negotiation proves impossible, fought over?
- Political and economic order – particularly on a global scale – does not simply arise from peaceful consensus or an unchallenged claim by the most powerful. It has always been the result of a struggle for domination – often brutal, bloody, and long – between or among rival powers. Only through conflict are the new pillars, institutions, and players of a new order established.
- The liberal Western order in place since the end of World War II was based on the global hegemony of the United States. As the only true global power, it was dominant not only in the realm of hard military power (as well as economically and financially), but in nearly all dimensions of soft power (for example, culture, language, mass media, technology, and fashion).
- Today, the Pax Americana that ensured a large degree of global stability has begun to fray – most notably in the Middle East and on the Korean Peninsula. The US may still be the world’s strongest power, but it is no longer able or willing to play the role of the world’s policeman or make the sacrifices needed to guarantee order.
Indeed, in a globalized world, with ever closer integration in terms of communication, technology, and – as we have recently seen – the movement of people, the centers of power are diluted and dispersed; by its very nature, a globalized world eludes the imposition of twentieth-century order.
And yet, while a new global order may inevitably emerge, its foundations are not yet indiscernible. A Chinese-led order seems unlikely. China will remain self-absorbed, focused on internal stability and development, and its ambitions are likely to be narrowed to control of its immediate neighborhood and the surrounding seas. Furthermore, China lacks, in nearly every respect, the soft power that would be indispensable if it were to try to become a force for global order.
Nor are these times of turbulent transition likely to end in the emergence of a second Pax Americana. Despite America’s technological dominance, there would be too much resistance by regional powers and potential counter-alliances.
In fact, the main challenge of the coming years is likely to be managing America’s declining influence. There is no framework for the retirement of a hegemon. While a dominant power can be brought down through a struggle for domination, voluntary retreat is not an option, because the resulting power vacuum would endanger the stability of the entire system. Indeed, overseeing the end of Pax Americana is likely to dominate the tenure of America’s next president – whoever that might be.
For Europe, this raises an equally difficult question. Will the decline of Pax Americana, which has served for seven decades as a guarantor of Europe’s internal liberal order, unavoidably lead to crisis, if not conflict? Rising neo-nationalism across the continent seems to point toward such a scenario, with appalling implications.
The bleak prospect of European suicide is no longer unthinkable. What will happen if German Chancellor Angela Merkel is brought down by her refugee policy, if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, or if the French populist Marine Le Pen captures the presidency? A plunge into the abyss is the most dangerous outcome imaginable, if not the likeliest.
Suicide, of course, can be prevented. But those who are happily chiseling away at Merkel’s position, the UK’s European identity, and France’s Enlightenment values threaten to undermine the ledge on which we’re all standing.
Author: Joschka Fischer was German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005, a term marked by Germany’s strong support for NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, followed by its opposition to the war in Iraq.
Euroskepticism Economy Crisis
- project-syndicate.org – Europe`s on the Brink. History tells us that the answer is an emphatic no. Sixty years ago, with Europe’s economy reeling from the destruction caused by World War II, Europe’s leaders lifted their eyes above daily hardships to shape a more hopeful future, underpinned by European integration. That same vision and foresight is needed today, and the European Union, with its unmatched ability to facilitate regional cooperation, will remain essential. It is time for Europe’s leaders to break the decades-old habit of pursuing half-baked projects that blunt the symptoms of crises, and to implement real reforms that address the root causes. Only with a new approach – and tangible progress – can solidarity within Europe be regained. Nonetheless, the EU and its institutions remain integral to efforts to respond to challenges that require a united front – challenges like those that Europe faces today.
- md – All eyes on Chisinau. During the meeting from today, the protesters voted unanimously a resolution through which they state the definitive seizure of all state institutions. “The only salvation of the existence itself of the state Republic of Moldova is the replacement of the current political class, through early elections in democratic conditions, with a government of popular trust, monitored by the UN and the international institutions”, is said in the resolution which is lower. The only salvation of the existence itself of the state Republic of Moldova is the replacement of the current political class, through early elections in democratic conditions, with a government of popular trust, monitored by the UN and the international institutions.
- com – Hurricane Moldova. Moldova’s Jan. 20 parliamentary vote to approve the new government ended nearly three months of political deadlock in a country that plays an important role in the competition between Russia and the West in the former Soviet periphery. The previous government, led by former Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet, collapsed Oct. 29, 2015 after Strelet lost a no-confidence vote over allegations of corruption. Protesters are still on the premises at the time of this writing, albeit in lesser numbers. Representatives of some smaller pro-West factions, such as the Civil Platform for Dignity and Truth and the party recently formed around former Education Minister Maia Sandu, have also gathered to protest the new government, accusing it of weakness and corruption given its ties to Plahotniuc. In the case of yet another government collapse, early elections probably would be unavoidable and would give Moldova’s pro-Russia elements the chance to stall, if not reverse, Moldova’s efforts to integrate with the European Union.