In the current international upheaval, North Korean extravagance is almost reassuring. On Monday, Pyongyang was again threatening Washington with a nuclear attack to retaliate against the naval initiatives led by the United States and South Korea. The Kim dynasty has been promising its enemies nuclear fire for years without having the capacity, however, to do so. Pure rhetoric. We are therefore on familiar ground, one of the last legacies of the Cold War.
Everywhere else this summer, this multiplication of crises does, however, gives [us] good reason to worry. Civil wars are raging or threatening to [rage] in Iraq, Syria, Libya, the Ukraine, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Sudan, etc.; the rupture between Russia, on the one hand, and Europe and the U.S., on the other hand, is growing; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is getting worse; and the arms race is on the rise in East and South Asia.
The planet seems more and more unstable, even flammable. It has become easy in this monumental mess to devise scenarios of new conflict — especially since, these days, we’re commemorating the 100-year anniversary of World War I. While it is useful to picture the worst-case scenario, we cannot allow it to take root in our minds that such an event is inevitable, as that would only be the most certain way to arrive at that outcome.
In a world that is becoming more and more complex — in large part due to an economic re-balancing that can be counted as a benefit of this progress — it is difficult to apply current defining concepts to these new realities. Religion remains a powerful divisive factor. The consequences of colonialism continue to poison Arab and African countries where, as in the past, people are still fighting for access to resources and social justice.
But the main division of this start of the century, ideologically speaking, is the one that forever and always opposes democrats to authoritarians. Europeans who hesitate between Washington and Moscow (see Beijing) should remember this, especially at a time when the U.S. is run by an administration that has given up the illusion of a unipolar world.
Intense spying by American intelligence tarnished the trans-Atlantic partnership. It’s a demanding relationship that cannot be exclusive and requires a constant critical eye, but is now the biggest guarantee of peace.