America’s declining strength as a peacekeeping power has not yet been counterbalanced by constructive action from other nations.
The world was happy when the bipolar era of the East-West conflict ended so mildly. But the multipolar system that has dawned instead does not seem to be safer or more stable. So the annual meeting of experts at the Munich Security Conference ended with a sobering insight: Global disorder prevails.
There is no concert of powers. The big powers handle one another with massive mistrust. Russia is under strong suspicion of having meddled in U.S. elections. China arouses America’s suspicion that it is still holding its protective hand over North Korea. The arms race is whirling. Fear of a nuclear conflict is going around.
At the same time, global power is eroding. The big boys can no longer dictate global events. Regional powers are arising. China is possibly losing its influence over North Korea. Russia is unable to curb the Iranians in Syria. The U.S. is in conflict with its NATO partner Turkey in Syria. America’s ally, Saudi Arabia, is likewise acting on its own. During the conference, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly threatened Tehran with war if the Iranians establish a permanent military presence at the Syrian-Israeli border.
The U.S. withdrawal from world politics leaves behind a power vacuum that other nations want to fill. The Americans cannot compel a solution to the conflicts in the Middle East or Afghanistan. Moscow plays a key role in Syria. Hindi Kush cannot function without China, the protector of the Pakistanis. Above all, China can expand because in contrast with the quarreling West, it has a geostrategic strategy. According to the analysis of German Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel, China is involved in globalizing its system, which is not based upon freedom, democracy and individual human rights.
It’s dawning on the Europeans that when it comes to foreign and security policy, they need to act more independently and in a more unified manner. But now, of all moments, an especially strong player, Great Britain, wants to leave the EU. It remains foggy how cooperation will function after Brexit. The EU nations must begin to plan arms projects together instead of dissipating their energies in a variety of different weapons systems. It is in no way clear how the EU’s defense components will avoid competition with NATO. Is President Jean-Claude Juncker’s EU capable of playing a role on the stage of world politics? For the time being that is rhetoric and far from reality.