What will the new global order look like?
The post-second World War order of bipolarity has definitely collapsed after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It has been argued that this event also marked the end of Cold War, too. Today’s post-Cold War environment, however, gives the appearance that it is still unsettled and will probably continue to be so for some foreseeable time.
Many hold the view that today’s world order can be best defined as a multipolar one. Multipolarity then, is defined in different contexts and varies from one definition to other. The United States, in this multipolar richness, is still considered to be one of the poles, albeit one which is depreciating its own image and status due to U.S. President Donald Trump’s unpredictable policy implementations. Its military might and economic potential, however, is not contested.
It is also strongly argued that the other pole is Russia. However, there are views which disagree and claim that Russia’s economic might is not leveled with that of the United States and this prevents Russia from being considered a matching pole against the U.S. This might seem to be the prevailing appearance under current circumstances but one should keep in mind that Russia’s military might and its rich hydrocarbon resources make this country a serious contender in the emerging multipolar environment.
Europe is suffering from its transitionary phase. Brexit, rising populism and ultra-nationalism, tendencies of growing authoritarianism and further moves of national disintegration, such as the one sparked by Catalonia, all endanger Europe’s status as a viable and reliable pole. Europe’s vulnerabilities also give rise to arguments, which suggest that instead of becoming a pole on its own, Europe will probably become a partner to enhance the status of a stronger pole. As the U.S. gives signs of disengagement with Europe, Russia is increasing its engagement at different levels. Therefore, a tug of war is already brewing to withdraw Europe from a sphere of influence.
China, with its world view based on the definition of itself as the core “Middle Kingdom” with the concentric circles of spheres of influence around this core, is beginning to increase its prospects of becoming a significant pole in the emerging multipolarity. Interestingly, China’s outreach to Europe is steadily developing, too.
China has conducted two naval drills with Russia, one in the Eastern Mediterranean in 2015 and one in the Baltics in 2017. In 2012, it has created a multilateral cooperation scheme with sixteen Central and East European countries, among which there were both EU-members and non-members. Its efforts to establish the Asian Investment and Infrastructure Bank in 2014 were supported by many European countries, too. Xi Jinping’s appearance in Davos last year, with his remarkable defense of unhindered global trade and commercial relations is still in memories.
China’s “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) project also involves and expands to the West, through Asia to Europe, and is designed to integrate China with the world economic system. OBOR also envisages expanding cooperation through a think-tank network, university network, laboratory network and business network, which would enable China’s integration with Europe in different areas, too.
China’s moves suggest it is also becoming a contender in reaching out to Europe and to benefit from Europe’s contribution to enhance its own global weight. This is happening at a time when historic development of Western civilizations is being seriously challenged by the risk of interrupted Trans-Atlantic relations. It is important, therefore, that the U.S. reticence to support Europe, a partner that it has a multitude of commonalities in terms of universal values, should be seriously reviewed.
At the beginning of the second year of presidential term, Donald Trump has the chance to offer this review during Davos at the end of this month. The Paris Agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the U.S. and Europe, and enhanced cooperation within NATO are all aspects that are awaiting review.
Will it happen?