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The Rise of the Rest II - The regionalisation of power - by Cory Turner
Whilst the power of the 'West' wanes, a new, though more abstract, 'Divided West' has been born. The national governments of these states must cast aside the illusion of primacy on a global scale if their foreign and defence policies are not to be overshadowed by the Rise of the Rest.
The United States emerged from the Cold War with a position of undeniable primacy. However, there has been a shift from global power being controllable from a single, distinct entity in the form of the old power bloc, 'the West'.
Economic constraints and the loss of appetite for direct military intervention have divided the old alliance, fuelled by the failures of its post-2003 experiments. This has led not just to a new ethical debate, but also a revived respect for the doctrine of national sovereignty, leaving political leaders with only a willingness to commit to light aid to local, but vital, fighters and airstrikes within Iraq against the Daesh.
These issues have left many nations with no strategy for dealing with other threats. Against Russian expansionism, European leaders have effectively followed a policy of Appeasement, whilst its allies take different but disconnected strategies. France and Germany prefer a purely diplomatic solution that President Putin cannot agree to or else appear weak to his own public, trapped by his own propaganda machine, whilst the Baltic States arm themselves for the very real possibility of war.
This has led not only to a fragmented Europe, with many of their publics even preferring abandoning the European project, further dividing it, but a 'two-tier NATO', with the Baltic States still not assured of their old allies' protection, ramping up Defence budgets, whilst others cut them excessively. Thus, without a coherent and distinctive combined policy, both the EU and NATO alike are desperately unprepared and incapable of tackling a variety of threats.
Russia and China, once side-lined by 'the West', have calculated their moves carefully. Their strategies have been carefully cultivated to expand at a time that the 'Divided West' appears unwilling to integrate effectively as a concise force with a common priority or policy.
Russia and China have unveiled what some EU states and the US now lack; political vision designed for the new world, making old tactics relevant to a new world stage. Thus, the reluctance of the 'Divided West' to commit to innovative new policies by adapting their discarded ones has triggered the Rise of the Rest.
The primary, yet silent, lesson of the Cold War was that for the US, allies were much more valuable than vassals. As the USSR grinded itself to a halt because of its lack of development and coordination with a new wave of bold politicians, the US oriented its policy towards rebuilding its allies. This actualised Western Europe's industrial and military potential, spelling an end to the USSR. If such a policy were emulated by the US and the European nations with higher economic growth again, it would not be inconceivable that such nations as Ukraine, Japan and South Korea could help contain Russian and Chinese expansionism.
Such a rediscovery of Cold War-era policy alone though, would not be enough. China and Russia have asserted their growing control regionally. Both recognise that their hard power cannot extend outside of this. Not only would expanding into other theatres cause inevitable, very real conflict between them and the EU and/or the US, but it is clear that nobody on the world stage can do sustain such a presence anymore. The dominance of the Daesh (self styled 'ISIS') in Iraq and Syria, as well as Boko Haram, and previously Al Qaeda has demonstrated the changing character of warfare, and both Russia and China do not want to be embroiled in the mess that it has seen the 'Divided West' plunge itself into.
To make the policy of developing and creating new alliances work in the modern day, 'Western' leaders would necessarily have to pay due respects to regional variations. Iraq, having requested airstrikes into its borders against the Daesh, needs further commitment in the form of heavy specialist equipment-along with training in using them more widely-in order to win decisively. Tackling the push factors in the form of the stigmatisation of Muslim populations domestically will also be necessary in curbing the appeal of the terrorist group, as well as initiating a real debate around the role of the Intelligence services on internet security to legitimise possible censorship of harmful material and preventing recruitment practices.
On Ukraine, politicians, particularly in France and the UK, must form a clear stance towards the EU and decide what their desired role in it will be. Perhaps by taking new steps towards transitioning the Union as having a real common defence priority or even a common policy against Russian expansionism on its doorstep could legitimise any pro-EU leanings.
Thisis a time that a 'Brexit' remains a very real possibility, potentially ripping the Union apart, and thus leaving Europe wide open for further opportunities for Russia to observe what it can achieve with its on-going military modernisation project. Only by consolidating power, using a distinctive hard power to establish a clear defensive front, and supporting Ukraine through financial development funds, providing equipment and training to its servicemen, can Russian expansionism be contained.
China is a new but equally as formidable a threat, perhaps more so on account of it being highly irregular both as a developing country and for its own behaviour internationally. Its intentions are clear; to 'test the water', almost quite literally, and observe how far it may expand into its neighbours. It has seen the Divided West escape with disrespecting national sovereignty over the past decade, and is in prime position to exploit its weakness. The US must conceive of a way of developing the military and industrial potential of China's pro-'Western' neighbours, developed economically or not, in order to contain it, and invest heavily in innovative but untried technologies-the strategy which propelled it to military dominance in the Cold War, leading to the creation of new types of missile, new warships and the famous Stealth Bomber.
Ultimately, there has been a clear recent trend towards the regionalisation of power. Without committing to a revival of previous strategies in a modern context, supporting regional actors fulfil overlapping aims, the Rise of the Rest will continue, and may one day eclipse the power of the new 'Divided West'.