The world has seen tumultuous times recently. The global financial crisis, Euro crisis, Arab Spring, Ukrainian crisis, the rise of ISIS, aggressive behaviour of Russia and North Korea, tensions in South China Sea, Syria’s civil war, the refugee crisis in Mediterranean Sea, Turkey’s decline, United Kingdom’s Brexit, along with the new US presidency disrupting the global leadership of the United States, have all come together and destabilised world affairs.
After the financial crisis the main focus was on bringing stability into the world economy, and to restore investment and consumer confidence in order to create good faith for the future. But the situation has gotten worse.
During the Cold War, the world was divided into three main areas – Western Bloc, Eastern Bloc and neutral zones. After the collapse of the Eastern Bloc the West was able to enlarge its sphere of influence, which included countries from the former Soviet Union. Many countries were integrated to the western market economy, which meant that globalisation moved forward.
China, Russia and many other countries decided to embrace capitalism instead of communism. Capitalism was embraced more than democratic values, but many of former communist countries are still heavily authoritarian.
For the new multipolar world this is a deep challenge because there is still a fight between freedom and tyranny. Every superpower seeks to increase its global influence during this current global turmoil. The raises a serious question. Which superpower will become the dominant force in global affairs?
Russia is a military superpower but it has serious challenges with its economy. An aging population makes Russia’s position even more disturbing. Russia has made economic reforms in order to boost entrepreneurship, but this has had minor effects. Russia is still a petrol state, its main export products are gas and oil. Therefore, Russia needs to diversify its economy because it can not be dependent only on raw materials.
The presidency of Dmitry Medvedev was increasing its sphere of influence by using soft power measures, mainly towards its neighbouring countries. Russia had a window of opportunity but it lost its goodwill during and after the Ukrainian crisis. This lost position is hard to get back because Russia should make an u-turn in its foreign policy, hence, to practice friendly diplomacy. A shift from hard power to soft power does not seem be a realistic choice when it comes to Russia.
China has increased its economical and military power after the Cold War. China’s strategy is to seek stability in global affairs because this is good for trade and economic growth. China needs economic growth in order to keep its citizens satisfied, and legitimise the power base of the communist party. Without high growth numbers, the communist party would face would face enormous pressure from its citizens.
China is still a developing country, and to become a developed country a very long road of reforms must be followed, which would mean a growing number of freedoms in all sectors, and should create a strong middle class. This sort of path would mean that the power structure of the communist party would become to an end. However, there are no signs that the communist party wants to weaken its position. Hence, there are major obstacles for China to become a dominant global actor as a developed country. China’s current geographical location became even worse because of aggressive behaviour of North Korea – growing tensions in South China Sea and by North Korea makes China’s situation quite problematic.
The European Union has a window of opportunity in order to increase its global position but the EU has a major problem with its common foreign and security policy. It can not operate like the United States, Russia and China can. The EU faced a backlash when the United Kingdom decided to leave the EU but the Brexit process is very complex, in which end result might be that the UK would stay as a member of the EU. If the UK is able to leave the EU this would harm EU’s global position, and its common foreign and security policy.
During the global financial crisis the EU was hit hard, which resulted as the euro crisis. Some members of the EU have faced serious economical difficulties but many countries have been able to generate fairly decent growth numbers, which can be seen as excellent results during the global turmoil. The EU has the capability to strengthen its position because the United States, China and Russia have their challenges. However, this requires from EU members to recognise this window of opportunity but this can be missed because EU members might not share common visions with each other.
The EU is a economical superpower, and its military structure is heavily integrated to NATO, which means that it should synchronise its foreign and security policy with the US in some issues. Hence, the EU can not be a totally independent actor in global affairs. The EU requires radical structural reforms, and it must have a wider tool set in foreign affairs, including a larger variety in military tools. Some member countries should tackle aging populations more fiercely. In contrast, the United States has a growing population, which is a positive issue for economical growth.
The United States is still the dominant player in world affairs, and it was able to increase its influence during the terms of president Barack Obama. Donald Trump’s presidency has brought some dark clouds over the United States but the country is strong enough to face Trump’s presidency, which might end in 2021. Trump can also improve his pace, which would mean that the US would not crumble its global position during his presidency. This would mean that the United States would enhance global free trade, including TTIP and TTP.
The US has a growing population, and its known as the home of democracy and free capitalism. The entrepreneurial culture brings new world class innovations into the market, and the country has the largest military force in the world. One of the major challenges for the US is to enlarge its middle class, which has been shrinking during the years. Therefore, many American politicians have said that the US should imitate European countries in labour, welfare and social issues in order to keep its economy thriving.
Russia and China have serious challenges in order to become dominant players in global affairs. The European Union and the United States have their own difficulties but with sound policies and steady political leadership these two actors can grow their global influences in the middle of current global turmoil but this requires cooperation between both parties, and countries around the world. Isolationism is not the answer in order to generate prosperity and peace.