The Russian Foreign Minister pronounced the EU officially dead – as far as Russia is concerned, at least: ““There are no relations with the European Union as an organization. […] Moscow only has relations with individual EU nations now.” Similarly, China finds the EU also increasingly difficult to deal with, and may also decide to just treat the EU for what it has become: a wasteful international bureaucracy. Brexit, the mismanagement of the COVID-crisis, and the increasingly diverging politics and political views within the EU only exposed the deep-rooted rot.
The Russian and Chinese Foreign Minister both want to strengthen the UN Security Council, which is probably a good thing – because the UNSC embodies the kind of nasty but effective realist deal-making our brave new multi-polar world desperately needs – especially now that all trust in the US as a ‘global policeman’ has been eroded. Biden calling Putin a ‘killer’ has not helped matters in this regard.
The UNSC might work – especially with Germany playing a more active role now as non-permanent member, probably seeking to reform it so as to achieve permanent member status. Enlargement of the UNSC should not be based on the preferences of the current permanent members, but on real power-projecting capabilities and other assets that may help to stabilize an increasingly volatile world. We may criticize Russia and China but – unlike democracies such as India – these are societies – or social systems – which have managed to define and, more importantly, implement medium- and long-term political and economic objectives. The numbers of 20 years of Putin, and a rapid comparison of China’s growth versus that of India (similarly endowed with natural and human resources) speak for themselves. Measured against Bentham’s utilitarian moral rule (what produces the greatest good for the greatest number?), Russia and China have surely done better than any other (large) society over the past 20 years.
As for Europe, I am not sure it has much future. Even as a name, it does not work very well: Europa was just a consort of Zeus, and she came from a region which is currently referred to as Turkey. So what message were ‘European’ politicians trying to convey with the idea of Europe anyway?
Ursula von der Leyen still has another four years to go, and does much better than inebriated Juncker (but then he was, without any doubt, the weakest EUC President ever), but she faces an uphill (impossible?) housecleaning task. Perhaps she should speak more German than French? With Brexit, a return to either is good. Let’s see what Germany’s voters say in September. Their vote is more important than others’. That is not a racial prejudice, but just fact: some people matter more than others, and some countries matter more than others, too!
[…] So what makes sense, then – in terms of international order? Perhaps the idea of weighted voting in the larger UN system should be re-considered. It may well be the only rational alternative to a return to the 19th-century international system, which was based on rivalry between nation-states. The only difference is that the world population will soon reach the staggering 8 billion mark, up from less than 2 billion in 1900: it more than doubled since I was born (which is 50 years ago). Doomsday thinking is not warranted, however. 🙂 And the nation-states are different. Two of them (China and India) now account for 36% of the world’s population. Asia as a whole will account for about 55% of the total in 2050, Africa 25% share. Europe and North America? Probably about 10% only, but this projection is based on healthy (overoptimistic?) demographics for the US and Canada.
The US alone still accounts for about 40% of the world’s spending on arms and the military. To protect whom against whom? Europe from Russia? The Middle East, Central Asia or Africa from fundamentalists? Democracies against dictatorships? And with what mandate, really? The US bypassing the UN Security Council in 2003 (the invasion of Iraq), as well as on numerous other occasions and related matters (including the first Gulf War) damaged its international credibility beyond repair. I worked for about 10 years in Afghanistan – about half of that time I was paid out of US taxpayers’ money – and I understand the appeal of the Yankee, go home idea very much. I believe that, since Trump, more Americans start to understand it too.
What about NATO? It served two purposes: one was to prevent war between its members, the other was to protect Europe against the Russians. The latter threat is no longer relevant in this interdependent world, so NATO should (also) scale down its xenophobic rhetoric, and focus on the first: reduce tensions between Greece and Turkey, focus on stability in the Balkans, reduce tension in former Eastern Europe (please stop expanding, NATO!), etcetera). Unfortunately, rational decision-making and international institutions are difficult to marry.