Friday, April 6, 2012

Year 2011: Crises, Revolutions, Threats, Leaders and Outsiders

What are the events that occurred in the past year? Will those crucially affect the situation on the planet?

Before answering these questions it is necessary to mention the increasing foreign policy fatigue of the USA and countries the European Union, generated by their internal economic problems, shaking in the Arab world, rolling to the opposition between the United States and China in East Asia, the aggravation of situation in the Middle East and in South Asia (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan). In the post-Soviet block, paramount event became the successful starting of the model of the economic integration within the framework of the customs union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

West Changes

The United States remains the leading nation in the world that has no competitors, comparable with the economic, technological and military power, and political influence. The Americans launched a missile project in Europe and declare commitment to maintain and strengthen its military presence in the Pacific. However, financial constraints have forced the United States for a substantial reduction of the military budget. In 2011 the American troops after eight and a half years backed from Iraq, in 2014 it planned to transfer responsibility to domestic security in Afghanistan.

United States provided support for NATO operations in Libya, offering NATO Allies to play a central role in defeating the military forces of the Jamahiriya. Despite the ultimate success of the operation, NATO did not demonstrate greater unity in their ranks and showed the failure in the absence of clear American leadership to achieve the objectives in the short term. Great in the past, the European powers - France and Great Britain spent about eight months to remotely destroy a weak enemy at the border zone of responsibility of NATO. However, the loss of allies in this are zero.

The debt crisis in the European Union led to the disengagement and redeployment of forces within the EU. Britain refused closer integration in the European Union. The leading role of Germany with the obviously auxiliary role of France meanwhile distinctly appeared on the European continent. Around the core of Germany are countries with stable finances - mostly from North and Central Europe, while Southern Europe is financially and politically dependent on this nucleus. This is the most serious change on the continent after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Balkan wars of the 90s.

Bubble area

The most important outcome of this year was the awakening of the Arab world. It led to the overthrow of moderately authoritarian, United States and Europe-oriented regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. In the first two countries Islamist forces came to power through elections. Of key importance for the region is Egypt. Although the Egyptian army, the tip of which is closely connected with their colleagues from the U.S., maintains a pro-American orientation, the future government is likely to distance themselves from the United States on the Palestinian and Iranian issues. Washington will probably put up with it and even to continue to provide major assistance to Cairo in exchange for the promise of the Egyptians to keep the peace with Israel.

In contrast to the formal republican secular regimes in the three countries of North Africa, who fell under the blows of popular uprisings, the conservative monarchical regimes of the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, have shown resistance. The uprising in Bahrain suppressed by military force with the help of Saudi intervention. In Riyadh, a change of heir to the throne will be followed by a change of the king, and the new monarch would be more conservative than the current one. Arab rulers are curious over the ease with which the U.S. administration withdrew support to its longtime ally - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Saudis, while maintaining an alliance with the Americans realize that they can not rely on Washington, and are preparing to conduct their own game.

An important part of this game has aggravated the struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional dominance. Almost complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq has highlighted the weakness of the U.S. position in this country and the instability created by Washington's political structure there. The renewed confrontation between Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis, contributes to the transformation of Iraq - along with the small Gulf states and Syria - in the area of ​​Iranian-Saudi rivalry. The prospect of territorial disintegration upon religious and ethnic lines, which was initiated in the mid-2000s, is once again becoming relevant.

The escalating civil war in Syria opened a different perspective - the destabilization of one of the key participants, together with Egypt, the Arab-Israeli process, and along with it - the resumption of armed conflict with Israel and the Lebanese civil war. Pressure from the West and Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf and Turkey upon the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to force him to step down and establish a friendly regime in Damascus, who would likely link with Iran, was still insufficient. Change of power in the country failed. Assad's opponents, in contrast to Gaddafi's enemies failed to establish a bridgehead for military intervention similar to the Libyan model. The position taken by Russia and China did not allow the United States and European countries to achieve an unambiguous condemnation of the Assad regime in the UN Security Council.

The destabilization of Syria and Iraq affects Jordan, a traditional ally of the United States in the Middle East. On the stability of the Hashemite throne, is also influenced by the situation in the West Bank, where Israel has refused to make concessions to the Palestinians, the desire of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to break the impasse by declaring an independent state on the territory actually controlled by Israel, and a more radical position of the Hamas government in Gaza and Lebanon organization "Hezbollah" In addition to Jordan, Morocco is in a vulnerable position in terms of internal processes. Finally, the largest Arab country in the territory - Sudan - lost in 2011 part of its territory, formed after the referendum, an independent state - South Sudan.

The growing rivalry

In 2011 the U.S. government has actually marked the Asia-Pacific region as an important area for the United States in the world. Policy statements of President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, supported the efforts of American diplomacy and military-political strategy, reflects US emphasis in relationship with China. Two decades after the end of the Cold War, American leaders have emphasized the cooperation with Beijing, considering the military might of the United States primarily as a belay tool, now soft containment of the Middle Kingdom is becoming the heart of official Washington's approachment to China.

U.S. is strengthening alliance with its traditional partners - Japan, Australia, Thailand, the Philippines, and develop strategic cooperation with India, which in turn is extremely concerned about the growth of Chinese power, rely on relations with Indonesia, establishing military and political ties with the former enemy - Vietnam and seek to displace China's influence in Burma. Washington has openly supported the South-East Asia in their efforts to resolve disputes with China in the South China Sea, collectively, rather than on a bilateral basis, as Beijing wants.

For its part, China has introduced new elements in its foreign policy, showing that the Beijing leadership intends to abandon the "low profile" in international affairs, will take tough stance to defend national interests and build military power. Demonstration of an early version of the fifth generation fighter aircraft and the first sea trials of the future Chinese navy aircraft carrier show an increase effort in military-technical competition in the western Pacific. The influence of the military community on the development of foreign policy of the Chinese obviously will improve.

Two nuclear issues

The greatest immediate threat to international peace and security, is the situation in the Middle East and South Asia. Iran seems to be able to recover from the blows inflicted on it during the secret war by the United States and Israel, and made considerable progress in building its own nuclear weapons. According to official Pentagon estimates, Tehran could acquire nuclear weapons in 2012. Iran's successes were noted in the report of the IAEA, which is seen in the United States and NATO as an authoritative confirmation of Iran's nuclear program success.

Secret War intelligence and commando units, "the war of words" at the political level, the accusations against Iran in plotting the assassination of the ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Washington have created essentially pre-war psychological background. Realizing that military strikes are unable to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue and the consequences of the war with that country would overshadow any gains from strikes on Iranian facilities, the U.S. is teetering on the brink of war, and Israel is actually discussing the existence of the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, the most dangerous nuclear problem is not in Iran but in neighboring Pakistan. In 2011 began the "divorce" between Islamabad and Washington. The Pakistani military has recently characterized by the growing anti-Americanism, painfully perceived how the U.S. organized and carried out the destruction of Osama bin Laden. The incident, in which the Americans fired on Pakistani troops and killed 24 of them, was, apparently, the point of no return in relations between the two old allies. Civilian government of Pakistan that exercise much goodwill toward America, are losing influence. The country in recent years has substantially increased its nuclear arsenal, growing religious radicalism, anti-Americanism and the role of the military who continue to see India as chief enemy.

In Afghanistan, the countdown time remaining before the formal transfer of responsibility from NATO and the U.S. Government is less than two years. The situation in Afghanistan with the departure of the Americans will worsen as the country goes under the responsibility of corrupt government of Hamid Karzai and the Taliban.

In Iraq, Americans have once again confirmed the well-known: the withdrawal of their troops from a region creates no less a problem than their arrival there. By the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO out of Afghanistan the neighbors, including Central Asia and Russia should prepare themselves. Russia itself in 2011, has achieved a rare achievement: the first time in 20 years really worked integrative union of former Soviet countries - the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Dmitri Trenin ,
Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center


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