THE Times of London highlighted a story the other day about France and Germany having ‘drawn up a timetable’ to create a ‘common military force that would rival NATO in army capability’. True to form, the British Defence Secretary is reported to have announced categorically that ‘Britain will veto such a measure for as long as it remains a member of the Union’. This is not the first time that such a proposal has surfaced. Several years ago a similar attempt at creating an EU military force was nipped in the bud by the United States and its then ‘poodle’ the United Kingdom. Post Brexit, the proposal may not be that easy to stifle.
A look over the shoulder may well be in order. When the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight, many in the United States considered it a great victory. They started off by spreading their wings, even though they lacked the knack of flying. In their new-found and ego-boosting triumph, they chose to ignore even those who had made it possible. They should have known that you forsake your friends and allies at your own peril. They may now be paying the price; and with them their strategic allies!
The Russian Federation, the successor to the erstwhile Soviet Union, appears to be fast emerging from the shadows, thanks to the genius of President Putin. Having completed his stints as President and then as Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Putin is now once again President. Under his leadership the Russian Federation is well on its way to recover at least some of its lost glory. In fact, one may go so far as to state that the Russian Federation may well be reaching out to re-don the mantle of big (super?) power politics.
While the sole superpower is exhausting its energy and resources in ungainly conflicts and in chasing the mirage of a victory over ‘terror’, the Russian Federation appears to be moving cautiously towards the coveted goal of regaining its past glory (and power?). Having fortified itself with generous reserves of oil and gas, the Russian Federation has been making cautious but definite moves to re- assert its big power status. With the European Union too now appears to be flexing its muscles – post Brexit – who knows the United States may now find it a tad difficult to retain its ‘sole super-power status’.
The Georgia episode of yore was a blatant reminder that Russia is not to be trifled with. Putin’s calculated move into Georgia’s breakaway province should have been enough to convince the skeptics that Russia can no longer be brushed aside as a has-been. Slowly, but steadily, the Russian Federation is moving towards a position where it is emitting clear signals to the powers that be that it is determined to re-capture its glory – if not physically, but at least in drawing some of the remnants of its lost empire into its sphere of influence. In order to achieve this end, it may be getting prepared to challenge the status quo.
At this point, it may be time to recall that during his visit to Iran after the Caspian States’ Conference, the then Prime Minister Putin had indirectly issued a “hands off doctrine” to counter the pre-emption doctrine of President George W. Bush. In so doing, Putin successfully registered the name of the Russian Federation in the great power stakes. He may, indeed, not only have asserted a new-found confidence but also tentatively tossed Russia’s hat in the ring. At the same time, the Russian Federation is making a conscious effort to re-assert its role as an Asian Power. It is thereby claiming the right to be one of the arbiters in the great game being played on the continent of Asia – and that too in the so-called ‘Asian century’.
President Putin is an old campaigner, not known for grandiose moves or for misplaced bravado. Russia’s tentative moves under his leadership may be the precursors of the shape of things to come. The sole super-power would do well to keep a wary eye on not only a reawakening global power but also the Post-Brexit developments in a re-surging Europe.
The foregoing said, there is no overlooking the upsurge of the all-round power of China that can upset many an applecart. China is akin to a giant coming into its own after a longish period of slumber. Let it not be forgotten that China is not just a country, it is the successor to an ancient civilisation, one that is heir to an identity all its own. Through its pragmatic policies over the past decades, China is now in a position to claim the position that rightfully belongs to it. China may appear to be a country in a hurry but, if looked at closely, every step it takes is meticulously planned and not at all haphazard. In the twenty-first century – rightfully being touted as the Asian Century – the so-called big powers will ignore China only at their own peril.
While it may be a trifle early to forecast a return to a multi-polar World Order, the portents certainly point in that direction. The sole super-power has enjoyed its hour of glory. To be honest, it has not exactly covered itself with glory when it had its chance. The time may be ripe for it to prepare itself for the inevitable transition to a multi-polar world. What is ordained cannot be wished away. On its part, the Third World would be well-advised to keep its fingers crossed.
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.