Barack Obama may have been a lesser evil when compared to the Republican Party –full of Tea Parties- in the domestic scene, but there is no doubt that he has been a disastrous president in the international arena, where his mala praxis and loss of influence is obvious. Perhaps the so-called Arab Spring and its repercussions are the greatest exponent of his heritage of failure and weakness.
The same can be said about the European Union, which doesn’t even have a recognizable foreign policy. Thanks to the EU’s arrogance and clumsiness, Ukraine (which had recently initiated an approach procedure to Europe) has rotated 180 degrees and has redirected back to Russia. As Walter Russell explains in Vía Media:
The EU on the other hand, infected by the usual mix of arrogance, legalism and internal wrangling that fairly consistently undermines its influence on the world stage, assumed that the attractions of its offer were so overwhelming that relatively little needed to be done beyond restating the terms of the deal. Worse, it demanded that President Yanukovych swallow a large toad before signing up; he had to release his archrival and predecessor Yulia Tymoshenko from jail.
The EU underestimated Russia. Specifically, it underestimated Russia’s determination to block this deal and it underestimated the value of the advantages that its legalistic insistence on the Tymoshenko release put in Putin’s hand. A smarter approach would have been to get Ukraine hooked on the EU market and weaned from Russia at almost any price. Then, when Ukraine’s westward orientation was impossible to reverse and when Russian power had diminished following the shock of Ukraine’s departure, would come the time to introduce those legal norms.
If Russia succeeds in tying Ukraine, China in showing its force in Asia, and Iran in strengthening its position in its realm of power, then the West will have trouble keeping its legislation in the world because –as Walter Russell mentions- all small countries will realign towards those new powers closer to them. In this context, probably the first victim will be Israel.
If the Central Powers (China, Russia, Iran) win all three of these contests, the worldwide balance of power will change. The United States and its allies will be seen as having lost their nerve and their edge; from the Balkans to Southeast Asia, from the Arctic Ocean to the Bay of Bengal, smaller powers will begin to recalibrate their foreign policies. Many will tilt away from the perceived losers in the great game and align themselves with what to many will now look like the rising powers.
All these movements are practically imperceptible for ordinary people, who believe they’re living in a safe world, protected by the borders of their country. Furthermore, the recent agreement with Iran has increased the illusory sense of security. However, nowadays security depends more and more on these deaf movements.
The only reason why western Europeans have lived in such a glorious age of peace is the United States of America. After all, Europeans were unable to build a military empire while acting the fool with the euro and even thinking they could exceed US’ power. The result? Europe has moved away from the States.
Moreover, Europe has underestimated Russia, which will fight for Ukraine –a decisive country for them. Russian nationalism is wide-awake, whereas the European is non-existent. But, what about the Ukrainian people? Well, they are deeply divided: there is a pro-Russian section and a pro-western one, the latter actively fighting for democracy and political and economic freedoms (those that we westerns don’t even think about because we take them for granted….).
*Illustration: Dutch cartoonist Van Dam.