CARACAS, Wednesday April 01, 2009 | Update
There is a revival of the multipolar view of international relations; that is, the use of the "smart power" that resorts to dialogue and consensus. This is the era of President Barack Obama and of most European leaders. However, experts consider that the unipolar or military option will always be there for the US
Photo: Freddy Henríquez
I fully agree with Pierre Rousselin's words when presenting his blog "Geopolitique" at Le Figaro: "Since the world has never changed so swiftly, international current affairs are increasingly difficult to decipher."
Contemplating the exercise of global power from the unipolar, bipolar or multipolar perspective depends on what region of the globe the observer is in or on what part of History covers the analytical journey.
The most challenging task is to respond to the greatest anxiety of any contemporary citizen: How power relations are managed on this international chessboard with players trying to play with new rules and others trying to apply the old ones to unprecedented crises and conflicts?
Multipolar, bipolar or unipolar approach to international relations is again in fashion after the arrival of Democrats in the White House with Barack Obama (2009-2013), who has opted for multipolarity and for the search for a new international balance.
The history of international relations reminds us that a multipolar system already existed in 1815: England, France, Prussia, Russia and Austria were the leading powers. Then after World War II, Europe was reconstructed under that approach, and the same multilateral inspiration gave rise to the United Nations and to a whole range of institutions within its heart, as well as to others of military or economic nature.
Russia wanted to make a difference in March 2009, with a proposal that will make it necessary to reconsider the international security structure and even to make a revision of the relations with the US, under other parameters, agreements and probably even to reedit bipolar rivalry.
Military and nuclear large-scale rearmament of the Russian Army and Navy, which feel their national security threatened by the NATO expansion, will start in 2011 until 2015. This process will include the positioning of a missile shield close to Russian borders, in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The US "imperial machinery" is in maintenance and Russians have said that theirs will be ready and with brand new equipment in 6 years. All this contrasts with the fact that the US has admitted their intention to shift their course. Obama wants to negotiate a cutback of "historical proportions" of atomic arsenals.
On another scale, Russians have also tried to approach in the Americas to regimes that are ideologically hostile to the United States, like Venezuela. Moscow has opened a business line for the sale of weapons and hopes to use Venezuelan territory for the passage of strategic aircraft. Cuba has been involved in this courtship.
Unipolarity that emerged after the Cold War stresses, according to the Marxist view of the political, military and economic order, that the world is under the influence and dominance of a sole great power: the United States in this stretch of History that started in 1991. Unipolarity was certainly a practice of Bush administration.
The same old issues of the international agenda are there: Cuba and Latin America, the Middle East, the old and new alliances, disarmament, international security; conflictive players and topics; sensitive communities like Muslims; wars; emerging powers; China; the new agents of public pressure, bloggers, NGOs. The "time of vertigo and constant movement" as Professor Asdrúbal Aguiar describes the moment we are living now. Trials of virtual coexistence in "affiliation communities;" democracy in Facebook; or climate change; or the support for humanitarian organizations that work in places like Darfur, Sudan; or drug trafficking.
A woman, Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, has the task of restoring the exercise of the "smart power" or the old tradition of the "soft power" that resorts to dialogue and consensus, as reported by Antonio Cano, diplomatic journalist of Spain's El Pais; and to inclusion or to conciliation emissaries, either for the Middle East or Latin America -the Brazilian president for the Cuban and the Venezuelan issue, for instance. In little more than 60 days, Clinton managed to soften restrictions on trips to Cuba, as an aperitif of how the normalization of the relations will look like. The Fifth Summit of the Americas, to be held in Trinidad & Tobago on April 17-19, is part of this design of a new multilateral architecture aimed at developing a shared regional thematic project.
Open doors and crossed play instead of threatens concerning the Iranian issue. Observers perceive a sample of "balance and harmony politics" in the invitation that Washington has extended to Iran to dialogue and take part in an international conference about the war in Afghanistan, as well as Russia, India and Pakistan.
When Obama promised to attend in Turkey to the Alliance of Civilizations, a Spain's initiative that defends an alliance between the Western and the Arab and Muslim worlds with the aim of fighting international terrorism through a way different to the military, he has demonstrated his willingness to dialogue with those that are different, to practice multilateral dialogue; as former Spain's Minister of Justice, Juan López Aguiar, puts it "a decisive strategy to better the world."
In this fresh start, the North American power is keeping a low profile with regard to the antagonist governments in the Hemisphere.
The same old allies
In Europe, allies fervently believe in multipolarity, like France that returned in March to the NATO military command, after leaving it in 1966 as a result of a decision of General Charles de Gaulle. President Nicolas Sarkozy pointed out that France "must codirect, more than follow." And he asserted: "A solitary nation is a nation that lacks influence."
The veteran Henry Kissinger has said that Russia must be seen "not as a permanent threat but rather as a potential partner." This country wants to be recognized as a major global player. Some experts believe that this aspiration must be taken advantage of concerning an issue which Obama has shown interest in: weapons control.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented in an editorial on February 9, 2009, that "unilateralism remains an option and the use of military force is in the toolbox" of the United States and Russia.
News Editor, El Universal newspaper
Translated by Alix Hernández
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