At the end of Second World War, Europe was devastated economically and militarily. Germany, France, Italy, UK, Hungary and Poland were most affected by the five years of wars. Two events enabled Europe to get back on its feet. First was the Marshall Plan introduced by USA. It provided much needed financial capital to these countries but at the same time provided American companies an opportunity to make inroads into Europe. It also lay foundation of her world domination. Trade without security is difficult to produce the desired results. Creation of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) provided security against the hostility of assertive communist Soviet Union and its own Warsaw Pact. The declared objective of NATO was to contain the expansion of Soviet Union and provide a deterrence against its nuclear weapons. At the end of Cold War questions were raised about the purpose of NATO.
In last few years America has taken two strategic steps that will redefine the scope of NATO. First is American emphasis that European members should come forward and assume greater budgetary and personnel responsibility for it. America has been demanding that its European partners should allocate at least 2% of their GDP on defense spending. She has been aggressively pursuing Germany to assume more responsibility but Chancellor Angela Merkel has been facing domestic opposition over it. The crisis in Ukraine, which is largely an American initiative, serves the purpose of preparing public opinion to spend more on security. Deteriorating security environment in Mediterranean countries Libya and Syria is also a security worry for Europe and impacts her more than Americans. Role of NATO in the emerging scenario would be to provide a counter to Russian and Middle Eastern turmoil.
Second strategic step taken by the US is announcing its pivot to Asia. In other words, Europe and its struggle with Russia is no longer hold greater strategic interest for USA. American calculations seems to be that Russia is not strong economically and militarily to pose a serious threat to her interest. But rather it is a European issue and they should take a lead in its deterrence.
The strategic interest of America now lies in Asia and the growing influence of China. The new cold war will be between USA and China. To counter Chinese influence, America is seeking a Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries. This agreement exclude both China and Russia which has offered its own trade pact to these countries. But the security concerns and increasingly aggressive posture of China in South China seas are creating anxieties in the region. To provide a counter weight, America might be offering a security pact to these TPP countries similar on the line of NATO that has worked well for Europe. The prominent members of this security pact could be Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Apart from an economic incentive, American security guarantees could be a prime mover in convincing the countries to sign the TPP.
Chinese are not happy about these developments. To counter this emerging scenario, China and Russia will be aggressively pursuing the promotion of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that includes the central Asian countries to develop a Eurasian security partnership. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran are also seeking full membership of it which could convert it into a regional security platform. If the focus and objectives of NATO changes, Turkey may also decide to join SCO rather than remain part of it. NATO inability to support Turkey during the Syrian crisis has left its mark on her. On various occasions President Erdogan has already expressed desire to become part of it. European reluctance to open membership chapters with Turkey is another disappointment that could push her towards SCO.
China has announced tentative bilateral free trade agreement with South Korea which might include an incentive to make progress on unification with North Korea. Southern anxiety about security threat from north has been substantial. North Korea today is completely dependent on Chinese economic and security aid. They may have no other option but to make progress on unification with her Southern brothers. China is largest trading partner of South Korea with annual trade of around 23 billion dollars. She is one of the few countries that has trading surplus with China to the tune of 60 billion dollars. The aggressive posture of Japan is worry for her and Chinese security guarantees could be welcomed by them.
China has recently announced creation of a 40 billion dollars Asia Infrastructure Development fund to counter the influence of World Bank which is dominated by America and her European allies. India and Russia are supporting this initiative as junior partners.
India will try to champion the non-align movement and seek support from all those countries that are not part of any of these platform. Countries from Middle East, Africa, and South America may come forward to support this initiative. Brazil and South Africa could provide much needed support to India to make this platform viable.
United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is increasingly become irrelevant in the emerging new order around the world. It may still remain as a multilateral forum to resolve issues faced by these competing regional platforms but its composition will be changed. It may expand membership of its permanent membership; restructure its voting criteria and add more non-permanent members. United Nations General Assembly will remain a platform for world leaders to express their foreign policy views but no concrete actions will emerge from it. Its various social organs like UNESCO, UNCHR, WWF etc. will continue working on their specific narrow objectives.
The world is moving towards regional platforms. This shift will not be easy and without friction. The hope should be that transition to this new world order remain peaceful and do not get out of hand resulting in another world war.
By Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi