The world is changing. Fast.
Countries such as China, India and Russia are beginning to ascertain major political significance, with growing populations, or growing economies and militaries all contributing towards their confidence on the world stage.
Although the perceived demise of the USA as the world’s policeman has been somewhat overstated in recent years, it is becoming clear that America and her close allies do not possess the power they once did.
This notion has come to fruition in various forms over recent years.
Putin, for example, is doing his best to drag the “Russian Bear” out from dormancy, by playing on historic fears of an anti-Russian Europe, traditional beliefs that Russia needs a defensive buffer zone to her west and aims to obtain a warm-water ocean port. This increase in assertive self interest is usually veiled under the canopy of Russian nationalism.
When Russia came knocking in Crimea to liberate its ‘ethnically Russian’ population, a thought that may have been unthinkable in the not so distant past (Russian expansion without American response), came to be. And although the USA and co. have been very vocal in condemning the actions of Putin in Ukraine and Crimea, the “facts on the ground” would suggest that Putin has in fact, come out on top.
China, likewise, keen to prove itself on the world stage, and gain access to valuable resources surrounding various islands in the South China Sea, is beginning to flex its growing muscles. The creation of an expanded Chinese Defensive Airspace, in which any foreign military aircraft needs to be given advanced permission to enter, is yet another example of increased confidence in Beijing. Although the USA have gone to great lengths to ignore and dismiss these new Chinese imposed protocols, the fact that Asia’s most populous country is willing to implement them would point at a country coming quickly out of its shell. The huge amount of money China spends on a Blue Water Navy would also support this view. Increased Chinese aggression is becoming a long term trend in the waters surrounding the South East of the subcontinent, and as of yet, have been met with little US or Japanese intervention.
The USA may have little appetite to intervene directly in these smaller potential conflicts. But they are far from a ex-superpower: America still has the largest military budget on the planet, including the largest military R&D budget going. They are still leading the game, just at much less of a margin than before.
As the world of economics and geopolitics continues to develop and shift, it is clear that the world is becoming more multipolar. Substantial power now resides with a collection of countries in both the East and West of the planet. Political realities will alter accordingly.
History would imply that whenever a major shift in the balance of world power occurs, unease and conflict are generated. Just looking back throughout the past 115 years is enough to prove this.
In a time of ‘post-war’ rhetoric it can be easy for established nations to rest on their laurels.
Change is coming, it always is.