Sunday 19 November 2017

US disengaging means old world order is ending - and EU has to find an alternative

President Donald Trump Picture: AP
President Donald Trump Picture: AP

Leonid Bershidsky

Last year, the global security establishment was mildly worried about a growing US disengagement overseas. This year, the worry has given way to a realisation that the 'liberal world order' - another name for Pax Americana - may be finished, and that new security arrangements are needed.

That's the conclusion that can be drawn from this year's Munich Security Report, an agenda-setting document put out annually by the organisers of the Munich Security Conference, the world's most prestigious geopolitical gathering. The conference will open on Friday, and dignitaries such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Vice President Mike Pence are expected to attend. Perhaps for the first time since the Soviet Union's demise, the participants will try to map out strategy in a world in which they cannot see more than one or two moves ahead.

In 2016, the Munich Security Report noted almost in passing that the absence of the US from discussions about the eastern Ukraine conflict would have been unthinkable before, and that the US didn't appear to be interested in resolving the Syria crisis on its terms, either. In 2017, all bets are off on what the US will ultimately do: Donald Trump and members of his team have made so many conflicting statements on foreign policy (and some of them are quoted in the report, side by side) nothing is clear except that they intend to keep their cards close to their chest as they "put America first".

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