The 19 January editorial “The Year 2015-What Are We in For?” identified four unfolding, dramatic processes: the West will continue fighting unsuccessfully and violently to keep their world grip; Eurasia will expand and consolidate successfully and nonviolently; Islam will expand and consolidate partly violently; Latin America and Africa will expand and consolidate, spearheaded by Brazil, South Africa, BRICS.
A third of the year 2015 has now passed; let us take stock.
Headlines in the International New York Times tell the story:
18-19 April : “U.S. is said to risk losing economic leadership”; “–a divided nation shedding hard-won clout”, “We’re withdrawing from the central place we had on the world stage”. And for the UK:
29 April: “Britain’s drift from the world stage looms over the vote”.
These are statements about leadership, about being the center as a model to emulate; controlling world stage politics; not about economic growth. Losing leadership and drifting away may actually increase growth: control is a costly, non-productive endeavor for most businesses. Sensing that may accelerate the decline as world power.
However, the West fights and trains Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians to kill their compatriots. They take the money and the arms, fight miserably, not at all, or join the revolts. The West builds alliances to sow ISIS corpses for peace, and harvests more fighters. Better use their forces defensively, to protect groups exposed to terrible ISIS violence–maybe even as a neutral zone between Sunni and Shia, rather than using one against the other; now this one, now that one.
Moscow took the 1954 Crimea gift back without war, but fights to protect Russians near the Ukraine border–with less violence than Kiev bombing–in favor of federation and ceasefire. They got ceasefire in Minsk by excluding USA that wants war. NATO cracking weakens the West further; also over USA using the allies’ spy agencies–to spy on allies!
At the same time Eurasia is consolidating, negatively helped by the USA-EU sanctions against Russia, positively by Eurasia-building. The AIIP (Asia Industrial Infrastructure Bank) has many more USA-leaning founding members than USA is able to get together in TPP-Trans Pacific Partnership.
Nevertheless, more telling is the major infrastructure breakthrough: the (so far only freight) railroad newly opened from East China to Madrid (and on to Cadiz-Sevilla, for both Africa and Latin America); connecting eight countries: China-Kazakhstan-Russia-Belorussia-Poland-Germany-France-Spain. The president of China follows the rails, now signing treaties of friendship and cooperation with the first three, aiming at the next four along this aorta for the Eurasia organism.
How about these four EU members along the “silk railroad”? Where are bold initiatives to project economic leadership and clout–even if the infrastructure is built by China it is but open to all? Beyond Spanish wine-olive oil-ham? Why did they not build that railroad long ago? Probably because they think too much North-South and too small, too bilaterally, too divide et impera. They did not even build the Cairo-Cape Town railroad. The Chinese now seem to add that to the railroad from one ocean to the other, East-West, as they are behind the Nicaragua canal project–for the end of 2015. We shall soon see; the Chinese strategy is clearly to build infrastructure on the ground.
China is proactive in the EU and US “backyards”; making gains nonviolently when others lose violently by inaction and exploitation. Why? Maybe China sees rising Africa-Latin America as more competitive than declining EU-USA; thinking big, long term, as they do. However, China may underestimate the two continents: their populations exceed that of China and are much younger. Even if the Chinese are better at making productive use of older people than the EU and USA, that counts. And sooner or later both will get single currencies, development banks and monetary funds: Gaddafi’s unfulfilled dream; killed by the West.
The background for all of this? A major factor was the USA seeing the Cold War as something they won because the Soviet Union broke down, treating Yeltsin-Russia as a defeated country; appointing Islam as the new enemy; encircling Russia-China, coming very close, just off the coast (imagine Chinese warships off Los Angeles); getting former Soviet countries into NATO, inviting Ukraine and Georgia.
Till China and Russia said Stop, said SCO, and gave a huge Muslim country, Kazakhstan, a major role. Russia played down the violence in Chechnya, China tries unsuccessfully so far in Xinjiang, while USA is stepping up anti-Black violence from city to city. The world watches.
What remains of the US empire is less NATO and more re-confirmed USA-Japan alliance, opening for Japanese combat support if the USA so wishes anywhere in the world. The economic infrastructure for this asymmetry is Japan enrolled in TPP. Will it ever get off the ground?
A major factor is illegitimate Chinese maritime policy in the East and South China Sea and along its ancient “silk” lane from East China to East Africa. China behaves as if the UN Law of the Sea, initiated with the UNCLOS-United Nations Conferences on the Law of the Sea in Caracas in 1974, does not exist. Nevertheless, military posturing is still far away from bombing-droning-sniping.
China could manage disputed waters-islands-shoals in South China Sea jointly with ASEAN, and East China Sea islands with Japan. USA needs these conflicts for their military projection. If China solves them, as they solved problems with Russia, the US military role dissolves, as it does in Ukraine. Maybe also the US-Japan alliance?
Being more guided by reason than the USA, removing the issues may be the Chinese way out. Like Russia-France-Germany try in Ukraine.
What about Israel? Watching with one concern: itself. Forecast: change of alliance partner, to solvent China, also with one concern: itself. A foothold gained for China, and lost for the USA. In the Middle East.
Will the next two thirds of 2015 be equally dramatic? At least.
Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.