Transatlantic axis ‘no longer an engine of global democracy’?


At the end of the Cold War, as the lone superpower, the United States remained deeply engaged with the world, but the purpose of this engagement had changed, argues Randall Schweller, Director of the Program for the Study of Realist Foreign Policy at Ohio State University. During the Cold War, the goal was to contain the Soviet Union; the United States was acting out of defense and wished to maintain the status quo. But afterward, the United States embraced revisionism in the guise of liberalism, he writes for Foreign Affairs:

As the unchallenged hegemon, it endeavored to remold large swaths of the world to fit its image of international order. Washington not only aligned itself with democracy, human rights, and justice but also actively promoted these liberal values abroad. Doing so marked the end of Cold War pragmatism and the advent of a crusading style of U.S. foreign policy. In the dreams of U.S. foreign policy elites, all countries, including authoritarian great powers such as China and Russia, would now become supplicants in a U.S.-dominated world order.

“Then came the Great Recession, which, coupled with the rise of China and a resurgent Russia, cast doubt on the United States’ relative power,” Schweller contends. “The result is that the unipolar era, if not already over, is beginning to wind down.”

With the transatlantic relationship no longer an engine of global democracy, the EU should work with non-Western democratic powers to uphold the liberal international order, says a prominent analyst. The EU has some sporadic cooperation with the likes of Australia, Canada and Norway, but needs to cast its net far more widely for pro-democracy partners, argues Richard Youngs, a Senior Fellow with Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program.

Other democracies like Brazil, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and South Africa all now devote significant resources and diplomatic effort to democracy and human rights support. Yet the EU has made little effort to fashion cooperation with these “rising democracies” specifically on liberal political values, Youngs writes:

Rather than making countless speeches and issuing strategies professing in generic terms how strongly they value the liberal order, the EU and member state governments would be better off developing tangible, low-key initiatives with other democratic powers to buttress liberal political values in specific cases where these are in danger. They could coordinate more with India and Japan on the ground in Myanmar, for example. They could do more in Venezuela with Argentina, Brazil and Chile – indeed the latter has been pressing for such cooperation. They could work with Nigeria and South Africa in African states such as Zimbabwe and the many countries where presidential term limits are under threat.


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