On November 25-27, 2009, the conference “Indo-European Dialogue” was held in Brussels and in Paris. The event was organized by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies in collaboration with the French Foundation Jean Jaurès. We publish here Dr. Reinhard Hildebrandt’s discussion paper, titled “Indo-European Dialogue in a Changing World,” for the conference.
The following discussion paper is to be situated within the context of the subjects debated at the “Indo-European Dialogue” conference:
II. A brief review of the past
1.The pentarchy (five-power system): 1815 to 1871
The steady decline of the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation”, dominated by German princes, kings and emperors, together with Napoleon’s “daredevil” attempt to build a French empire, led to the emergence of the European five-power system with Great Britain, France, Russia, Austria-Hungary and Prussia as players. Looking at the scenario from the perspective of power politics, it may be said that the three powers of the European flank – Russia, France and Austria-Hungary – contributed to a further weakening of the European center which consisted of many small states. The latter saw themselves faced with the threat of annexation by a still ambitious Prussia. The five-power system operated as follows: If Prussia and Austria-Hungary were for instance locked in a war over territorial disputes, France and Russia maintained a balance between the warring sides while Great Britain was the power that tipped the scales. In weakening the stronger two-power alliance and strengthening the weaker of the two, Great Britain ensured that continental Europe was kept preoccupied with itself, thereby leaving it free to expand its own empire. However this system, guided solely as it was by power politics, was unable to prevent Prussia from expanding its territory and influence over the small German states.
2. A somewhat modified pentarchy following German unification:1872 to 1919
Reacting to the growing endeavors of democratic and nationalist-minded Germans and economic experts to do away with the system of small states and, with that, also shake off regressive princely rule to create a liberal German nation state with a single external customs border, Prussia
The absence of an overarching normative structure straddling the purely power-driven architecture of the pentarchy was now more conspicuous than ever before. Without the same generally accepted values for all the powers involved, the purely power-oriented architecture showed signs of strain and finally collapsed amid the turmoil of the First World War (1914-18).
3. The pentarchy re-configured: 1919 to 1945
The unsuccessful attempt, together with the new allies Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, to revive the pentarchy against the isolated revolutionary Soviet Union and the vanquished, severely crippled Germany and finally ended in the Second World War (1939-45) from which the USA and the Soviet Union emerged the new leaders for Europe. The division of Germany into two states, with a divided Berlin as a separate unit, and the division of Europe into an American and a Soviet zone of influence created an entirely new security architecture dominated by peripheral powers – a situation described as indicative of the East-West conflict but in reality reflecting the dual hegemony of the USA and the Soviet Union.
4. The security architecture of the dual hegemony of the USA and the Soviet Union (1945-1990)
With the end of American monopoly over the nuclear bomb in 1949 and, more importantly, with the loss of nuclear invincibility in 1959, there emerged for both hegemony-oriented powers a strategic situation in which geo-political stability could be established and maintained exclusively with, and at the same time against, the other in each case.
4.1. The geopolitical ‘with-each-other’
If the geopolitical ‘with-each-other’ were to be considered first, it should be assumed with respect to the implementation of real politics that both hegemonial powers – contrary to their self-perception – were not in a position to exploit all conceivable options for the maximum assertion of their own will. In other words: The assertion of one’s own will curtailed the will of the opposite side to assert itself. The “freedom” of both hegemonial powers henceforth lay in the choice between the options offered by the unfolding of their own power, and the options that could be checked and obstructed, and therefore effectively curtailed, by the opposite side. However, at no point could they assess the exact scope of action open to them. This high measure of uncertainty meant that despite very severe competition, both hegemonial powers shared a common interest in the preservation of the fragile geopolitical stability, particularly in divided Europe and consequently also in their dual hegemony.
III. The present re-orientation of the concert of globally engaged powers: (2009/2010)
The following developments brought about changes in the global architecture:
1. The Bush administration recklessly frittered away its influence on Russia, which the Clinton administration had come to gain over Russian President Jelzin.
2. After the USA and the EU increasingly began to offer the states of the former Soviet Union membership to the NATO and the EU, while at the same time instrumentalizing the uncertainty created by differences between Russia and the Ukraine over oil and gas supplies in order to advance their own pipeline project circumventing Russia, the Russian President Putin began to increasingly turn to Asia. This shift saw the birth of the “Asian triangle” of which resource-rich Russia is a part along with China and India, and in which the Central Asian Republics are fully engaged.
Should the strategic partnerships between China, India and Russia – converging in the “Asian triangle” – result in the emergence of a legal superstructure in the long term, they would, like the EU, become a lasting factor of stability in the global play of powers.
3. An ever-increasing number of Asian economies are turning to China, after the USA – as the largest importer of Asian products until the financial crisis – has now become considerably less important for these markets as a result of the crisis.
4. Some key member countries of the EU, among them Germany in particular, are in turn strengthening their ties with Russia, regarding that country as a useful stepping-stone to Asia.
5. On the Latin American continent – regarded as the USA’s “backyard” during the East-West conflict – only Columbia remains an ally of the US, while Brazil is readying to become a global player.
As a consequence of these developments, a new interplay of the global powers appears to be emerging. Economically, the inner Western triangle of USA-Japan-EU still attracts 40 percent of the world trade, but given the activities of the transnational companies and the financial capital involved, even this 40 percent is intensively linked with the emerging Asian triangle of China, India and Russia. Trade within this new triangle is also substantial. The trend towards more globalization remains unbroken although the economic crisis has temporarily curtailed the global flow of financial capital, dented the production volume of transnational companies and caused the rapid decline of the US market. However, we have to take into consideration a shift in global production and trade from the traditional Western triangle to the new Asian one. This development will also have political, military and cultural impacts besides challenging the hegemonic ambitions of the USA.
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