From Berlin to Ankara and even Damascus, the questions seem to be the same: Has the world order as we know it in the post-war era come to an end? What will the world look like without the United States in the role of superpower and ‘boss’?
These are legitimate questions, judging by recent developments. When it comes to politics, especially in the international arena, it doesn’t matter how powerful you are, but how ready and willing you are to use your powers and, most of all, how others perceive you.
US President Barack Obama has made a mess of the situation in Syria. First he stated he was ready to attack, then he appeared apologetic and hesitant as whether this was the right way to go. He then took things a step further, asking Congress to approve an intervention. He acted this way, of course, because he felt the tsunami of isolationism which has swept over American public opinion in the aftermath of George W. Bush’s strategically unwise and no-way-out war in Iraq.
Beyond everything else, Obama conceded to Russian leader Vladimir Putin vital space and a role on the international stage. Putin proved a tough player who realistically imposed his own terms. So far, he has turned out to be the big winner here.
This is not the case with Europe: Germany is not comfortable in the role of major power and prefers that of Europe’s chief accountant. Britain is a shadow of its former self: while the country knows how to play the geopolitical game better than anyone, it can no longer play it. French President Francois Hollande copied his predecessor but just couldn’t get it right. Europe, marginalized, became a mere observer in a large-scale global crisis and is now watching, terrified, as the US retreats. And then there’s Turkey, where things didn’t turn out as Recep Tayyip Erdogan had expected and he now has to deal with a major Kurdish issue as well.
What will the world look like if things carry on this way? Several veteran European analysts believed, and still do, that the US was an easy target for criticism but also useful as a basic “boss” in a dangerous environment. The most likely scenario is that no one will take its place for awhile, leading to some chaos, many players and no order.
As for Greece, all former Greek prime ministers knew that if an incident occurred with Turkey, a call to the White House would lead to some kind of mediation or intervention. Now the response could well be a brush-off.
The message of hesitation and disengagement from strategic obligations that Washington is currently transmitting has been received and decoded by all global players, without exception.