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End of the hegemony of North Atlantic Alliance?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Those who are keen students of history will note the intriguing, if gradual changes currently taking place in the global influence of the North Atlantic nations.

The countries of the North Atlantic have dominated the world since a hopelessly lost Christopher Columbus ended up in the Caribbean, setting off the encounter of the Old World of Europe and the so-called New World of the Americas.

Spain's systematic plunder of civilisations in the Americas was followed by colonialism by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the English across North, South, and Central America, and the Caribbean where colonies still exist.

This exploitation of resources and the extraction of wealth financed the development of western Europe. While fighting among themselves in Europe and across the world, they collectively ruled large parts of the globe.

Then came the slave trade, the transportation of Africans, and the scramble for Africa. Britain became the global superpower in the 19th century until the end of World War II. The United States was the global superpower until the end of the 20th century.

In this century, the world is witnessing the decline of American suzerainty, as their dominance is actively being challenged by China. In spite of these changes, the North Atlantic (or Western) Alliance, encompassing the USA, Canada, and western Europe, remained intact in institutional mechanisms such as the G-7, the European Union (EU), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Along came the Donald Trump Administration whose foreign policy is based on an “America first” approach, or what some call diplomatic unilateralism and economic protectionism. The strength of the North Atlantic Alliance is being threatened by the imposition of tariffs on Canada and Europe and serious differences among its leaders.

Behind all of this is Mr Trump's belief that the USA suffered “imperial overstretch” and cannot any longer afford to shoulder a large share of the cost of the defence of western Europe, especially since he does not see Russia as necessarily an enemy.

In the global competition with China, it would be an advantage to have allies. For example, the United Nations Security Council comprises 15 members, five being permanent — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the US.

The imposition of tariffs on European exports to the USA has prompted retaliation by the EU in the form of tariffs on American products. This means that the EU has now joined the escalating global trade war.

Any dismantling of the North Atlantic Alliance would usher in a period in which the US and China will compete in a bipolar world. In this context, when neither superpower is dominant, friends and allies become very important.

The centre of gravity of the global economy has already shifted to Asia, and the political ruling bloc which has dominated international affairs for the last 500 years is currently experiencing disintegration from internal factors, eg Brexit and US withdrawal.

This new and forthcoming global configuration will have implications for Jamaica. Hopefully, somebody is thinking about this.