The present change in the global order is bound to trigger new global equations that can be just as significant as the Cold war in the post World War-II era. Russia is no longer the prime focus of the US, China is. As a result, the focus of world politics and powerplay is shifting from Europe to the Indo-Pacific. A new political battleground is in the making as Europe falls out of relevance and countries like India, Australia and Japan are becoming the new powers with a defining role.
The European Union (EU) itself has become more and more anachronistic. And therefore the intergovernmental bloc has been fighting for continuity and status quo.
With changing global realities however its appeal has been waning in the Mediterranean and other crucial parts of the world. Even in the emerging struggle between China and the US, the European Union has sought to play down Beijing’s culpability. The simple reason is that the EU finds a new global narrative detrimental to its own interests.
Even if the European Union fights for the status quo, it is bound to fall out of relevance because the geo-strategic forces are really out of its control. And the change hasn’t happened now. It has been happening ever since the Cold War era ended.
The post-World War II era had ushered in a strong sense of competition between the United States and the USSR. The arms race and fight for economic supremacy between the US-led bloc and the Soviet-led bloc dominated world politics.
The Cold War era was a bipolar world. The countries that benefit the most in such a global equation are the countries that fall in the thick of things. And Europe was in the thick of things during the Cold War era when the Atlantic was the battleground between the USSR and the US. It was this geographical expanse that divided the two blocs and this was where most of the powerplay by the US and Russia was seen.
The United States was naturally inclined to put a heavy value on its friendship in order to gain an upper hand on the USSR. With American partnership, Western European countries like Germany have enriched themselves considerably so much so that even today the EU is a mammoth 18.8 trillion dollars economy. Europe became the most prosperous part of the world due to the benefits that came its way during the Cold War.
In the course of time, European countries moved to an even more intimate relationship with the US and formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
But much of Europe’s relevance disappeared with the disintegration of the Soviet Union. NATO was the bulwark of US-Europe partnership. But the common threat against which it was formed didn’t exist any longer.
Questions have been raised about the relevance of NATO ever since the downfall of the Soviet Union.
The temporary myth of a unipolar world led by the US has also got broken as China has been using its rise to carve out a bipolar world.
There is recognition of the fact that China, not Russia is the real threat today. And the region of concern has naturally shifted from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific.
American legislators too are growing aware of this changing reality. As Democrat-turned-Republican Senator John Kennedy said, “I’m very proud of the fact that Modi in India is standing up to China. I’m very proud of what Canada is doing. Not every country is running and hiding in the corner.”
“Australia’s standing up to them. India is standing up to them. Canada is standing up to them. We need to join with our allies, not limited to Europe, and say to China, look, you are going to play by the rule. Or we’re not going to do business with you. That is all they will understand.
He added, “Now, other than the United States, you know how many other countries trust China? None, zero, nada. But they are scared. China is the second-largest economy. China uses its economic heft to bully other countries, and many other regions of the world are scared to stand up to them.”
As Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne puts it, the Atlantic Ocean could be seen as the ocean of our grandparents and parents, and the Pacific Ocean as the ocean of us and our children.
She also suggested that the Indian Ocean could be seen as the ocean of our children and grandchildren.
With the focus shifting to the Indo-Pacific, it is countries like Japan, Australia and India that naturally fall in the battleground of influence between the US and its adversary China.
A new geopolitical situation is in the making which is why we see American officials getting more excited about the Quad than the NATO.
This year Australia will join the MALABAR exercise, and the Quad will come together at a military level for the first time.
Recently, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has himself said that NATO troops were moved out of Germany because they were needed to counter the Chinese threats to India and Southeast Asian nations.
Washington has successfully built an informal axis with like-minded democracies that aspire to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific. Such ideological understanding could be the precursor to a formal military alliance on the lines of NATO.
And the Quad itself won’t necessarily remain limited to the four countries, and other players like Vietnam, South Korea and even Taiwan could end up cooperating as a single bloc of democratic countries.
It is also well-known that the Indo-Pacific will be the region of future military and economic competition. It is economies like India and Vietnam that are challenging the Chinese hegemony. Europe is nowhere in the picture.
As the geo-strategic powerplay shifts, the European Continent finds itself falling out of relevance. It will never be in the thick of things all over again. Whether or not, the EU has a clear anti-China line doesn’t even matter.
All European countries can do is either break out of the EU like UK did and take sides in the ongoing geopolitics struggle or simply vanish from the global narrative by pushing for the status quo.