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A New World Order? Asia, Europe and the United States

On 8 August, leading experts on transatlantic and Asia-Pacific relations discussed important developments in the contemporary world order.

The international liberal order is at a critical inflection point due to the revisionist tendencies of the great powers. The concerns of the states in Europe and the Asia-Pacific are strengthened by doubts over the willingness of the United States to support the liberal, rules-based world order. 

  • Should we prepare for a new, different, and more realist world order and, in that case, what will this new world order look like? 
  • What are the implications of increased Chinese power and a United States in decline? 

These were only some of the questions that were discussed by leading experts on transatlantic and Asia-Pacific relations at IFS on August 8. The discussion was chaired by Jo Bekkevold, Head of Centre for Asian Security Studies at IFS.

The security situation in the Asia-Pacific

Benjamin Schreer (professor at Macquarie University, Sydney) opened the seminar by addressing the security situation in the Asia-Pacific. Scheer described a region in instability, concerned with increased Chinese power. He argued that the only state with sufficient power and capabilities to maintain peace in the South China Sea is the United States. However, there are significant concerns among states in the Asian Pacific about President Donald Trump's strategy in the region.

A new bipolar system - USA and China

Øystein Tunsjø (professor at IFS) argued that China's increased power has major geopolitical implications. According to Tunsjø, the power gap between the United States and China has narrowed, and an era of unprecedented US unipolarity has come to an end. Tunsjø argued that we are witnessing a power shift which is leading to a new world order: a bipolar system, in which international politics will be shaped by the United States and China. 

One of the implications for Europe is that both China and the United States will be preoccupied with this new situation, and subsequently more reluctant to engage in conflicts in other parts of the world.

NATO challenged but robust

Magnus Petersson (professor at IFS and Head of Centre for Transatlantic Studies) shared his perspectives on transatlantic security in a new world order. According to Petersson, transatlantic cohesion and defence cooperation is as important as ever, but challenged. However, although NATO faces several politically and military challenges, he emphasised that NATO is robust and has survived similar challenges in the past. 

The end of american exceptionalism?

Svein Melby (senior fellow at IFS) provided the audience with four observations on Trump's defence and security policy. 

  • Firstly, he argued that we cannot understand Trump's foreign policy through the classical theories of international relations. 
  • Secondly, he stressed that uncertainty seems to be the primary strategy in Trump's foreign policy.  
  • Thirdly, he described how the Trump Administration appear to build their foreign policy on a 'Hobbesian' world view where states are the primary units in the world order. Consequently, we will see a greater scepticism from the U.S. towards the use of collective initiatives to implement U.S. foreign policy and an increase in bilateral initiatives. 
  • Finally, Melby concluded by saying that we might be witnessing the end of American exceptionalism.

How should Europe and Norway react?

The seminar ended with a Q&A session and final remarks from the panellists. The primary focus of the discussion was how Europe, and particularly Norway, should react to a changing world order. In the discussion. 

Melby stressed that we should not take U.S. leadership for granted. He further emphasised that this is not a consequence of the Trump presidency, but has deeper structural explanations. 

Petersson argued that the Norwegian defence policy is on the right course, and that Norway should continue its increased investments in national defence and its cooperation with NATO. 

This view was supported by Tunsjø, who added that Norway's should prepare for a coming bipolar world order. Scheer argued that we should have more faith in the United States and its global leadership. 

According to Schreer, the US administration and its political establishment remain powerful, although it is currently presented with some challenges. Scheer concluded by saying that the United States will continue to be the undisputed power in world politics. 

Report by Siri Strand

Publisert 8. august 2017 00:00.. Sist oppdatert 15. august 2017 15:00.