The world has experienced severe security concerns in the post-9/11 era. States have become unprecedentedly prone to imminent existential challenges. The proliferation of global crises, including terrorism, migration, the worldwide financial crisis, climate change, cyber conflicts and the rapidly expanding role of non-state actors, has accelerated the global transition to a multipolar world. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has further destabilized the balance of power, exacerbating economic tensions and nationalism instead of bringing states closer together.
In the face of a distorted and unstable international environment, states are more compelled than ever to ensure national resilience and security. Within this context, global and regional power asymmetries have arisen at the expense of acting out of unity and collectivity. Even in the E.U., powerful member states (i.e. France and Germany) act on a case-by-case basis using cost-benefit calculations rather than in a strictly cooperative manner.
FAILURE OF GLOBAL UNITY
Today, the world is incapable of solving its problems collectively. Global institutions and deeply-rooted alliances, like NATO, the E.U., the U.N. and the W.H.O., have been through tumult in the recent past. Not only do they seem unable to keep up with the pace of the new world order, they are also losing power and prestige.
The W.H.O. failed initially to forecast the Covid-19 pandemic and was blamed for not responding in a timely manner. The UN has failed many times this century alone to prevent humanitarian crises, such as those in Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, and Yemen. As for NATO, despite the introduction of Article 5 for the only time in its history, the Atlantic Alliance has failed in its longest mission to date, given the horrific U.S. defeat in Afghanistan in a 20-year war. The E.U., on the other hand, has been seriously degraded by Britain’s leaving the Union. It has then been caught in another perfect storm with the pandemic accompanied by the unprecedented energy crisis.
In a nutshell, alliances and global institutions of the 21st century have found themselves ill-prepared for the growth of a complex and unpredictable multipolar order and new security concerns. They are now seeking to update themselves and adopt new strategies, such as with NATO’s 2030 initiative or the E.U.’s PESCO framework (the Permanent Structured Cooperation) in the hopes of remaining leading powerful entities on the world stage.
NEW REGIONAL POLES
Multipolarization leads to the rise of new, regional poles. Indeed, significant power shifts have taken place through the transition to a new world order. The world’s new equilibrium has shifted in favor of the Asia-Pacific region, where an increasingly assertive China and an aggressive Russia have emerged as the two chief arbiters of the new world order. The US is gradually losing its dominant role with the retreat of the West worldwide. Within the context of the multipolar shifts in power, China and Russia are coordinating their positions in international institutions in order to expand their spheres of influence (e.g.in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization or in the U.N.).
Meanwhile, the Indo-Pacific region has suddenly emerged as a subject of geopolitical power struggle between major actors. New security arrangements like QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the U.S., India, Japan and Australia) and AUKUS (the trilateral security pact between Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.) have been implemented as quasi-alliance mechanisms to contain China and Russia. Within this context, the European ‘pole’ has been excluded from the Anglo-Saxon AUKUS agreement, in which France was spurned and left upset.
In fact, the E.U. has long been concerned about a gradual American disengagement from Europe and the subsequent potential loss of the U.S./NATO security umbrella. From this perspective, the establishment of PESCO for the security and defense of Europe, as well as the prospect of a European army (which is unlikely), have gained momentum. These both display Europe’s weakness within the intense competition of the international system.
TURKEY IN THE MIDST OF CRISES
NATO ally Turkey is trying to find its way in the midst of this regional and global turmoil. However, it should noted that the new multipolar global context and these new fault lines have provided Turkey with an opportunity to develop. Since most of these global tensions evolve around Turkey’s geography, the country has ceased being a bystander. In the past, it was merely dealing with the affects of these crises. Now, it has become a principal actor in the political scene – whether this will have positive or negative impacts remains to be seen.