Why geostrategic competition threatens us all
November 7th, 2014
07:16 PM ET

Why geostrategic competition threatens us all

By Espen Barth Eide, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Espen Barth Eide is managing director of the World Economic Forum. This is the first in a series of articles from the World Economic Forum on the key challenges facing the world in 2015 as part of their Outlook on the Global Agenda. The views expressed are the writer's own.

In the years following the Cold War, the prevailing view was that the world had moved towards a liberal, democratic consensus. The break-up of the Soviet bloc, the integration of Russia and China into the global economic system and a fresh wave of democratic transitions, from Latin America to Eastern Europe, led many to believe that superpower rivalries were finished. Globalization, the free market and the “interdependence” of countries would make wars less likely, while a greater role was forecast for multilateral bodies like the United Nations in responding to issues that put everyone at risk.

This did not relieve us of security concerns, but from the 1990s onward, the so-called new challenges were regarded as asymmetric. Rather than fearing strong, opposing states, we worried about state weakness, the breakup of countries, or the global reach of non-state, terrorist networks.

Today, however, renewed competition between key actors is a genuine concern. According to the Survey on the Global Agenda, both Asian and European respondents ranked the rise of geostrategic competition as the second most important global trend. While the old Cold War is not making a resurgence, recent developments have led to tectonic shifts in state interaction. Geopolitics – and realpolitik – is once again taking centre stage, with potential wide-ranging consequences for the global economy, politics, and society.

The most obvious illustration of this development is the worsening tension between Russia and the West. The Obama administration’s attempts to improve relations between America and Russia were already faltering when the collapse of the Ukrainian government and rise of separatist movements brought to the fore a clash of fundamentally opposing worldviews. The perspective of “Europe whole and free” collides with a world of “zero-sum games and spheres of influence.”

With the exchange of economic sanctions, and Russia attempting to lead a Eurasian Union as a counterweight to the European Union, the next decade could be marked by Russia complaining of encirclement and attempting to revise developments that took place during the years when it was perceived as weak and vulnerable. At the same time, the West may be moving away from the economic interdependence with Russia that was once hailed as a guarantor of regional peace and stability.

Yet a potentially even more important development is also taking place in Asia. A shift in the global political order is evident in the rise of China and its uncertain role on the world stage. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, almost half of respondents across all regions believe China has either overtaken the United States as the world’s leading superpower, or will eventually.

Meanwhile, a realpolitik dynamic between Japan and China – fuelled by a significant loss of trust, rising nationalism, weak institutions and maritime disputes – affects the world’s second and third largest economies, and threatens to directly involve the largest, the United States. The management of China’s rise, by its neighbours and by China itself, is of crucial importance in the coming decades.

Finally, the Middle East has also taken a turn for the worse, with the breakdown of a state system hastily imposed by the victors of World War I. Cross-border insurgent group Islamic State – which aims to establish a caliphate in parts of the region – threatens to render traditional peace mediation efforts irrelevant. The situation is exacerbated by regional powers exploiting the chaos – even fuelling it – in order to promote their own self-interest.

What we see today is a pattern of persistent, multidimensional competition. This is happening at the same time as the weakening of established relationships.

So, how should we respond? In this fluid world order, we must manage both asymmetric and symmetric challenges together. The changing relationship between world powers has reduced the political energy available for tackling shared problems like climate change and global health, not to mention second-order crises. Chaos has festered.

Yet in the face of potential globalization (and indeed de-globalization), rising nationalism and a deepening disbelief in multilateralism, the most important lesson from 2014 is that we cannot remain passive. We need more international cooperation, not less. Regional and global intergovernmental organizations will be put to greater tests even as institutions like the World Economic Forum continue to try to create a meeting of minds between private and public actors, civil society and academia.

With luck, they will be able to impress upon political leaders the importance of collective reflection – and the need to think carefully over a geostrategic competition that threatens to harm us all.

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Topics: Politics

soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. Old Dr. Silverstein

    Ask any old horse man. Well. Don't ask him. Follow him around at a horse auction. See? He only buys fartin' Phillies.

    November 8, 2014 at 5:22 pm |
    • Philip

      *Fillies. No offense, Mike Schmidt.

      November 8, 2014 at 5:39 pm |
  2. chri§§y

    @ Philip who were you directing 5:11 post at?

    November 8, 2014 at 6:42 pm |
  3. chri§§y

    Lol thanks @ banasy. And yea this is the 1st time theyve given us any hope at all.

    November 8, 2014 at 7:36 pm |
    • banasy©

      That's absolutely wonderful. It is such a rare disease she has.

      November 8, 2014 at 8:23 pm |
  4. chri§§y

    Yea and this is a very new and rare treatment as well. I forgot what its called im just happy theyve come up with it.

    November 8, 2014 at 8:32 pm |
    • banasy©

      I hope it helps, Chrissy. Your girl has been through so much.

      November 8, 2014 at 8:37 pm |
  5. chri§§y

    Thank you banasy. Me too! I couldnt bare to lose her i just couldnt!!! And i want so bad for her to have her quality of life back! If i could i would trade places with her in a heartbeat.

    November 8, 2014 at 9:19 pm |
    • banasy©

      You know I understand that sentiment, Chrissy. Ignore those who refuse to.

      November 8, 2014 at 10:13 pm |
  6. chri§§y

    Yes i do and i wanta thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there for me when i desperately needed a friend! You will always have a special place in my heart for that @ banasy! 😉

    November 8, 2014 at 11:06 pm |
  7. chri§§y

    Lmao @ banasy, im just sorry that it took a thread where the big topic was "farting" for me to tell you! Lol but since bobcat got lost somewhere i guess we have to pick up the slack eh? Lol

    November 8, 2014 at 11:11 pm |
  8. Dr. Silverstein

    Am still not sure why Chrissy was at the hospital.

    November 9, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
  9. chri§§y

    @ Dr. Silverstein since you claim to be a doctor what do you know about Atypical Uremic Hemolytic Syndrome?

    November 9, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
    • banasy©

      Beware, Chrissy. This poster will certainly imply that the fault lies in something your daughter has done.

      November 9, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
    • bobcat2u

      I am so happy to hear your daughter is getting positive feedback with the new treatment. All the best to you and her.
      And one more thing,

      A woman, calling Mount Sinai Hospital, said, "Hello, I want to know if a patient is getting better."

      The voice on the other end of the line said, "What is the patient's name and room number?"

      She said, "Yes, darling! She's Sarah Finkel, in Room 302."

      He said, "Oh, yes. Mrs. Finkel is doing very well. In fact, she's had two full meals, her blood pressure is fine, she's going to be taken off the heart monitor in a couple of hours and if she continues this improvement, Dr. Cohen is going to send her home Tuesday."

      The woman said, "Thank God! That's wonderful! Oh! That's fantastic! That's wonderful news!"

      The man on the phone said, "From your enthusiasm, I take it you must be a close family member or a very close friend!"

      She said, "I'm Sarah Finkel in 302! Cohen, my doctor, doesn't tell me a word!"

      November 9, 2014 at 5:06 pm |
  10. chri§§y

    @ banasy, i do know who the poster is and he can try as hard as he likes to place blame but it wont work. When only 4 people in the world get this disease in a year and the medical profession cant figure out how they get it than his goofy azz sure wont be able too! And only 1 out of 6 survive. But if he truly believes he knows then he needs to contact the Mayo Clinic and become famous.

    November 9, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
    • bobcat2u

      Did you here about the guy who lost his whole left side? He’s alright now!

      Read more at: undefined | Great Clean Jokes

      November 9, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
  11. chri§§y

    Also i need to make a correction its Atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. And the stats i gave in my previous post pertain to Adults. Survival rate is higher in children.

    November 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm |
  12. chri§§y

    Lmfao! Thank you @ bobcat that was freaking awesome lol. And ty for the good wishes too.

    November 9, 2014 at 5:35 pm |
    • bobcat2u

      Just trying to help keep your spirits up in this difficult time. What hospital are you at ?

      November 9, 2014 at 5:42 pm |
  13. chri§§y

    Im back home now but shes in Munson in Traverse City. And i must say i had big reservations bringing her back to Mich from NY because i really thought ORC in NY was the best. Turns out shes actually doing better here.

    November 9, 2014 at 5:48 pm |
  14. chri§§y

    Oh and she was already resigned to the fact her life expectency was very short so she wanted to be home, in Mich when that happened and of course we did too.

    November 9, 2014 at 5:51 pm |
  15. chri§§y

    I cant get too mushy here because she does read these blogs from time to time and then i would pay he!! believe me lmao! If you think im indomitable you oughta here her lmao! Some of the things she comes up with blows my mind! Lol she musta got that from her grandmother huh? Lmfao!

    November 9, 2014 at 5:59 pm |
    • bobcat2u

      Yeah, doesn't sound anything like you at all.

      November 9, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
  16. chri§§y

    Lol im sayin! LMFAO!

    November 9, 2014 at 6:23 pm |
  17. chri§§y

    When she was 11 and really developing her own back talk style her dad came home after being gone for several days of binge drinking. She looked him up and down a couple times and crinkled up her face, then calmly said to him "dad, what are YOU gonna be when you grow up? Of course he didnt answer and proceeded to stomp his way to the kitchen. He yelled at me and said did you hear what your daughter said to me? I was just trying so hard not to burst out laughing i couldnt even look at him. And there she was right behind him with the most disgusted look on her face and she said "ya know what...you just need to go back to the mother ship and get re-programed! Lmao

    November 9, 2014 at 6:32 pm |
    • bobcat2u

      Gotta love it. Kids don't have a problem with speaking their minds. I had a similar thing with my granddaughter and her dad. He came home from work one day and, in his usual bullying matter, started getting on her case over the usual nothing.
      Well, she calmly threw up her palm at him and said, "Talk to the hand". I fell out on the floor with laughter. He stormed off to his room and we didn't see him the rest of the night.

      November 9, 2014 at 6:58 pm |
  18. chri§§y

    OMG that is soooo familier! LMFAO. Except my grandaughter, Melissas daughter says "talk to the booty cuz the hands off duty!" Arent kids great? Lmao i was truly blessed.

    November 9, 2014 at 7:27 pm |
    • bobcat2u

      Now that is just tooooo funny. I hadn't heard that one before. Priceless.

      November 9, 2014 at 7:51 pm |
  19. chri§§y

    In fact the very best years of my life were raising my kids! Especially after i divorced the s p e r m donor!!!

    November 9, 2014 at 7:39 pm |
    • bobcat2u

      I know what you mean chrissy. I wouldn't trade those days for anything. I can't believe my granddaughter will be 18 and graduating from high school next year. Damn that makes me feel old.

      November 9, 2014 at 7:55 pm |
  20. chri§§y

    Lmao and i became a great grandma last january. My step grandson had a little girl. Now THAT makes me feel old let me tell ya! Lmao

    November 9, 2014 at 9:30 pm |
  21. chri§§y

    Oh and kenney and javier say to tell you hello @ bobcat. And javier says "keep em commin"! You made his day today. Lmao

    November 9, 2014 at 9:33 pm |
    • bobcat2u

      You tell Kenny and Javier I said hello right back at them, And tell Javier I'm glad I made his day, and I gotta whole lotta mo.

      Well, I got to go for now. Hard Rock is callin' mah name. Talk to you later.

      November 9, 2014 at 9:56 pm |
  22. chri§§y

    Lol @ bobcat i sure will if he hasnt read it already. And tell the missus i said hello! 😉

    November 9, 2014 at 10:05 pm |
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    November 12, 2014 at 9:10 pm |
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    The world continues to crazier by the minute!!!,

    November 24, 2014 at 6:23 am |
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