By Philip Stephens (July 24, 2014 5:51 pm)
Europe faces a realist moment. Nearly 25 years have passed since US President George HW Bush saw an opportunity for a new, liberal international order. The EU hoped the landscape would be remade in its postmodern image. The dream has been lost to systemic disorder. Myriad conflicts in the Middle East now lap at Europe’s borders. Russia’s war in Ukraine has crossed them.
There is nothing to be gained from another cold war, even if it is evident that Vladimir Putin wants to tear up the post-communist settlement in Europe. There are, however, lessons to be rescued from the decades-long confrontation with the Soviet Union. One of them is about deterrence. Politicians sedated by hopes of a world organised around international collaboration will have to wake up again to the dynamics of great power rivalry.
Francis Fukuyama was half right in declaring the end of history. Capitalism reigns supreme, but rising states such as China and declining ones such as Russia have found a new political model. Authoritarian capitalism, as the Harvard scholar Michael Ignatieff called it in this summer’s Ditchley Foundation annual lecture, presents them with an alternative to liberal democracy. As for a rules-based global system, these states prefer to dine à la carte. They take what they like and reject what is inconvenient… MORE