United States: Towards a nobody’s world | Opinion


US President Joe Biden in a file image.
US President Joe Biden in a file image.Evan Vucci / AP

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Joe Biden, on his first trip to Europe after the catastrophic presidency of Donald Trump and the eroding prestige of liberal democracies, is forced to play a difficult game with three balls simultaneously in the air. Rubik’s cube complex between the US, in decline; China, in overwhelming rise; and Europe, sandwiched between the two giants and more concerned about Russia’s belligerence on its borders than about the Chinese question, which is geographically far apart. On Wednesday, the US president plays on neutral ground, Switzerland, the most intense act of sleight of hand of his European tour: the interview with Vladimir Putin, the belligerent president of Russia, in which he will have to take into account the interests of an overwhelmed Europe by a difficult neighbor who plays the division of the EU.

Russia, a continental country, economically ill due to its dependence on oil and gas monoculture, is no longer considered by the United States as a superpower. Meanwhile, the Kremlin acts as if it were fueling powerful Russian nationalism and considers Washington as its main adversary. At the same time, it redoubles the repression of dissent by imprisoning and poisoning its leaders.

The relationship between the two great Cold War powers has never been so bleak since Nikita Khrushchev’s time in power, when the USSR’s secretary general intimidated and toyed with young President John F. Kennedy at the summit they held. in Vienna. It is astonishing to rewind today the minutes of the talks held by an optimistic conservative, Ronald Reagan, and Mikhail Gorbachev, a fearless communist reformer, between 1985 and 1988, at four successive summits in Geneva, Reykjavik, Washington and Moscow. Two absolutely opposite politicians agreed to tackle the madness of mutual assured destruction. Reagan, using the defensive system known as Star Wars, broke the backbone of the Soviet economy. And, finally, the United States, also a Polish Pope, anticipated the implosion of the USSR. They ended the Cold War.

On Wednesday, Biden will not be able to go down the same path. Putin is now infinitely stronger than Gorbachev was then. Deterring Russia, which has swallowed Crimea, destabilized Ukraine, hacked American digital networks, divided Western allies, is a tremendous challenge. Impossible to solve in a first personal interview. Biden will seek to freeze a minimal strategic stability.

After enlisting partners in Europe to defend and recover the democratic order based on multilateralism and common values ​​as the most attractive system in the face of autocracies and populisms, Biden will return to the White House with the same concern with which he arrived in Europe. The US runs the risk of being overtaken by China as the main global power.

But the 21st century will not belong to the US or China. It will be a nobody’s world. An interdependent world without a center of gravity or global guardian (Charles A. Kupchan). With this lucid prognosis from the Georgetown University professor of International Relations, I bid farewell to this column that I started in 2008. Thank you to all the readers and welcome to the new world. [email protected]


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