The New Concert of Powers

01.04.2021

Усиливающееся экономическое и политическое влияние Китая не может не беспокоить Соединённые Штаты Америки. Каждая историческая эпоха выделяла свои глобальные мировые державы. В XIX веке это были Великобритания, Франция, Россия, Пруссия и Австрия, в XX веке США и СССР. Казавшийся незыблемым Pax Americana сегодня встречает сильного азиатского конкурента, которому готова ассистировать Россия. Foreign Affairs подготовил подробную статью о том, каким будет новый многополярный мир и какую роль в нём займут 6 главных игроков: Китай, Евросоюз, Индия, Япония, Россия и США

The international system is at a historical inflection point. As Asia continues its economic ascent, two centuries of Western domination of the world, first under Pax Britannica and then under Pax Americana, are coming to an end. The West is losing not only its material dominance but also its ideological sway. Around the world, democracies are falling prey to illiberalism and populist dissension while a rising China, assisted by a pugnacious Russia, seeks to challenge the West’s authority and republican approaches to both domestic and international governance.

U.S. President Joe Biden is committed to refurbishing American democracy, restoring U.S. leadership in the world, and taming a pandemic that has had devastating human and economic consequences. But Biden’s victory was a close call; on neither side of the Atlantic will angry populism or illiberal temptations readily abate. Moreover, even if Western democracies overcome polarization, beat back illiberalism, and pull off an economic rebound, they will not forestall the arrival of a world that is both multipolar and ideologically diverse.

History makes clear that such periods of tumultuous change come with great peril. Indeed, great-power contests over hierarchy and ideology regularly lead to major wars. Averting this outcome requires soberly acknowledging that the Western-led liberal order that emerged after World War II cannot anchor global stability in the twenty-first century. The search is on for a viable and effective way forward.

The best vehicle for promoting stability in the twenty-first century is a global concert of major powers. As the history of the nineteenth-century Concert of Europe demonstrated—its members were the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Prussia, and Austria—a steering group of leading countries can curb the geopolitical and ideological competition that usually accompanies multipolarity.

Concerts have two characteristics that make them well suited to the emerging global landscape: political inclusivity and procedural informality. A concert’s inclusivity means that it puts at the table the geopolitically influential and powerful states that need to be there, regardless of their regime type. In so doing, it largely separates ideological differences over domestic governance from matters of international cooperation. A concert’s informality means that it eschews binding and enforceable procedures and agreements, clearly distinguishing it from the UN Security Council. The UNSC serves too often as a public forum for grandstanding and is regularly paralyzed by disputes among its veto-wielding permanent members. In contrast, a concert offers a private venue that combines consensus building with cajoling and jockeying—a must since major powers will have both common and competing interests. By providing a vehicle for genuine and sustained strategic dialogue, a global concert can realistically mute and manage inescapable geopolitical and ideological differences.

A global concert would be a consultative, not a decision-making, body. It would address emerging crises yet ensure that urgent issues would not crowd out important ones, and it would deliberate on reforms to existing norms and institutions. This steering group would help fashion new rules of the road and build support for collective initiatives but leave operational matters, such as deploying peacekeeping missions, delivering pandemic relief, and concluding new climate deals, to the UN and other existing bodies. The concert would thus tee up decisions that could then be taken and implemented elsewhere. It would sit atop and backstop, not supplant, the current international architecture by maintaining a dialogue that does not now exist. The UN is too big, too bureaucratic, and too formalistic. Fly-in, fly-out G-7 or G-20 summits can be useful but even at their best are woefully inadequate, in part because so much effort goes toward haggling over detailed, but often anodyne, communiqués. Phone calls between heads of state, foreign ministers, and national security advisers are too episodic and often narrow in scope.

Fashioning major-power consensus on the international norms that guide statecraft, accepting both liberal and illiberal governments as legitimate and authoritative, advancing shared approaches to crises—the Concert of Europe relied on these important innovations to preserve peace in a multipolar world. By drawing on lessons from its nineteenth-century forbearer, a twenty-first-century global concert can do the same. Concerts do lack the certitude, predictability, and enforceability of alliances and other formalized pacts. But in designing mechanisms to preserve peace amid geopolitical flux, policymakers should strive for the workable and the attainable, not the desirable but impossible. 

A GLOBAL CONCERT FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A global concert would have six members: China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Democracies and nondemocracies would have equal standing, and inclusion would be a function of power and influence, not values or regime type. The concert’s members would collectively represent roughly 70 percent of both global GDP and global military spending. Including these six heavyweights in the concert’s ranks would give it geopolitical clout while preventing it from becoming an unwieldy talk shop.

Members would send permanent representatives of the highest diplomatic rank to the global concert’s standing headquarters. Although they would not be formal members of the concert, four regional organizations—the African Union, Arab League, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and Organization of American States (OAS)—would maintain permanent delegations at the concert’s headquarters. These organizations would provide their regions with representation and the ability to help shape the concert’s agenda. When discussing issues affecting these regions, concert members would invite delegates from these bodies as well as select member states to join meetings. For example, were concert members to address a dispute in the Middle East, they could request the participation of the Arab League, its relevant members, and other involved parties, such as Iran, Israel, and Turkey.

A global concert would shun codified rules, instead relying on dialogue to build consensus. Like the Concert of Europe, it would privilege the territorial status quo and a view of sovereignty that precludes, except in the case of international consensus, using military force or other coercive tools to alter existing borders or topple regimes. This relatively conservative baseline would encourage buy-in from all members. At the same time, the concert would provide an ideal venue for discussing globalization’s impact on sovereignty and the potential need to deny sovereign immunity to nations that engage in certain egregious activities. Those activities might include committing genocide, harboring or sponsoring terrorists, or severely exacerbating climate change by destroying rainforests.

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