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The week that buried the new world order

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Peter Beaumont,
London Observer
Monday, Sept 1, 2008

The fall of the Berlin Wall seemed to herald the end of the Cold War and the emergence of a single superpower. A resurgent Russia’s actions in Georgia have shattered that illusion

When Gordon Brown sits down tomorrow at the conference table with the 26 other EU premiers in the glass-fronted Justus Lipsius building on Brussels’s Rue de la Loi, the significance will not be lost on any of those present. The last time they sat in emergency session was in 2001, immediately after al-Qaeda’s attack on America.

This time, they will be meeting to consider Russia’s military actions in response to Georgia’s attempt to retake South Ossetia. Those present are likely to agree with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband who declared last week that a new era in international relations was upon us: the post-post Cold War, as former US Secretary of State Colin Powell originally framed it. Russia’s intention to absorb both South Ossetia and Abkhazia into the Russian Federation is being treated as a move of that magnitude.

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History, to reverse Francis Fukuyama’s pronouncement on its ending, has decisively begun again. The ‘new world order’ envisaged in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an order in which liberal democracies would proliferate across the world as the United States exercised a benign global hegemony, has proved to be a mirage. First 11 September and then the debacle of Iraq shattered that happy illusion nurtured in the thinktanks of Washington.

Now, in the space of a few weeks, Putin’s tanks have buried it once and for all. In the face of protests, exhortations and furious remonstrations, Moscow acted as it saw fit in what it considers the Russian backyard, and damned the consequences, assuming there would be none of any note. This is no unipolar world, designed to Western specifications.

In Syria, Libya, even Turkey (a US and European friend) politicians and analysts have noted the consequences of the Georgian crisis – not for what Russia has done but for what the US, EU and Nato have been unable to do: exercise their power to protect an ally.

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This article was posted: Monday, September 1, 2008 at 2:53 am





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