The Dusk of the Liberal World

Kazakhstan’s perspectives for development are determined not only by the factors of the inner development of the country, but also by the outside environment. This area is characterized by many factors and players and is distinguished by severe aggressiveness and unpredictability.

Outside environment was at one point very enabling for the development of Kazakhstan. Big political players nearby (Russia, China), were too busy dealing with domestic issue, while faraway players USA and Europe being in an upswing, were interested in the emergence of new states, freshly integrate into the new globalized economic system.

Presently, the direction has changed 180 degrees. Nearby neighbors had woke up and want to actively participate in the life of the region (based on the information provided by Kazakh political experts, in 2016 Kazakhstan took the first spot in the list of countries most frequently visited by Russian president Vladimir Putin).

“Far west” on the other hand, has moved away further from the region, while keeping its geopolitical interests, it is currently more focused on internal problems. Thus, this environment’s state can be classified as aggressive and unpredictable.

Unpredictability is the main element identified in the latest Munich report on security, prepared for the international forum, held since the early 1960s in the capital of Bavaria. In essence, it is the main forum in which the question of security from the western perspective is determined. In the following article, we tried to offer readers the main points that are a cause of concern today.

The right angle

Based on the opinion of the authors of this report, with reference to the rating dynamics of American Freedom House, liberal democracy is on the decline and has been for past 10 years.

In essence, prophecies like “the world has changed” have been around for a while. And the end of the first millenium has led to a complete collapse of economic activity. People in the west, simply laid in the coffin and awaited the onset of the new era, and the end of the world with it. The world endured but the forecasts continued. Even more bright and optimistic was the wait for millennium number two. As you might remember, the main feat at the time was that computers won’t be able to handle the technical task of changing dates. They did, but democracy went downhill in the literal sense.

Of course concepts of political freedoms and civic rights may have different flavor, especially when interpreted by Freedom House. But there are deeper indicators of public opinions by more reputable organisations in academia. Their conclusions are even more disheartening. Here, for example are results of surveys done in different countries conducted in two time periods.

Citizens of different countries were asked the same question: Would you be fine with the leader of your country having more responsibilities, so that he can make decisions without parliament’s approval? This question was asked for the first time in mid-nineties, and second time in 2010s. As we can see the situation has shifted towards the right, i.e. the share of people who answered “yes” has increased.

Four countries were the exception. In Estonia, the differences were too subtle to discuss, while in Georgia there were quite striking and likely cause by political changes in the country that went from being a presidential to parliamentary republic. A real exception in direction and scope is Pakistan, which moved to the left, despite authoritarian traditions. As for Philippines, situation there has managed to change again and quite unexpectedly.

This, again, tells us that the way of changes today is unpredictable and their vector is almost predetermined: the world is moving to the right and the most sustainable system becomes the authoritarian one. And there is nothing surprising in the fact that during his inaugural speech, president Trump hasn’t once mentioned the words democracy, freedom or human rights. He is the products of that very system that is moving to the right in a fast pace.

Trumpism

Based on the opinion of the authors of the report, the world community still doesn’t quite grasp who Trump is. The future presidents has talked so much during his campaign that is impossible to understand what he meant. All of his speeches were about critiquing the existing government institutions. Not the customary situation for judging the man in charge of the country, whose instiutions have been copied throughout the world.

The most surprising moment of the Trump campaign was the fact that Russia was the only country he didn’t criticize. That, however, doesn’t tell us much about him.

Thus, authors of the report only agree on one thing: Trump is unpredictable. It is uncertain whether he will support EU or NATO. Moreover, it is unknown whether US president is ready for a full-on trade war with China and a military conflict at the Pacific Ocean.

Whose security is above all others?

The expert community may stipulate about Trump’s decisions, but there are other aspects that have governed him until now. A survey conducted last June showed that the number of Americans that support the idea of cutting US’s spending on up keeping NATO, exceeds the number of people who think that US should spend more.

As for the so-called core constituents of the current American president, 13% completely undermine the idea of necessity of NATO. At the same time it is the cornerstone of modern global order, a mechanism of collective security. In fact, it is a swing towards isolationism and the policies of offshore balancing, known in history based on the example of British empire.

EU’s tragic dilemma

Against the backdrop of the chaos of US election campaign, the unpredictability of EU looks quite odd. However, for the authors of the Munich report, it was not only the future, but the very fact of EU’s existence that was called into question.

Moreover, this scenario appeared at the center of political discourse of the European community at the moment, when the necessity for such a unity become the most apparent. This was admitted by the higher representative of EU on the matters of foreign policies and security, Frederica Mogerini in June 2016, long before Trump turned from a minor annoyance for Ms. Clinton into a political reality, but after Britain voted for Brexit.

The full 180 turn of the United Kingdom was totally unexpected. Instead of moving on the way of further integration, EU countries faced the possibility of other member seceding from the union. The report talks about a tragic dilema. However, it seems like the authors decided to use the term simply as a good sounding figure of speech. However, in reality the dilemma exists. Assuming that weaker states are more interested in a strong union, and the stronger ones can thrive on their own, it is easy to assume what will happen next. The dynamic may take a form of reverse pickingб, a strategy well known to those who studied formation of ghettoes.

Of course there is no threat of ghettoization of EU mentioned in the report. On the contrary, European citizens’ desire to unite is outlined. According to the report, 60% of respondents support the idea of strengthening the union and more importantly the idea of the strengthening of EU’s role in world politics. In Mogerini’s opinion, EU has an opportunity of becoming a super-institution, built on principles of multi-sided cooperation. And this hope became the foundation for foreign policy of EU council on foreign affairs.

In terms of EU’s budget, this means a rise in military spending. The year 2017, based on the opinion of NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, will become a third year in a row of the rising military costs of EU. Even though this spending still makes up only 1.46 of GDP of all NATO members, which is less than the established goal of two percent, which gives a hope for the future. A future, in which there is no place for free-riders , mooches that want to take advantage of public funds for their own gain.

The subject of free-riders has been haunting EU since the moment of its creation. Based on opinion, voiced by American economist Mansur Olson in 1960s, who introduced the term into the theory of public goods, America is destined to carry the burden for collective security of EU, while other members of NATO are enjoying that security.

This theory had one obvious defect – the bulk of those security spending was budgetary spending on military purposes, thus, allocated money didn’t leave the American economic system. Such a welfare for MIC was fine for Europe, even though the states of the old world weren’t too eager to pay for it.

In other words, through a micro-economic rather than political prism, the problem of spending on NATO services, looked completely different. The expenses of American social system on supporting school breakfasts was also considered as a support for the agricultural lobby, since these funds were spent on buying milk from farmers rather than giving money to students.

United States of Europe. Hundred years later

The alternative to the fall of EU is a creation of a federation, a more united structure that gives a lot of decision-making power to supranational organs. Authors of the report consider such an alternative, but due to obvious reasons try to avoid historical analogies.

Still, we want to remind that the last federal project in Europe was attempted by Germany. In the middle of the 19th century, various German micro-states were united under the banner of Prussia; before that their leaders would preside in the meaningless parliament of the German Union and blocked energetic initiatives of Prussian federalists. Then, Austrian Empire was excluded from the German Union, after which things had gotten heated, and Germany soon became the real landlord of Europe…until the year 1914.

The next attempt to create a European federation is not a popular subject of discussion. At the same time, in the spring of 1940, Europe did in fact represent a true federal republic, although a bit uneven in terms of rights. The present exit of Britain from EU, also gives a green light to those wanting centralization, which in fact will lead to strengthening of Germany, despite what some might think today.

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