INTERREGNUM: Three summits, three questions. Fernando Delage
In less than a week, three different meetings have shown the end of an era in Asia (and in Europe). The G-7 meeting in Canada, the summit between the president of the United States and the North Korean leader in Singapore, and the annual forum of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Qingdao (China), reveal the accelerated transition towards a new regional and global order.
In Charlevoix, by refusing to sign the joint statement with its G-7 partners, Trump explicitly rejected the basic pillars of the post-war international order. Moreover, he has not hesitated to challenge his partners by imposing new trade tariffs. The question was imposed: can we continue talking about a Western political community?
The contrast with the treatment given by Trump to Kim Jong-un only two days later could not be greater. “We have an extraordinary relationship ahead of us”, American president said about Kim, with whom he hopes to establish formal diplomatic relations soon. His avowed intention to abandon the US military presence in South Korea ended up aggravating the concern of his Asian allies, already surprised by what happened in Canada.
Trump’s words mark the effective end of a war that began just 68 years ago – on June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded the South – and that has been the determining factor of Asia’s strategic balance. It is important to keep in mind that the Korean War was the decisive turning point in beginning of the Cold War, and -through the famous document NSC68- the start of the implementation of the policy of American containment. The support of Beijing and Moscow to Pyongyang made the conflict a central front against communism. The implosion of the Soviet Union several decades later solved the ideological competition, but the Western structures designed to compete with the rival powers did not disappear: NATO, far from dissolving, expanded, as the West also increased its economic relations with China, facilitating its ascent.
A second question is therefore inevitable: what will happen with the order of the Cold War in Asia when its last vestige -the Korean War- definitely passes into History? When the president of the United States seems to feel more comfortable with the North Korean dictator than with his European allies, can his Asian partners continue believing in the guarantee of security that Washington has offered them since the end of the Second World War?
China and Russia attend with undisguised satisfaction to this rapid disintegration of the liberal order. While the West loses strength as a bloc, Eurasia consolidates as a strategic space. This has been highlighted by the first summit of the SCO in which India and Pakistan have participated as new partners, and to which Iran was invited as the next candidate for accession. The cohesion of the group should not be overestimated, but the contrast is significant, especially when China replaces the United States as the main defender of a multilateral system. Self-absorbed in their unilateralist preferences, Washington does not propose an alternative order to the dismantling of the post-war order, but what about Europe? This is the third question incited by the events of the week: what will the European Union do when the transatlantic relationship loses steam and its interests are directly affected by the geopolitical reconfiguration of Eurasia? (Traducción: Isabel Gacho Carmona)