As part of our media partnership with Blogactiv, we are cross-posting this article by Stanley Crossick, the founding chairman of the European Policy Centre.
Francis Fukuyama was wrong. We have not been witnessing the end of history, but the return of history.
One reason for this is that we have not learned the lessons of history. But who did not at least think that 1989 had brought to an end four decades of Cold War in Europe and the establishment of a long term Pax Americana?
The US and Europe, led by market-obsessed economists, focused on economic and democratic reform in Russia and anchoring former Soviet countries in first in NATO and then in the European Union. Little attention was paid to Russian sensitivities or western behaviour perceived by Russians to be humiliating. We should have recognised that permanent change had not taken place: historical Russia was on vacation.
A combination of high energy prices and a populist, popular and effective President has returned Russia to its underlying imperial traditions and insecurity complex. Balance of power and containment thinking is alive and well. Cold War II may soon be with us - indeed will be with us - if we have still to learn the cost of humiliating the Russian Bear.
Russian behaviour in Georgia and Ukraine is to be deplored, but we will not find a modus vivendi with Russia unless we give due consideration to valid Russian concerns. Incorporating Georgia and Ukraine into NATO and extending the Anti-Missile Defence System to within a few hundred kilometres of the Russian borders are provocative and always asking for trouble.
At the very least, there has to be an agreed and implementable strategy. What would have happened if Georgia were a member of NATO? Would Article 5 have been invoked against Russian aggression in Georgia? NATO leaders should by now have learned that you don't start something you don't know how to end. They should also have learned to tread warily with leaders of the character of President Saakashvili.
The South Ossetia/ crisis was totally predictable. The ongoing geopolitical tensions between Russia and the US, and Europe, risk escalating. Vladimir Putin has stated that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the worst geopolitical disaster of the 20th century: he means it.
Return of history (2)
By remarkable coincidence, Kishore Mahbubani, with whom I have in the past exchanged views both in Singapore and by email, wrote in yesterday's Financial Times, making the identical point that my post made: we are seeing played out in Georgia, "the return of history" - not its end and not the "triumph of western civilisation".
The 'triumphalism' was and is, essentially, American, with we Europeans as ever sitting on our hands. Failure to resist entitles Kishore to assert that "the west" has intruded into the geopolitical spaces of other countries.
The current issue of Foreign Affairs, which I also received yesterday, contains an essay by Bob Kagan, (the writer with whom I most enjoy disagreeing!), the author of "The Return of History and the End of Dreams."
Bob argues that the next US Administration should learn from Bush's mistakes, but it cannot shrink from using
US power to build a liberal order founded on democratic principles. Kishore, I'm sure, also rejects this thinking. As he writes, "The gap between the western narrative and the rest of the world could not be greater."
Bob Kagan provocatively concludes his essay, "In a fracturing world, the only worse thing than a self-absorbed hegemon is an incompetent self-absorbed hegemon."