On 2nd April the G20 will be meeting in London rallying the planet’s main economies.
On 3rd and 4th in Strasbourg, Kehl-Baden-Baden the NATO summit including 26 countries will take place and on 5th in Prague the EU-USA will also be in summit. These four days of intensive meetings will probably count for much in the history of the 21st century. Indeed they will give rise to the initial answers to four vital issues.
Will American leadership survive?
The economic and financial crisis makes the declining image of the US an even more sensitive issue.
The Americans’ goal, as recalled by B Obama in his first speech on the State of the Union is to recover their leadership.
However the 21st century might be that of relative power.
Europe is already the world’s leading area in terms of wealth production, China is forecast to push past it in ten year’s time.
The balance of power is changing fast. The Anglo-Saxon financial model is no longer valid in a world that will have 9 billion inhabitants in 2050.
The crisis has revealed excesses that will no longer be tolerated.
Can the world’s leading military power recover its dominant role by undertaking a leap it alone holds the secret to and by making the necessary reforms?
This is still its goal. Is it possible? Is it desirable? Everything depends in fact on the choices made by the American president.
Will Europe enter the Major League?
Europe, which is still on the quest for effective governance, struggles to reform and is fiercely attached to its extraordinary standard of life; it is suffering greatly from the present crisis and is still not convinced that it should enter the stage as a world power.
However this is the only solution for the Union whose story until now has been exemplary but now some of its policies are being questioned.
It will either make the move towards enhanced political unity or it may very well vegetate to become a kind of comfortable area for peaceful free-trade.
The Franco-German driver behind the construction of Europe is therefore directly involved. The fate of Europe weighs on its shoulders. If the two major European powers manage to achieve a profile within the G20 by convincing it to adopt effective regulation and to take the path of a real international order and then persuade their American allies of their desire to achieve identity via a European Defence system, which a restored trans-Atlantic link has to approve – then the existence of Europe on the international stage, with its values, its strength and its attractiveness may change the course of events long term.
France and Germany are playing important cards and almost single handed.
Have the emerging countries really emerged?
We know everything about the economic rise to power of China, India and Brazil. But what kind of political stance will they adopt?
Will they be satisfied with an almost-third-world attitude like Brazil which does not know whether it is on the side of the rich or the poor – or will they adopt recently transformed India’s non-alignment or Chinese mercantilism in expectation of a new rise to power? Will their financial dependency on the West allow them to have the autonomy of free opinion, with a vision of the world that will embody a true acceptation of responsibility?
Will they remain on the sidelines of the international system or will they involve themselves in the building of a new international order which is stable and sustainable?
And what of international security?
The NATO Summit opens the way to questions about security which become all the more pertinent with the economic crisis.
Will Europe take its future in hand or will it leave this to others once again?
Will NATO be able to reform and establish a doctrine that is better adapted to its expeditionary commitments? World stability mostly depends on its answers, with regard to Russia, the Middle East, nuclear Iran and more generally Islamic fundamentalism.
The world’s leading military alliance carries an extremely heavy responsibility. America like Europe has to say what they want.
These four days will not provide definitive answers to these four questions. There will be other summits.
But whether they are a success or a failure – ie finding the will to come to collective solutions with regard to the economic crisis, establishing real co-operation with everyone, settling the planet’s main diplomatic/military questions depends in the main on the path the century takes.