Strategic Visions

Robert Kagan is less optimistic about the unchallengeable American he- gemony. He also focuses on the geopolitical aspects of the world’s future, and he also does so from a mainly American perspective.86 According to Kagan, the domestic economic, nancial and social problems may lead – although not necessarily – to America’s decline. He believes that the cur- rent world order created by the US and based on democracy and political and economic liberalism is a unique system in humanity’s history that is worth preserving. However, this requires continued active leadership from the US. Either the decline of the US, or its withdrawal or isolation due to its domestic problems, would lead to a multipolar world revolv- ing around competing superpowers, where autocratic states would be strengthened, and economic cooperation would be replaced by rivalries and increasingly common con icts. 

Yet America’s decline and the ensuing negative scenario can still be avoided. According to Kagan, in order prevent a decline, Americans should not accept it as inevitable, they should nd solutions to the coun- try’s domestic problems and they should not withdraw from nding solutions to the world’s problems. 

Brzezinski’s Strategic Vision

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security advisor in the Carter administration, discusses the world’s future in a more varied approach than Robert Kagan and from a more realistic perspective than Friedman, but still mainly from the aspect of security policy.87

He wrote a book about the geopolitical future of the world titled Strategic Vision, a empting to answer the following four questions:

1. Whatwillbetheimpactofthechangingdistributionofglobalpower from the West to the East and humanity’s political awakening?

2. WhydoesAmerica’sappealdecrease,howdidtheUSmisstheop- portunity after the peaceful end to the Cold War, and what kind of geopolitical reorientation is necessary to revitalize America’s role in the world?

3. What would be the geopolitical consequences of the US losing its leading position, who would be the direct geopolitical victims of this, and could China assume America’s central role by 2025?

4. HowshouldarevivedUSdetermineitslong-termgeopoliticalgoals after 2025? How could the US, together with its traditional European allies, involve Russia and Turkey in creating an even larger and more powerful West? How could the US strike a balance in the East between the necessity of the close cooperation with China and an Asian geopolitics without entanglements?

According to Brzezinski, the world temporarily became unipolar after the end of the Cold War, and today we can observe the distribution of power. While the West loses its global leading role, the East rises. Brzezinski also believes that in the rising but not tension-free East, this realignment may lead to self-destructive con icts reminiscent of the history of 20th-century Europe, but this is not inevitable. Brzezinski’s argument is similar to Ka- gan’s, in that both maintain the West’s decline and the East’s escalating con icts can be avoided through the revival of the US (Figure 43). 

Figure 43 The Developed World from a New Perspective

Source: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Strategic Vision

However, in the author’s vision, the process does not end in a uniform world under exclusive American hegemony, but in the peaceful balance and global cooperation between a broader Western alliance than today’s West and a cooperative East that also achieves its inner harmony due to the stabilizing impact of the West.

In Brzezinski’s view, in the world order based on the above-mentioned positive scenario, the broader West includes Turkey and Russia in addition to the US and the European Union. The US remains the leading power in this broader West, in fact, it has to play an active role in its creation. At the same time, it has to support the balance in the East, constructively accept- ing the strengthening of China’s global status. According to the author, the US has to experience a revival to maintain its leading position, since  only a dynamic, strategic-minded US and a unifying Europe can create a broader, more viable West, which can be the responsible partner to a ris- ing and increasingly self-con dent East. Failing this, the divided and self- centered West may experience a decline similar to the 19th-century history of China, while the East will repeat the self-destructive power struggles of 20th-century Europe. Peace is a key prerequisite for economic develop- ment and prosperity, therefore security policy is also an important eld. However, the most clear-cut dividing line in every security policy forecast is whether the US can successfully get through its nancial crisis, and the impact this crisis will exert on the other economies of the world. Therefore, we should also see a projection discussing this.

The Endgame of the Financial Crisis

John Mauldin and Jonathan Tepper, two American economists, analyzed the possible scenarios of the endgame of the nancial crisis in their book published in 2011.88 According to the two authors, the current nancial crisis is the end of a debt supercycle characterized by debt mounting for decades, in which the reduction of the current debt levels becomes essen- tial due to the untenable nature of the current developments. The general scenario shows that the process is preceded by a multi-year slowdown in the economy coupled with high debt levels, which can only turn into a slow recovery after the substantial reduction of the debt levels. In the realign- ment period, the risk of both de ation and high in ation is considerable in the a ected countries. Through the drop in demand, the reduction of debt essentially leads to de ation, which is characterized by further diminishing consumption on account of the savings rate growing due to the signi cant excess capacities in the economy, high unemployment and the reduction in the value of accumulated wealth. The destructive impact of de ation can only be prevented by painful government measures, and politicians may nd it more appealing to monetize the debt by boosting in ation. However, while in ation does not bring about real growth, an increase in investors’ yield expectations, or an expected rise in government spending and the de cit, it may entail the risk of hyperin ation. While moderate in ation is be er than de ation, hyperin ation is the worst-case scenario. Neverthe- less, the authors are optimistic with respect to the long-term outlook: they  expect a higher standard of living over a 10–20-year horizon even in the developed world. Meanwhile, the convergence of developing countries is projected to continue due to their more rapid growth.

By applying the nancial projections of the authors to security policy and the expected future world order, we can see that a solution to the is- sues of the global division of power and the new world order is forecast to develop without major shocks, i.e. the future will not be dominated by power struggles and contacts.