Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tadae Takubo

【#906】American Decline Contributing International Disorder

Tadae Takubo / 2022.04.06 (Wed)

April 4, 2022

The purpose of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down," said Lord Hastings Ismay who served as military adviser to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II and became the first NATO secretary general after the war. He discussed the balance of power in Europe at a time when none dreamed of China’s rise. What an excellent description of real international politics!

China-Russia alignment destabilizing the world

The postwar international order has undergone drastic changes. The structure of confrontation between U.S. and Soviet blocs had started just before the Cold War and collapsed at a stretch in 1991. Then came a world of “1 plus 6” where the United States was a dominant superpower followed by six middle powers – Japan, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain. But this world order did not last long. As China has risen remarkably, U.S. leadership has relatively declined.

This trend became all the more decisive when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. As the Ukraine war still continues, Russian and Ukrainian damages remain uncertain. But it is clear that considerable damage has clearly inflicted on Russia, which has beaten the U.S. with the world’s largest number of nuclear warheads topping 6,000 while rivaling South Korea in gross domestic product. In addition, global economic sanctions on Russia will gradually produce impacts. Russia has undoubtedly become China’s junior partner as their one-time master-subordinate relationship has been reversed. If China and Russia cooperate in exerting great influence on the Eurasian Continent, the world will not head for stabilization.

In another remarkable development, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a turnaround in defense policy at a Sunday special session of Bundestag on February 27, three days after Russia’s invasion into Ukraine. Earlier, Germany had failed to abide by a NATO guideline calling for defense spending to be 2% of GDP or more and refused to provide weapons to Ukraine. It had intended to end up sending 5,000 helmets to Ukraine, drawing derision from other NATO members including the U.S.

But Germany has decided to increase its defense spending to 2% of GDP or more, establish a 100-billion-euro defense buildup fund and provide weapons and other military equipment to Ukraine. Scholz’s speech in the Bundestag got applause even from conservative opposition lawmakers. Germany as the largest economy in Europe will rank third in the world in defense spending after the U.S. and China. Naturally, Germany will play key political roles.

A chain reaction of violations

Hypothetically speaking, if the U.S. had continued to play a role as the world’s policeman, international law violations such as Russia’s invasion into Ukraine and China’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea might have been blocked. The American decline has triggered a chain reaction of violations. Dark clouds loom over Japan.

Tadae Takubo is Vice President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and a professor emeritus at Kyorin University.