Strategic Survey 2009. The Annual Review of World Affairs

Strategic Survey 2009
The Annual Review of World Affairs
Author: International Institute for Strategic Studies
Publisher: Routledge

A year after the start of the financial crisis, the prestigious think-tank in London, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), has published its annual report on the worldwide geostrategic balance, presenting and analyzing the events taking place until 30 June 2009.

The main idea of the report, according to IISS estimates, is that Barack Obama's America, temporarily weakened by the economic crisis, will remain the world's greatest superpower if it maintains"minilateral" logic of alliances of variable geometry. "Minilateralism" (as opposed to the "unilateralism" of Bush administration) would mean "reuniting a suitable number of countries in order to solve a particular issue in various approaches and on various theaters", explains the internationally well-known center for political-military analyses in its annual report for 2009.

IISS thinks that Obama could however be in the position of saying he "cannot" solve problems unless he convinces a growing number of countries "to share his ideas"; only then "the American foreign policy could, in these difficult times, delay or even reverse the theory of decline". The optimist scenario for Washington will be more likely to become true as the United States are paradoxically coming out stronger from the financial crisis to which they contributed a lot. The report says "the American banking system was paralyzed and threatened by bankruptcy in vain, as in the United States the crisis proved the enormous amount of resources available in order to solve the situation. That was a proof that the financial crisis helped enhancing the American domination instead of ending it".

The IISS report says that "in most of the international files, the United States are more likely to create coalitions embracing their points of view than China is", admitting that however "minilateralism" would not prosper without any syncope. Thus, the efforts for the re-launching of the American economy could urge Washington towards a relative disengagement on the two continents. IISS believes that "it is unavoidable that certain regions will receive more rhetorical than practical attention. Such would be the case with Latin America and Africa, where the United States will avoid engagement without strong motivation". In fact IISS pleads for a reduced number of allied troops engaged in Afghanistan, as they believe the objective to liquidate the al-Qaeda network has already been achieved.

As usual, Strategic Survey 2009 begins with "Perspectives", a chapter which assesses last year's events worldwide. Then there is the "Political strategy issues" chapter, approaching three current issues: Fighting the terrorist threats; Europe's energy security; Towards a new security strategy in Asia. Next there are eight chapters analyzing the developments in several countries, grouped according to regions: North America, Latin America, Europe, Russia, Africa, South Asia and Afghanistan, Asia-Pacific. The book closes with "Prospective", dealing briefly with the next year's strategic perspectives. Also, within the "Strategic Geography" section, the book has 19 pages of color maps illustrating the activities of strategic importance and the political changes worldwide.

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