Strategic Survey 2007 Executive Summary

Strategic Survey 2007 Executive Summary

World affairs in the year to mid 2007 were dominated by the effects of America's profound loss of authority, according to Strategic Survey 2007, the annual review from the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

With the United States and its president so discredited, some countries sensed an opportunity to flex their muscles. Iran pressed ahead with its nuclear programme in the face of repeated United Nations Security Council resolutions and the cautious imposition of international sanctions. According to Strategic Survey 2007, -Tehran's calculation was perhaps that US military action, which could occur if Bush were to tire of diplomacy, would serve only to provoke international sympathy and to promote national unity. Meanwhile, Russia sought to move into the vacuum left by the United States, as President Vladimir Putin attempted to reassert his country's identity as a global power.

In the Middle East and Persian Gulf region, there appeared to be no strategies in place that could bring peace. Iraq remained trapped in a complex web of violence, with Washington apparently powerless to engineer a political settlement. The risk of region-wide sectarian conflict seemed to have risen. After conflict in Lebanon in mid 2006, the United States made new diplomatic efforts towards Middle East peace, but gained little traction , and in June 2007, Hamas seized control of Gaza. Meanwhile it became evident that, far from being smashed at the centre, the al-Qaeda terrorist group retained a core that was still able to instigate acts of terrorism around the world.

In East and Southeast Asia, leaders continued to emphasise the importance of close links with Washington, but were meanwhile evolving new security relationships and regional mechanisms, some of which did not involve the United States. However, engagement between Beijing and Washington on many levels was a positive sign, in spite of US suspicions about the size and transparency of Chinese military spending, and in spite of anti-Chinese rhetoric in the US Congress. North Korea agreed to steps that could lead to an end to its nuclear-weapons programme , but this was only after Pyongyang detonated a nuclear device.

There was renewed conflict in Somalia and Sri Lanka and a military coup in Thailand. Conflict in Afghanistan and the Darfur region of Sudan remained of wide international concern. According to Strategic Survey 2007, concerted leadership will be needed to tackle complex problems stretching from the Middle East to Pakistan, as well as the threats of terrorism and proliferation. Otherwise, the risk is that simmering international tensions will spill over and endanger global prosperity. A new set of world leaders is emerging, from which we mention German Chancellor Angela Merkel, president Nicolas Sarkozy in France and prime-minister Gordon Brown in the United Kingdom. A new Russian president will be elected in 2008. These leaders will have to wait until 2009 to deal with an American counterpart who has real authority.

Looking ahead to 2008, the world is approaching turning points in several international crises. Strategic Survey 2007 says that shifts in the global balance of power do not herald decisive and effective action to deal with these crises. Pressure for a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq will grow, and it is likely that Iraqis are left progressively to their own devices, in the hope that this will inspire more compromise than fratricide. Iran's ability to build additional centrifuges for uranium enrichment means that its nuclear programme could reach a key threshold. In the Middle East, the focus will shift to trying to provide stronger economic underpinnings to peace, and an international peace conference may be called.

Strategic Survey 2007 concludes: The world in 2008 will be consumed by the politics of parochialism , sectarian rivalries and religious disputes , and by the manoeuvres of balance-of-power politics , alliance politics and arms races, In Europe, the United States and Asia big powers will talk to each other about role, status, alliance, balance of power. In the meantime, groups around the world will fight those states and alliances ... In this "non-polar world", the space for aggressive non-state actors to advance their particularist strategic aims has grown. In 2008, managing nuclear proliferation and terrorism will remain the priorities.


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