When the superpowers will be replaced by regional players, the world will turn into an updated version of the troubled Europe of the eighteenth century. Professor of history dick Harrison wonders about the future looking at the past, and predicts that the earth will be less of the world than, oddly enough, during the balance of terror.
Once in the 1980-ies, when I was young and wandered about on the trains in Europe and Asia, I saw the writing on the wall the message: America apologizes for being late to both world wars, but we promise to do better at the next (“America is sorry for being late on the First and Second world wars, but the next we promise to improve”). The Creator of the inscription was clearly trying to joke, but the satire was, of course, is aimed at building weapons, initiated by the Reagan administration and the cold war, which every month was getting hot. In the 1980s, to criticize the United States has become something of a sport.
It is rarely said, but for satire and criticism was an awareness of the security, which gave the willingness of the Carter, Reagan, Bush and another to help Europe. Of course, the red tsars of the Kremlin could come up with any sort of dirty trick against their vassals in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, but while the Americans were ready to fight, they would never have dared to invade Western Europe. And Sweden.
I want to remind you that if we, despite everything, slept quite peacefully. Perhaps better than today.
Paradoxically, during the cold war, it was extremely safe to live on our side of the iron curtain. Both superpowers were guarding their territory like hawks. Was and respect. No one snuck into the backyard of another, at least if it was on the back yard called Europe. Undoubtedly, it is easy to find examples of opinion leaders and writers portrayed the picture of a nuclear dystopia, but the fact is that our part of the planet has never been so peaceful. The balance of terror worked. In the neutral territories of the third world, the situation could deteriorate — as in Vietnam and the middle East — but without affecting our own security more than tangentially.
In the old days it was different. While the world is not divided into superpower blocs, we constantly fought. In the XVIII and early XIX century, even such obstinate little nation as Sweden and Denmark, who categorically did not want to shoot each other, were forced to send their armed boys to the shared border when this was demanded by the British, French and Russian. Most often in our past, any foreign conflict over the throne or diplomatic rupture could lead to tens of thousands of our own casualties. History was systematically developed are unpredictable.
In the next stage, when we have a global system of alliances has made it easier to achieve long periods of peace. Especially after the First world war, when European countries made a fatal mistake by launching a vicious deadly circle during one of the countless quarrels in the Balkans, the situation in terms of security has improved significantly — that is improved for us, those who lived at a sufficient geographical distance from the centers of conflict. In the eye of the storm is always calm, and it was there for Sweden the whole XX century.
But what happens when the blocks fall apart when technical and economic development will nalomat hard structures, and we find ourselves in a world dominated by regional players themselves no evident binding relations with other major powers — in other words, when the earth will turn into an updated version of the Europe of the eighteenth century? According to many estimates, we are now moving in this direction. If the United States continues to follow a route that marks a new President, we find ourselves on the verge of a return to the isolationist tradition, which is different from the country’s foreign policy before the Second world war. Then it is rightly criticized because it prevented democracy to survive in the struggle against totalitarian dictatorships.
From a historical point of view, the world has never been safer from the fact that policy across the Atlantic has put America “first”. On the contrary. In a world characterized by moving conflicts with the vague, changeable and overwhelming borders, regional leaders are easier to provoke conflicts and to invade the territory of its neighbors, whether in the middle East, Southeast Asia or Ukraine.
There is another aspect: the lack of a generally accepted hegemony can be risky, but, as history shows, when the big boys-the bullies around the corner become friends, it is much more dangerous for small countries like Sweden, than when they are treacherous enemies. Finns, Estonians, Lithuanians, Latvians and poles can sleep in peace until Hitler and Stalin molded the practical politics of its ideological contradictions. After the Molotov — Ribbentrop Pact in 1939 began the invasion of their country.
We were the same, although few people remember about it from history books. No matter how great may have been the errors of Gustav IV Adolf to the Swedish, in the days of Napoleon, our ancestors managed to always land on your feet as long as French and Russian kings did not divide the world into spheres of interest, concluded in 1807, the ill-fated Treaty of Tilsit. As a result, we lost Finland.
The era of the USA as the sole superpower of the world began with the fall of the Berlin wall and experienced the climax under George Bush. Later, it was seductively easy to criticize poorly thought-out invasion and ambition, aiming not there, but we can’t ignore the fact that the USA never before were not so anti-isolationist and not stretched out its military tentacles so actively. Now it is history. Mean whether the current changes that we have more cause for concern, or we can continue to doze off in the belief that the wars, at least for us Swedes, long gone?
The scenarios are too many to give a accurate answer, but if you listen to the history as the guide that leads us forward, is to prefer being safer. I never feared nuclear war or invasion by enemies in the 1980s was precisely because he knew that big brother in Washington will be if something goes wrong. And with the isolationist United States — if the country really is now moving in this direction — we have no reason to feel as confident.