Conflict and Leadership
Afghanistan: A New Vietnam for the West

The US, NATO, EU and the West – they failed miserably in Afghanistan. The withdrawal from the Hindu Kush and the resulting disaster are comparable to the ignominious defeat of the USA in Vietnam half a century ago. While Europe is still living with the direct consequences of the crashed Afghanistan military operation for a long time and now has to fear not only a new wave of refugees, but an increased terror threat, the leading power USA has withdrawn behind the pond.

The Western withdrawal from Afghanistan makes it clear once again that the unipolar Western order that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago is coming to an end. The multipolar world order is a reality. The vacuum left by the West in the Middle East will very quickly be filled by China and Russia.
The US has made its strategic choice, and its European allies have no choice but to follow Washington further. America will focus on containing China and Russia – the two main rivals in the fight to preserve the pro-Western world order. The danger of Islamism, the emergence of a new "Islamic State" in the Middle East - is considered secondary by the USA. Unfortunately, the international community will have to live with this miscalculation.
The horror scenario for the West is an alliance of the Chinese and Russians with an anti-Western Orient, to which the ever-growing regional power Iran is also joining. NATO has suffered one of its worst defeats in history.

The future shaping power in Afghanistan will be the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is promoted by Beijing and Moscow and whose members include the states of Central Asia, India, Pakistan and, as observers, Iran and Turkey. In principle, these countries represent the new Eurasia that the West has always ignored. The SCO can rely on the military wing of the Eurasian Union – the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) – which today is the most important shield for the states of Central Asia against the Islamist threat. 

The catastrophe can be avoided if the West, after licking its wounds, returns to real strategic geopolitical thinking. At the moment, the Afghanistan debacle seems to be affecting only European domestic politics: the fear of a repeat of the 2015 migration crisis is evident in the faces of politicians, especially German ones. 

It would be more logical to constructive crisis prevention for the Middle East. The security situation is precarious. Afghanistan is not the only state in the region that could end up in a failed state or a new caliphate. Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq are also moving in this direction. The West has contributed to the destabilization of the Arab world by supporting the Arab revolutions, and now it must accept that its diplomacy based solely on liberal values has been fatal. The West has lied to itself by believing that it can always delight the entire world with its liberal ideals. 
NATO and the EU will no longer be able to avoid security cooperation with the SCO and CSTO. Relying solely on strengthening the EU-Central Asia strategy no longer works.
The EU and NATO need a new approach to geopolitical cooperation with all constructively thinking regional powers around the hotbed of Afghanistan, above all Russia, of course.

Otherwise, the saying of NATO's brain death will continue to make the rounds. It is about fighting a common enemy: resurrected Islamism. To rely solely on Pakistan as the next power of order in Afghanistan, as the Americans and leading EU politicians are demanding, would be to turn the buck into a gardener. 

Chancellor Merkel is travelling to Moscow at the end of this week. Instead of remaining in the Ukraine conflict and thus in the East-West conflict, she should turn to the new North-South conflict. If she does not understand this, her successor in the Chancellery will have to rethink the situation until it is not too late. 
‘Allied but Not Aligned’: Will Macron Redefine the Role of Europe in NATO?
Pascal Boniface
In the context of war for supremacy between Beijing and Washington, the EU is not obliged to take sides, and should better find a way to protect its own interests, writes Valdai Club expert Pascal Boniface. Europe must avoid following blindly Washington and must be the actor of its own history and not its passive spectator.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.