The role of the United States as the world leader and the impact of the Trump administration’s policy on this status was the topic of the expert discussion, titled “Change of Course in Washington and Fate of the World Order,” held at the Valdai Discussion Club on March 20, 2018.
None of the participants doubted superiority of the United States over other global players, primarily in terms of resources disposable. At the same time, there is an obvious and steady decline of the United States’ role in the world, which occurs in parallel with the strengthening of other powers, primarily China and Russia. They are not going to be transformed in accordance with the US wishes and are able to push the American influence away from their borders.
While recognizing that the United States is not going to renounce its global leadership, the experts gave an unequivocal answer to one of the key questions: whether the current US strategy on the world stage is continuation of revisionism, when an American world order is actively promoted, or the Americans are trying to preserve the established status quo. In their view, the transition of the US from attempts to establish a world order of its own to preservation of the status quo occurred even before Donald Trump came to power.
As William Wohlforth, professor at Dartmouth College, noted, the current US administration has accelerated the trajectory to reduce the US role on the world arena and demonstrates a more determined desire to preserve the status quo. Nevertheless, according to the American expert, this correction should not be confused with the United States’ renunciation of leadership. “Only one country in the world can be called a superpower, and this is the United States,” he stressed.
Ivan Safranchuk, Associate professor at the MGIMO University and Higher School of Economics, described the unique chance, which the United States used to have in terms of global leadership. In his opinion, after the end of the Cold War, the US was the only leader, and everyone expected that it would act in common interests. But, being on top, the United States could not balance its own agenda and that of the world. As a result, doubts arose about the usefulness of the US military power and the goals America tries to achieve with it. In today’s world, the expert cannot see either conditions for an expansionist American leadership, or an opportunity for the US to remain the leader preserving the status quo. “In the current paradigm of realism, different temporary coalitions will emerge, and the US leadership will be increasingly challenged,” he said.
According to Dmitry Suslov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, senior lecturer at the Higher School of Economics, the US administration’s policy can be explained by attempts to adapt the US to a world, which is changing against its will. At the same time, he believes that the US has opted for confrontation with Russia and China instead of coexistence. This explains the sharp increase in deterrence measures on the part of both Russia and China. However, the policy of global confrontation will not work, the expert said. The US should agree to co-exist with other countries, or to build a new world order alongside them. “Russia should be a co-author of the general world order,” Suslov emphasized.
Russian experts drew attention to the desire of many countries to have the United States transformed from a superpower to a “normal country,” which, in particular. does not prevent the regional powers from pursuing their policies. They also stressed the need to prevent an escalation of tensions on the way toward a new world order.
Summarizing the discussion, Andrey Sushentsov, Programme director of the Valdai Discussion Club, expressed hope that the world leaders realize how fragile the world is. According to him, the development of technologies and other global changes may challenge the fact that the world is ruled by the great powers.