Viewpoint: The world in 2015 is in a dangerous position. The global economic downturn continues to have political and economic reverberations, which touch almost every citizen. Armed conflict in the Middle Eastern and North African regions, with the involvement of Western military powers, and now of Russia and Iran, has accentuated already toxic regional instability. But whilst regional armed conflict and economic challenges might not be new, the backdrop against which they occur is. Growing income inequality and increasing budget deficits are putting capitalism under sever strain whilst the rising, prosperous population of China (albeit not immune from the global downturn) is starting to challenge the economic primacy of the West. The nations that pioneered capitalism and embody the philosophy of individualism are facing challenges from countries whose political institutions and cultural histories may share little in common, but whose ideological routes trace themselves broadly to collectivism. China, Russia and nations across the Middle East present a distinct set of challenges to the present world order. The question is as the balance of power shifts away from the West, could the conditions for war – beyond isolated albeit devastating regional conflicts – grow into a global conflagration?

The start of the 21st century has unquestionably witnessed the limits of economic, military and political might of the West. In some respects the challenges to West come from within. The foundations of the European project – forged in the ashes of WW2 – are now being seriously called into question by member-states. The European refugee crisis (to an extent a direct result of overseas adventures) is further challenging the stability of European political institutions. In the US, Capitol Hill is divided like never before, and its politics is in gridlock. The Western notion of America exporting democracy when its own system is buckling under the strain of a divided nation completely lacks credibility. In short, the economic crisis is becoming a crisis of politics too. On both sides of the Atlantic the rise of extreme parties on the right and left is making the pursuit of moderate, centre-ground policies increasingly difficult. In Europe, anti-integration parties feed on a pervasive mood of political cynicism. In the UK the Labour Party has elected an unreformed left-winger to lead its movement. Whilst, in the US the Republicans are seriously flirting with Donald Trump as their presidential candidate. Were the property magnate turned Republican hopeful to make it to the Oval Office, it’s impossible not to imagine that US foreign policy would be become more hawkish with all the implications that would have for global security.


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