Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Regional Powers

The G20, at least in theory, gathers together the most powerful countries on the planet. But, quite obviously, not all G20 countries are of equal power. If we think about the world as divided into three tiers - global powers, regional powers and minor countries - then the current G20 has one global power, America, and perhaps soon two, or even three, if China, and perhaps the EU, develop the capacity to project their influence into most of the corners of the planet. But the rest of the G20 consists of regional powers, able to assert themselves in their backyards but of lesser import on distant continents. As the very existence of the G20 attests, as American preeminance slowly fades in the 21st century, so the significance of regional powers increases. Turkish President Abdullah Gul reflected in an interview for today's Financial Times:

Of course the US is a superpower, so they have duties, but in this region we are one of the important countries. In this region, from Afghanistan to the Balkans, from energy security to the Middle East, from terrorism to nuclear disarmament, these are issues not only of interest to Turkey but to all of the world.

The visit of the US president to Turkey was not only aiming at strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries but also of great relevance to regional and international issues.

As the power of these regional actors increases so will the respect they demand from those dealing with them. Mr Gul broke into English and interupted his translator to desribe how condescending European complaints about Turkish concerns over the appointment of new NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen were "very dangerous and making us disturbed".

West European powers, meanwhile, face a choice in a three tier world. Having once been firmly top-tier, countries such as the UK and France risk sliding into irrelevance, for while once their authority ran across their former dominions, now on their own they are no more than regional powers; regional powers, moreover, in a continent once at the centre of history, but now at its margins. America, and one day China, will care little about countries whose sway holds only in a region of peace and stability. If the UK, France and Germany want to remain even as influencial as the Turkeys of this world to the global powers in 20 or 30 years time, their only real option is to pool power and push the EU into the top tier to join them.

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