End of the Pax Americana

Events in the Ukraine underscore the reality of today’s geopolitical world: it is increasingly easy to call the bluff on Uncle Sam’s global swagger, and the many ill-advised security agreements he issued during the heady unipolar days after the Soviet collapse of 1991. For the past two decades, America was the insurance underwriter for a good chunk of the world’s security.

Now that claims may be filed, it seems the underwriter may be a tad low on resources:

NATO and Ukraine officially signed an agreement that anyone can find on NATO’s website. All five states party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons gave Ukraine security assurances in return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons. That agreement was reaffirmed Aug. 21, 2009:

“In addition to the regular consultative and co-operative meetings set out in the Charter, the NUC (NATO Ukraine Council) will be convened following a request from Ukraine if Ukraine perceives a direct threat to its territorial integrity, political independence or security, in line with paragraph 8 of the Partnership for Peace Framework Document.”

Leave aside for the moment whether such a guarantee was truly vital to U.S. interests (and in my humble opinion, it was not)… the fact remains it was made.  Deterrence requires two vital elements: capability, and the willingness to use it. After sloshing about the world for more than a decade, hunting for something resembling a decisive ‘victory over terrorism,’ it’s pretty clear to the world our capabilities are diminished and the political will at home to use force abroad is next to nonexistent.

With that air of invincibility cleared, plenty of players are taking note and recalculating the net worth of Uncle Sam’s ‘commitments’ in their particular neck of the woods. Recalculation always involves the risk of miscalculation. Regardless whether the U.S./NATO and Russia come to blows over the Crimea, recent weeks are just the opening act in a much more dangerous world…

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