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12 September, 2011  ▪  Dmytro Hubenko

The World After 9/11

On September 11, 2011, the world was transformed and Ukraine was among the first to experience the changes

Ukraine found itself in a kind of gray zone as it declared a course towards European integration, but has made virtually no real efforts along this line. Oleksandr Paliy, a political scientist, warns: “Busy fighting terrorism, the West did not lend any significant support to Ukraine, even though it provided serious aid in the 1990s to East European countries which had cast off communism. Largely hampered by its post-Soviet leadership, Ukraine failed to jump on the EU train and join other Euro-Atlantic institutions in the 1990s. Later, all the help we received was purely verbal support as the West was preoccupied with its own problems. The conclusion Ukraine must draw is that one needs to seize the moment, especially in international politics, and that there is no time for generating steam, because anything could change tomorrow.”

A DIFFERENT WORLD

Without the American “umbrella”, the European Union emerged unprepared to formulate a common security policy. Europeans split into “old” and “young” and each camp disregarded the other's security interests. The current crisis of sovereign debts virtually buried the prospect of the EU’s rapid transformation into a real force (a kind of collective superpower) in the world political arena. While the USA can explain part of its budget deficit by the fact it bore the brunt of the war against terrorism, European politicians can only blame themselves. Their short-sightedness and indecision drove the EU into debt.

Now Russia has taken full advantage of the atmosphere of uncertainty and distrust which spread across the world after 9/11. It was Russia that eagerly drove a wedge between “old” and “young” Europe after the launch of the campaign in Iraq. It also benefited from harassing Ukraine. Serhiy Tolstov, head of an Institute for World Economy and International Relations department at Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences, says: “The cruel and simplistic attitude of the George Bush Administration to the rest of the world and the black-and-white division of all countries into friends and enemies led to the Ukrainian government being unjustly accused of selling the Kolchuga air defense system to Iraq. It was later established that no such systems had been supplied to Iraq, but in 2002, Kyiv faced the direct threat of sanctions from the USA and Great Britain.”

The 2001 terrorist attacks made the world vulnerable, and so citizens of Western countries agreed to renounce part of their rights and freedoms for the sake of security. “The 21st century has been marked by a significant enforcement of internal security and intelligence agencies that are tasked with counteracting all types of terrorism and extremism. This is why special agencies were granted extensive control over private information, including surveillance of citizens. Hence it is crucial that these special agencies with their extraordinary authority indeed serve their original purposes and perform their statutory functions of law enforcement and crime prevention rather than turning into uncontrolled power structures not subordinated to the civilian government,” Tolstov warns.

NEW TURNING POINTS

However, an increasing number of Western experts doubt the epoch-making nature of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. For example, Philip Stephens of the Financial Times believes that it was not the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq which came in the wake of 9/11, but the rapid economic rise of Asian and Latin American countries, that has had the greatest impact on international politics in the past decade. Brazil, India and China, rather than Muslim fundamentalists, are a real strategic challenge to the USA. The competition is clearly not about military power – the USA is head and shoulders above all its rivals. However, world powers are vying for resources, and China has made significant breakthroughs in this area by limiting exports of its own rare-earth metals and establishing itself in many resource-rich African countries.

Future scholars may identify 2008, rather than 2001, as the turning point for humanity, even though the latter date is placed so conveniently at the turn of the millennium. It is too early to draw any real conclusions, but the global financial crisis may have delivered a much more painful blow to the West than Al-Qaeda. The USA is still struggling to come out of economic recession, and there is no end to it in sight. “Our debt is the greatest threat to our national security,” Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in 2010. Therefore, we can expect to see the United States retreat from its positions, especially in Afghanistan. George Friedman of Statfor writes about the US campaign in this country: “Unlike other wars, counterinsurgencies rarely end in victory. They usually end when the foreign forces decide to leave.”

The world is entering a new phase and decade-old terrorist attacks have an increasingly smaller impact on its development trends.


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