As new powers emerge, political realism drives global agenda

(By Deutsche Welle) The US and the EU campaigned for a common world order based on liberal values such as democracy and human rights. But as the balance of power shifts toward developing countries, national interests are trumping values.

During the 1990s, the advanced democracies of North America and Western Europe emerged as the powerbrokers of global politics. Russia shrank from the world stage as it slid into chaos after the collapse of the Soviet Union. And the large developing countries – such as Brazil, India and China – remained preoccupied with their own internal reforms.

As a consequence, the United States and the European Union began to construct a world order based on liberal vales. They promoted a doctrine of free trade, democracy and human rights.

Those nations that accepted – or at least did not challenge -these “international norms” were integrated into a growing network of economic globalization. This network was governed by institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Meanwhile, leaders who actively undermined the liberal rules of the game – such as Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein – faced crippling sanctions and devastating airstrikes. Integration and confrontation became two sides of the same coin.

But in the new millennium a more diverse group of countries is sharing world power, which has made it difficult to form a consensus around a common global agenda. As Brazil, Russia, India and China – often referred to as the BRICs – confidently pursue their own national interests, the liberal international order is buckling.

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