The greatest global danger at present is the unwillingness to communicate and compromise demonstrated by all parties concernedProf. Mihail Konstantinov
When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991 (a historic development Russian President Vladimir Putin once called "the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century") genuine leaders were at the helm of Western powers - George Bush Sr. in the US, Francois Mitterrand in France, and Helmut Kohl, who was Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.
When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991 (a historic development Russian President Vladimir Putin once called "the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century") genuine leaders were at the helm of Western powers - George Bush Sr. in the US, Francois Mitterrand in France, and Helmut Kohl, who was Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. Just a year or two before that Margaret Thatcher, dubbed the Iron Lady by the Soviet media, was still the prime minister of the United Kingdom, while Ronald Reagan, who is thought as one of the three greatest American presidents, was occupying the White House.
The collapse of the Soviet Empire under the watch of the first, and as it turned out the last, president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, was partly the result of strong political and economic external pressure generated by the concerted efforts of Washington and London at the time when Reagan and Thatcher were in power. The two leaders revived the "special relations" between the US and the United Kingdom, first declared by another great British statesman, Winston Churchill, in 1946, when the Cold War conflict between the Western powers and the USSR, with its satellite countries, was flaring up.
The outcome of this international power struggle is well-documented - the West prevailed, but the paradoxical fallout of this triumph was the disappearance of strong western leaders from the European and global political stage. George Bush Sr. lost the presidential elections in the autumn of 1992, despite analysts predicting a landslide win for him during the build-up to the vote. There are three reasons why Bush Sr. lost the elections to Bill Clinton - the deep recession gripping the US at that time, tax hikes, and most importantly, the unprecedented presence of a third presidential candidate. Billionaire Ross Perot won 19% of the ballots, drawing many of the votes that would have otherwise gone to Bush Sr. So, Clinton clinched a victory supported by only 43%, while Bush Sr. surprisingly remained second with 37%.
The leader of the French state also left the political scene soon after the Cold War ended. Mitterrand lost the 1995 presidential elections to Jacques Chirac and died a year later. In Germany, Chancellor Helmut Kohl remained in power until 1998, when he was forced to resign at the height of his political career. The corruption scandal that followed revealed that, for years, Kohl's party had been receiving large sums of money as payment for government protection of German privately-owned arms exporters.
Thus, just a few years after the end of the Cold War, the western political elite was replaced by politicians who lacked the vision, resolution and savvy government approach of their predecessors. In Europe today, the only notable leadership is that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has recently won her third term in office and stands, at least theoretically, a chance to best Helmut Kohl's record of 16 years as the most powerful person in Germany. While well-regarded at home, Merkel has many analysts questioning her ability to steer what is often referred to as Europe's economic engine through the minefield of global challenges, and more specifically new threats to international and national security. The recent scandal revealing that US intelligence has tapped the Chancellor's mobile phone hardly helps to ease these doubts.
On the other hand, for nearly a decade following the 1991 tumultuous events, Russia was governed by the often contradictory and potentially controlled by vested interests figure of President Boris Yeltsin. In China, the retirement of the reformist leader Deng Xiaoping in 1989 marked the end of strong political figures and the beginning of a largely collective decision-making process at the helm of this huge country.
Ultimately, the lack of conviction and a strategic approach in state leadership brought the world to today's series of local conflicts over scarce resources and international campaigns to bring down dictators only to replace them with not necessarily better but certainly more convenient regimes. Meanwhile, countries like Brazil, Turkey and Iran are becoming ever more assertive on the world stage, while the combined population of China and India is projected to exceed three billion in the not so distant future. Against this backdrop, Iran is inexorably moving closer to the point where it will be able to make its first nuclear bomb, despite Israel's determination to prevent this regardless of the means it takes, as the Israeli leaders put it. This sounds ominously like a war, to put it in another way. And this time around, the war may not be contained within the borders of the troubled region.
But the greatest global danger at present is the unwillingness to communicate and compromise demonstrated by all parties concerned. The desire to hurt your foe and gain local advantage and the unwillingness to give peaceful talks a chance bode no good. That much is obvious.
For example, it is clear (as it has always been, although no one would open their eyes to it) that NATO's intervention in Afghanistan has been a failure and the Alliance's troops should be recalled immediately. Of course, at a pace that will ensure their safety. Having lost the war, we need to buy ourselves peace. Something that could have been achieved without NATO losing 6,000 soldiers and spending one trillion euro, but it seems that western leaders are bent on learning the hard way. Come to think of it, there is no easy way.
Any support for the warring factions in Syria should be cut off and the country should be placed under complete arms embargo. Libya should be left to its people, as Iraq should be left to Iraqis, even if they tear those countries apart. We have to decide if we want to help Ukraine so we can bring it to the Western fold (this will take €50 billion for a start) and more importantly - if we are ready to foot the rest of the bill. We are talking about approximately €500 billion. Having thrown away one trillion on Greece, which seems anti-European enough, why not try our luck with Ukraine? True, it would take us a step closer to hyperinflation, making all those junk financial products useless, but is it not better to meet the horrific end than to live in endless horror? We should stop pussyfooting around Iran's nuclear aspirations and decide whether to stop the programme by force in the next few months or accept the fact that sooner or later Iran and other countries will have their nuclear bombs.
The world needs leaders and they do not always come in the form of heroes or maniacs, but in the form of politicians, who are not straight-jacketed by the necessity to win another election in four years, and who are more concerned with making history than stashing enough money to last them and their families a lifetime. There must be such people. Let us hope we will not have to pay a dear price for their delayed emergence on the global political stage.