Leadership wanted

The greatest global danger at present is the unwillingness to communicate and compromise demonstrated by all parties concerned

Photo: Pho­to: EPA Most of the cur­rent heads of state and gov­ern­ment are far from nat­u­ral-born lead­ers.

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.

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