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Summary: Global Power Shifts

Curt Gasteyger

History of the 20th century was marked by Europe’s decline and the rise of the USA to become a world power. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the USA have been the only superpower remaining, and the question for all interested in international politics and economy, and their power-political assessment and rules, is for how long the USA will be able to keep this status. The answer to this question not only depends on the growing up of real rivals, but also on the inner development of the USA, and on the determination of their political leaders in office to maintain the present unique position of power.

In the course of the next ten to 15 years presumably no serious counteracting forces will develop against this abundance of power; one can, however, not rule out that certain indications and tendencies for future power shifts are on their way. Uni-polarity leads to a strengthening of reversal movements, which can be seen in the current European-American relationships. Demography, resources, and economical-technological efficiency are three elements which indicate a mitigation of the American monopoly of power. While 38% of the world’s population live in China and India, 7.5% live in the extended EU and just about 4.5% in the USA.

The list of potential candidates for a role as a world power is short and contains few surprises. China and the India are listed as well as Russia and the EU, each of them equipped with different potential. China, however, is facing immense problems concerning the economical betterment of hundreds of millions of Chinese and the dramatic environmental pollution; just like India the country is extremely dependant from strategic imports of raw materials. In addition to that there is a political-institutional inability to reform. In the foreseeable future India, like China, will not be a candidate for becoming a world power, despite its remarkable efforts concerning high tech and nuclear arming.

In spite of its abundance of resources Russia, being an isolated country, will be a middle-range power at best for quite some time, despite its strategic arms potential. If the EU had the necessary institutional framework and political capability of decision making, the EU would represent a power-political factor. As this situation will not change in the foreseeable future, the constitutional convention notwithstanding, Europe will not be able to challenge the USA seriously. Thus, there will not be any change soon concerning American superiority, which leaves the question how long this super-power will be prepared and capable of playing this part. The power shift will happen step by step ("Asiacisation”of economy), and there is a price to pay for the maintenance of superiority. As the USA has to realize in Iraq at present, imperial strain is one of the greatest risks.

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Eigentümer und Herausgeber: Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung | Roßauer Lände 1, 1090 Wien
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