LETTERS: At the recently-concluded Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, the theme of the Conference “Westlessness” surprised the mainly European participants.
Many took the view that this was a reference to developments in Europe that seemed to signify the end of the predominance of the West in world politics.
In particular, the following have been mentioned as the driving factors: United States President Donald Trump coming to power in 2016, Britain’s exit from the European Union last month, the failure of European countries to move forward with the Paris Peace Accord on Climate Change, and the inability of countries involved in the nuclear deal with Iran to persuade the US not to withdraw from it.
Observers agreed that the term “Westlessness” could be understood as the absence of a lack of a sense of European Unity in the region. This could be explained from the fact that many of the new governments in Europe are recognised as “rightists”, “nationalists” and “populists”.
The composition of governments in Italy, Poland, Austria and Ukraine, for instance, shows a tendency to include a much younger age group. As such, their policies tended to be more inward-looking than previous governments.
In Europe, as older leaders leave the political scene, their replacements are mostly unprepared to continue to subscribe to older views that saw currency after the end of two World Wars and the Cold War.
The transatlantic alliance that consolidated peace and prosperity in war-torn Europe until today has lost its oomph since Trump entered the scene and began to unscramble everything that had depended on huge financial and technical assistance from the US.
In pulling back its influence around the world and rebuilding the country in the image of its president, a leadership vacuum has been created by the US for the rest of the world.
This has opened up a Pandora’s box that tilted either for new strategic moves by countries, or swung to tensions and security challenges.
To strategists, the global orientation of countries outside the former transatlantic alliance has taken on uncertainties.
The following are issues to be dealt with by countries as they meet the above challenge of Westlessness: retreat of the US; rise of China; Russians are coming; decline of Europe; the breakup of the Crescent; terrorism; migration; climate change; and oil dependency.
For Malaysia, its choices have been defined in its foreign policy templates tested for the last 62 years: the United Nations with its universalism, Asean for the Asean Way, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on behalf of the Ummah, Looking East towards China, Japan and South Korea for regional peace and prosperity, and the Commonwealth for historical reasons.
This become prominent with the recent visit to the country by Commonwealth secretary-general Patricia Scotland.
Malaysia has the leadership and experience to lead the way, based on its historical ties with this body, to work with smaller countries.
Former Malaysian ambassador
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times