(CNN) — It is a confusing time for Americans when it comes to world order, with the administration explaining on the one hand why it was time to withdraw from Afghanistan, but on the other why it is also time to defend Ukraine.
It is a time when Americans want their military to be less engaged abroad. NATO is feeling the heat. Expansion-minded autocracies like Russia and China are becoming bolder and act as allies.
The era of the United States, the superpower, is being tested in new ways around the world.
Exactly 30 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia is maneuvering to further invade Ukraine, one of its former republics. A post-Soviet growth of NATO is the prey of the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin.
The Biden administration has placed 8,500 US troops on high alert for deployment to Eastern Europe as a deterrent for Russia and security for NATO countries.
American influence needs support. To unify NATO countries against Russia, the US is also playing the role of an energy broker, seeking fuel guarantees from the Middle East and Asia to mitigate Russia’s influence as Germany’s main supplier of natural gas.
China is testing the autonomy of Taiwan, the autonomous island it has long coveted, with repeated air force missions near Taiwan. The biggest raid this year came the day after the United States, along with Japan, moved a flotilla of Navy ships into the Philippine Sea as part of a training exercise.
Meanwhile, cut off from the world, North Korea has intensified its missile tests.
Bases that house US troops in Iraq and Syria have been attacked this year. This week, the US Patriot missile defenses joined the United Arab Emirates in intercepting missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthis that were targeting the Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates, which hosts US troops.
And then there is Iran. After the US, under then-President Donald Trump, blew up the international agreement aimed at stopping the country’s nuclear escalation, Iran could be getting closer of nuclear weapons.
The role of the United States in the new world order
All of these situations have been years in the making, but the emerging question is what role will the United States play in the future?
The standoff over Ukraine suggests that US opponents feel weakness and see an opportunity now.
“The challenges of building American authority come at a time when there is a widespread perception abroad that Washington is not the power it was during the second half of the 20th century,” CNN’s Stephen Collinson wrote.
He added: “Despite Biden’s assurances that ‘America is back,’ last year’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan raised questions about America’s competence and commitment. America’s adversaries know that Americans are exhausted by 20 years of foreign warfare, a factor that may lead some to calculate that Washington might waver in its strategic obligations for political reasons.
The Putin factor
Putin is directly or indirectly involved in most of these issues, from Ukraine to Syria to Asia.
I wrote here last week that no one knows for sure what Putin is after. But Fiona Hill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former White House Russia expert, makes an argument. convincente en The New York Times that he knows exactly what he is after, at least in terms of Ukraine: Putin “wants to dislodge the United States from Europe.”
She writes, “As he might say, ‘Goodbye, America. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.’
Jill Dougherty, a Russia expert and former CNN Moscow bureau chief, agreed. “They want a repeat of the end of the Cold Warhe said Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day.” And Russia’s state media blitz is helping shape public attitudes on the ground.
Putin feels that American power is waning, according to Hill. He “believes that the United States is currently in the same situation as Russia after the Soviet collapse: severely weakened at home and in retreat abroad.”
The confrontation with Ukraine, he writes, must be confronted with force by the US, since it will reverberate throughout the world.
She argues that in addition to challenging NATO, Putin’s aggression in Ukraine would threaten “the entire UN system and jeopardize the agreements that have guaranteed the sovereignty of member states since World War II, similar to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990, but on an even larger scale.”
The West is not entirely united in Russia
Despite all the geopolitical risks, it is Putin’s economic clout that has held back European unity against his actions.
Ivana Kottasová writes for CNN Business from London that the Nord Stream 2 natural gas subsea pipeline from Russia, bypassing Ukraine and on to Germany, has become a wedge in the geopolitical crisis.
Germany has not promised to arm Ukraine like other Western democracies. It has been slow to include the pipeline in sanctions talk against Russia.
“Since Russia’s goal is to divide everyone, if they’re looking to break the unity in the European Union and NATO, this pipeline has been a wonderful vessel,” Kristine Berzina, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Kottasová said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism