WASHINGTON, DC – Many observers have cited the crisis in Ukraine as yet another example of American retrenchment and declining global influence. Some have also interpreted it as evidence of a Russian-led effort to mobilize the major emerging economies – Brazil, India, and China – against the West. While there is a kernel of truth in both narratives, each is a gross exaggeration, as is the notion that America’s capacity to shape a secure and prosperous international system is in decline.
The US has had a rough few years. After two long, draining wars, its withdrawal from Afghanistan is inching along slowly. In Syria, Russian and Chinese intransigence have frustrated its efforts to find a diplomatic solution. And China’s growing assertiveness in the South and East China Seas is threatening US regional dominance, while raising the risk of a crisis with America’s close ally Japan.
Meanwhile, many of America’s European allies are mired in economic malaise. And, though the US economy is recovering from the global financial crisis, America’s treasury and reputation has been dealt a severe blow.
Nonetheless, the US remains the most influential global actor – not least because of the strong alliances that it maintains. All of the attention given to China’s economic rise – and, to a lesser extent, that of India and Brazil – has overshadowed the success of US allies like South Korea, Turkey, Indonesia, and Germany. In fact, the vast majority of the world’s strongest economies are allied with the US.