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The Fog of Disorder

MUNICH – Which emerging threat is the world missing right now? After a truly horrendous year for international peace and security, this question will be even more important for the leaders, analysts, and media gathering this week at the 51st Munich Security Conference (MSC).

A year ago, the war in Syria and the crisis in Ukraine were the international community’s preoccupying challenges. But many of the participants in last year’s MSC would likely now admit that they did not appreciate the true gravity of these events – let alone what might come next.

Only a few months later, the rapid escalation and regionalization of both crises, together with developments elsewhere, led many observers to proclaim that 2014 marked the beginning of a less peaceful and more chaotic era in international relations.

Numerous flaws and points of erosion in existing collective security structures have been revealed over the past year. Terms like the “The Great Unraveling,” coined by the journalist Roger Cohen in the fall of 2014, resonate widely because they capture the current sense of helplessness, lack of control, and inability to predict or grasp which crisis might come next. As Javier Solana recently put it, “We have been living in an illusion. For years, the world has believed that the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar order would be peaceful, orderly, and steady [...]. How wrong we were.”