20 November 2019

States’ credibility when it comes to history’s contemporary judgment

Sergiu Medar

The credibility states have in the international relations is a very important matter, especially thanks to the fact that this is how the possibilities and the collaboration level between states gets measured. Due to the justified or, on the contrary, unreasoned changes of the internal and external policy directions some analysts may think, sometimes wrongly, that those states’ credibility stopped to exist. The lack of credibility or trust is a serious anathema that one’s behavior or of a state can be labelled with. Therefore, it is necessary to carefully analyze the actions that have led to such conclusion.

Image source: Mediafax

One nation’s character, national spirit is always leaving marks on its defence and foreign affairs policy. Also, one can state that any leader leaves his/her personal mark on the organization she/he is leading. This is also the case of state leaders, when the organization they run is, in fact, the country whose leader she/he are. When, historically, people are talking about one’s state behavior using words such as: brave, prudent, defeater spirit, trustable, generous etc. it is noteworthy that such adjectives are, firstly, referring to states’ leaders, in a certain period. During the years, people firstly remember country’s actions, many times even forgetting who the one to run it was and how he/she made the important decisions at that specific time. This matter should be leaders’ huge responsibility within that nation’s history.

When a state starts to decrease or even give up a certain level of bilateral relation with another state, it cannot be considered as lacking of credibility. The international or internal situation in one of these states may have changed and, if that happened, the new political or economic situation may no longer be compatible with its interests. 

Lately, a series of analysts and even political leaders are accusing Trump of unpredictability when making decisions and of lack of trust from the Western states, as well as from some of world’s great powers. The reality is that, when he took the power at the White House, the new US president expressed the principles he will follow while running the biggest state in the world. Among them: giving up US’s position as the global gendarme and clearing the regional security issues at all costs, asking the states which need security to increase their financial contribution, withdraw the state from some international organizations when its objectives and regulations are opposing US’s national interests. These principles’ implementation, coming from the biggest military power in the world, is influencing the security and other fields’ functioning as well, at a global level. No other country in the world can influence the development of other state as much as US does. Washington’s decisions can open or close historical periods in the global development. Accusing the great powers and especially US for the lack of credibility is the same with punishing them with lack of change and stagnation. In the global orchestra, these states are the ones to set the tone, even if other states are ok with it or not. The members of this orchestra, small or medium states, must choose the part following the line of the conductor they have chosen. This is also connected to realpolitik concept, which seems to be the characteristic of the new global order.

Imposing the changes presented above has, indeed, pushed the world to give up applying collective rules and following their national interest. This means that liberal democracy and the free market principles are no longer the only legitimate economic and political order methods. Are noteworthy the successful authoritarian systems which are miming democracy (China), or EU illiberal systems which are accusing some EU states for belonging to a “Eurocratic” direction.

The personal relation between state leaders is extremely important, reaching global influences. The protocol mistakes, desired or not, during the meetings, can lead to conclusions that may affect not only the bilateral relations, but also the global ones. A personal relation of Trump with England’s Queen, Putin, Macron, Merkel, Xi Xiaoping, Kim Yong Un and other leaders of world’s powerful states can affect the regional or global development. The ostentatious display of a good relation during some meetings, for example Trump-Macron, is not always also the guarantee of a great future relation between the states. The puritanism of such meetings can also be the foundation of a trustable climate between the states. The critical presentation of a situation during the conversations should not be considered a personal action but, in the worst scenario, as a lack of information, something that can be easily agreed.

The credibility of two state’s bilateral relations emerges when they manage to find common interests. When such interests disappear, states are starting to mutually accuse for lack of trust which can be easily seen in the political or geopolitical context that is permanently changing.

It is already famous the unexpected reconciliation between US and China from 1970. It happened thanks to the common interest created by Soviet Union’s threat. When China and the Soviet Union got to a military cooperation agreement, supported by China’s interests in the Soviet military technology transfer, the China-US common interests have disappeared, and both states have left the conciliate positions.

The recent withdrawal of the US troops from Syria was also accused by the Kurds for lacking of credibility. In fact, Trump’s decision was announced months ago, following White House’s principle according to which US should no longer be the global gendarme and it should withdraw from the long military campaigns, which are bringing no political or economic benefits on short of medium term. The US have used the Kurds in the fight against ISIS, but they cannot be used in US’s long and medium term objective in the area, which is the isolation and entrenchment of Russia’s interests in the region. The Kurds had the possibility to stop the ISIS forces’ advance, but they cannot stop Russia’s increasing influence and aggressiveness in the region. But Turkey can.

Given these circumstances, the US relation with Turkey is essential and the White House tries to reestablish the great relation it had with this country before Erdogan took the power. He understood the American intentions and seeks a balance in the relations he has with the two big powers, which are permanently competing. In other words, Erdogan is going towards Putin, smiling for Trump, or vice versa. This is also the reason why in the recent visit at the White House he called the US leader as “dearest friend” and when they got to the controversial issue of the S-400 Russian air defence systems the Ankara leader expressed his will to buy Patriot systems also.

US was accused for lacking of credibility because it withdrew from the INF Treaty on intermediate range of action missile nonproliferation. But it is noteworthy that when Trump started his White House mandate he announced that he will withdraw US from international bilateral agreements which were partially or totally affecting its national interest. This US-Russia bilateral agreement was about blocking the research, development, production and dislocation process of this type of missiles only for these two countries. However, China developed and produced such systems equipping the Chinese fleet with many such offensive weapons. Hereof, in the China-US military relation it was created a military force disequilibrium. Can US be accused of lack of credibility for following its national security interest?

There are many occasions when in the current diplomacy are being used active deterrence methods through coercive diplomacy practices. It should have a certain firmness to make the possible aggressor estimate its possible loses in case if it would continue its aggressive positions.

This is just one of the reasons why, according to data provided by SIPRI, the Swedish International Peace and Research Institute, in the last 2-4 years, the armament costs have increased that much.

What I have presented above is not just a plea for justifying some US actions, criticized by many. But it is important to understand that states have national interests that they must follow and this is the reason why they are changing the foreign policy direction. For such cases, which are more and more present lately, can the White House be accused for lacking of credibility?

States affected by such changes, warned since the intention phase, must use the time between promise and actions to find alternative solutions.

I have only presented a few aspects related to a complex topic about states’ credulity and their leaders. In the book entitled “World in danger” the German ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, the president of the Munchen Security Conference, was stating: “It’s not about questioning whether Putin trusts Merkel or not. Or if Trump trusts Putin. The problem is if we, the citizens, trust our institutions or not. The surveys are showing that citizens’ trusts, in all 28 EU member states, in their own governments’ capacity to make national decisions has decreased dramatically. This is not a total loss of trust, but still essential. And this loss of trust in politics goes down to the local level”.

Translated by Andreea Soare