Robert Kagan: "Strengthen the liberal democratic institutions"


According to US political expert Robert Kagan, the transatlantic partnership has never been as conflictual as it is today. He fears that the global political system could soon collapse. In a recent interview with "NZZ am Sonntag" he spoke about how things could get this far and why he hopes for Europe.

Robert Kagan Photo Credit Cyndy Porter

The following text is an excerpt from an interview of "NZZ am Sonntag" with Robert Kagan, which was published on 23 December, 2018. See the complete interview (in German).

NZZ am Sonntag: What exactly is the American world order?

Robert Kagan: Many people believe that this world order – often called "rule-based" – is about idealistic institutions like the United Nations. But in essence it's about something else: in the new world order, the powers Germany and Japan, which were aggressive until the Second World War, were eliminated as geopolitical powers. After the war, they were transformed into peaceful non-military states that focused exclusively on the economy. This was the main reason why the US succeeded in bringing peace to Europe and Asia. That is the core of the liberal order. Around this core an alliance structure was built, through which the US always remained engaged in these parts of the world. In this liberal order also other countries, France and Great Britain for example, gave up their traditional geopolitical ambitions of the previous centuries.

NZZaS: Is the European fear of Trump justified?

Robert Kagan: Yes, the Europeans are right to be concerned. Trump doesn't just want to withdraw from the world. He is hostile to the liberal world, he is hostile to the EU, he is hostile to the right-wing conservative and left-wing parties in Europe. He does not like the British Tories, for example, but prefers the former leader of the right-wing party Ukip, Nigel Farage. In France, he sympathises with the extreme right Front National (now Rassemblement National). In Italy with the current populist government. Trump is the first president in US history to sympathize with the European nationalists and oppose liberalism.  

NZZaS: What are the consequences of all this?

Robert Kagan: The situation is alarming. Such conflicts in the transatlantic partnership are new. We used to have differences of opinion, but the quality of the conflicts is different now. The whole system could collapse. And I do not know how this can be prevented. I can only advise the Europeans to strengthen the liberal democratic institutions.

On 21 January 2019, Robert Kagan will speak at the GDI about how world politics is becoming a wild jungle. Together with economic thought leader Lord Adair Turner, he will be a guest at the evening event "Robot Capitalism and The Coming World Disorder".