A permanent decline of America's global power would end an international world order governed by liberal political and economic values, and Russian President Vladimir Putin's attack on the Ukraine shows what such a world would look like, said foreign affairs expert Walter Russell Mead.
In a commentary for The Wall Street Journal
, the professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and editor at large of the American Interest, said that liberal elites are misguided in their belief that America can rely on its allies to help shoulder the burden of maintaining freedom and the rule of law throughout the world.
"Mr. Putin has now thrown a big stink bomb into the middle of the 'peaceful and safe decline' celebration," Meade wrote. "His move on Ukraine sends a strong message: American values and interests are unlikely to thrive if American power is in eclipse. The Pax Americana and the hope of a liberal and humane global system still rest on the weary shoulders of Uncle Sam."
Mead wrote that America's recent foreign policy weakness has destabilized Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and that further retreat would bring a dangerous rise of countries that do not value freedom and human rights, such as China and Russia and other regional powers in the Middle East and Africa.
"The eclipse of American power will be a disaster for our economic interests, for the values we cherish, and in the end for our security at home," Mead wrote.
"What stability, peace, and legality now exist in the international system are there because the U.S., with important help from allies and partners, made great sacrifices to build and secure them. The imposing edifice of the liberal world system would soon fall into ruin without that foundation."
Mead argued that Putin provided the United States a "reality check."
"His attack on Ukraine and his continuing efforts to destabilize its government are invaluable reminders of both the intractable nature of America's foreign-policy challenges and the potentially terrible consequences for the world if the U.S. fails the test," he wrote.
"But thanks to Vladimir Putin and others, Americans are beginning to discover how ugly the world can get when the U.S. takes a breather."
He concluded by saying, "In the run-up to elections this fall and in 2016, voters may want to pay close attention to what aspiring candidates have to say about America's role in the world. Freedom and peace worldwide still depend on American energy and engagement."
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