Dominique Moisi is a renowed expert on international relations. In his latest work, he analyses what part fear, hope and humiliation play in global politics, so Euronews asked him about what are likely to be Barack Obama’s first moves as President of the United States.
Sergio Cantone, Brussels correspondent, euronews: Mr Moïsi, welcome to Euronews ; Do you think that the United States is in decline and that it’ll soon have to share or give up its place as the world’s leading power? Dominique Moïsi, Author & political analyst: I think without doubt we are talking about the relative decline of the United States, by which I mean America is not what it was. But the country still remains alone in its position at the top of the power chain. It just has to accept that the world is becoming multi-polar, and that alongside it there are emerging powers. en: In your most recent work, “The Geopolitics of Emotion,” you speak about three states of mind that today have the potential to shape international relations: fear, humiliation and hope. Do you believe Barack Obama will be able to bring a new balance to these states of mind? DM: That is the big question. For me the problem we have today is knowing whether the culture of hope will return to the West thanks to Obama or whether the culture of fear will spread to Asia with the financial and economic crisis, which is affecting giants such as India and China. en: Investment, perhaps in ecological infrastructure, as it is sometimes called, and lowering taxes for the middle classes is what we expect of him. Do you think such measures are a good start? DM: These measures are unavoidable even if they are contradictory because the major problem for the US is its enormous debt. And, the measures the president must take to get the machine running properly again- and to boost confidence- will increase American debt. I think Americans expect from him the return of confidence in the economy. But then the rest of the world also expects a lot from America and so Obama has a double task: he must reconcile Americans with themselves and reconcile America with the rest of the world. en: Do you believe the solution is really linked to the personality of one president? Is it not something much more profound: if the 20th century was the century of America and of ideology, but that this is the century of identity? DM: Yes, I think our greatest challenge is both to not overestimate what one new president can do, and also to not underestimate the ability of men and countries to mobilise. I think America has the ability to bounce back much more than Europe. There is a meeting of men and country, men and a culture. It is no accident that Barack Obama has come to power in the USA and not in France or in Germany. He is the epitome of the American dream and America was ready for that. en: It is very hard to imagine an Obama in Europe. Do you no’t think that despite all the hope Obama inspired in Europe, transatlantic relations could become more difficult because of the choice made by Americans? DM: Concretely, when it comes to policy, the United States and the European Union have definitely become closer in Bush’s second term. But on an emotional level, America has chosen hope while Europe has tended to close in on itself through fear. Might there be some sort of widening of the gap between the US and Europe, supposing that Obama’s policies work and manage to get the American machine running again? en: But the promotion of democracy on the part of the Bush administration, was that not a sort of political approach? DM: I think that was an ideological approach. A well-known European politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit, described the American neo-Conservatives as the Bolsheviks of democracy. en: So, a bit more realism… DM: More realism and a lot more modesty. But at the same time to be clear over the definition of the enemy. en: So, perhaps this realism could lead Obama’s US, if not to negotiations, then to talks with Iran? DM: Absolutely! en: And maybe with Hamas too? DM: At the moment it is difficult with Hamas. They need to clearly change their discourse but with Iran it cannot be ignored and there is the sense that things are already moving. en: Barack Obama incontrovertibly represents the ‘new’. Do you think this could lead to deeper relations with Asia, a part of the world that is up and coming? DM: I think that in the American priorities are Asia, Africa – that is the continent his father comes from, it is a continent that has been neglected for a long time and involvement in Africa, bringing hope to Africa, that is going to go beyond Africa. And for obvious reasons, the wider Middle East with the central question – is he first going to get involved with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or is he first going to try to bring to a close the two wars that America is involved in – Afghanistan and Iraq? All that brings us to a conclusion that is a bit painful – Europe. He is not taking an interest in Europe. He is taking an interest in Europeans and the contributions that Europeans can make to the US’s global role, but unless Russia slips back into hard, aggressive totalitarianism, Europeans have to expect a certain indifference, a certain distance in relation to America. en: So perhaps NATO enlargement talks may slow down? DM: I think NATO has enlarged significantly over the last few years. Further enlargement incorporating Ukraine and Georgia does not appear to me to be a priority of the new administration.