“With increasing frequency, strongly held regional interests outstrip the commitments of more powerful global actors, more often retrenching. This asymmetry of interests can make conflict resolution significantly more difficult. “
On the positive side, I would say that this new situation will over time create new opportunities, as multiple combinations of power should make the international system more flexible. More powers, in principle, can at least better carry the burden of an international order. This is not and should not be a world where you are ‘with us or against us’. This is a world in which regional organizations could at last take a greater role. So there are many positive elements to that world.
But what we see today is more the negative side of it, the negative dimension of true multipolarity and diffusion of power. Let me explain. With increasing frequency, strongly held regional interests outstrip the commitments of more powerful global actors, more often retrenching. This asymmetry of interests can make conflict resolution significantly more difficult. The resolution of the Syrian conflict is made all the more difficult as regional divisions are added to the global divisions, and that is not a unique situation. Neighbouring states, of course, in any conflict need to be brought along, because of their first- hand expertise, because it’s their immediate security and economic interests that are most endangered by conflict next door. But they can become obstacles to peace. Look at Somalia, now effectively carved into spheres of influence. Look at South Sudan, where leaving the political track to IGAD alone – IGAD is very important in South Sudan, but it can’t do it all alone. Leaving the political track to IGAD alone is simply not working. Look at the regionally manned force intervention brigade in the DRC, where some regional tensions are appearing. So regional engagement is necessary but it can, if not well managed, deepen regional rivalries.