Panta Rei: The Next Ninety Years Of International Politics

By Igor Merheim-Eyre
Interstate - Journal of International Affairs
2010, Vol. 2009/2010 No. 1 | pg. 1/1

From Heraclitus to Marx, intellectuals have often recognised changes in the flow of history. Certain periods tend to be more dynamic than others but, in the end, all things move. Just as the past ninety years have been some of the most memorable mankind has known, the next ninety years are promising to be no less intensive. Whilst it is not possible to predict the full ninety years, it is at least possible to see what the current developments and patterns in International Relations might bring in the immediate future. Whether as a result of human nature, folly or the hand of God, we can be almost certain that wars, famines, disappearances and appearances of states and alliances will still occur. Often enough history repeats itself, and sometimes avenges itself with the most devastating effect.

European Union

From the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) to the European Union, the bureaucracy of Brussels has evolved from a trading organisation of the post-war era into a supra-national organisation, co-ordinating socio-economic policies of its member states. Whilst bitter arguments rage between Europhiles and Europhobes over the effects of EU’s increased powers on the sovereignty of its member-states, the main focus should be on the direction and effectiveness of the EU policy strategy.

Along with the Lisbon Treaty, the positions of a President of the European Council and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs have been established in order to provide a strengthened forum for common policies. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the Council, has already pledged a more dynamic role for the European Union in solving the current economic crisis, considering it the most important part of the domestic agenda for 2010.1 With the BBC terming it a long-term economic coordination plan, it may be possible to say that the EU institutions are finding a new confidence to deal with issues that were once dealt with by the member-state.2

As the current economic crisis in Greece is showing, the Union may find itself in a position strong enough to prevent in future one of its member-states from announcing bankruptcy, despite the current EU rules that prohibit its members from lending money to member states struggling with high deficits. But, with the Greek debt at 121 per cent of its GDP and a deficit of 12.2 per cent, the German magazine Der Spiegel believes that the EU is prepared to bend the rules, as the ‘consequences would also be dire’ and ‘confidence in the euro shattered’.3

Russia and the US

Despite it being too early to suggest whether the increased powers of the European Union and its President will eventually lead to anything comparable to Schlesinger’s ‘Imperial Presidency’, it is also too soon to predict the direction of the European Common Foreign Policy. Whilst Kissinger will soon be granted the long-awaited dialling code for Europe, the lack of European Armed Forces may prompt the major powers to ask the twisted Stalinist question, ‘how many battalion does Europe have?’ Thus, one can cautiously argue, that if Europe is aspiring to become a major global player it must, in the style of Count Andrassy, be prepared to back its policies with a cannon, whether it is to be interpreted metaphorically or literally.

Whilst a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was reached between the EU and Russia, and the US abandoned its original plans for missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, a degree of tension exists between the West and Russia. Just as the West strongly condemned the Russian intervention in South Ossetia, so Russia took an uncompromising stance on the issue of the missile bases.

But, whilst the first year of the Obama Administration has seen Russia allowing 4,500 over flight rights through Russian territory per year and a promise (however vague it may be) to help in preventing Iran from creating nuclear missiles, political analysts believe that both sides expect too much. Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Moscow’s Russia in Global Affairs, for example, claims that it is a Western ‘fantasy’ that Russia holds a key to solving the Iranian problem, arguing that the best Russia can do is to intensify its diplomatic efforts in the near future. On the other hand, Alexander Rahr of the German Council on Foreign Relations doubts the Western, particularly American and Central European, desire to accept President Medvedev’s rapprochement and desire for ‘eternal peace’, by creating ‘an expanded alliance in which Russia and the West act in concert to stabilize the European continent’.4

However, the Middle-East may prove the testing point for such future alliance. With Turkish-Israeli relations currently being re-considered in Ankara (as, for example, Israeli’s exclusion from the planned military exercises in Turkey shows), the country’s foreign policy is becoming more ‘multi-dimensional’, as it seeks new partnerships with Syria and Iran.5 What is disturbing the West (particularly Israel and the US) is Prime Minister’s Erdogan’s regard for President Ahmadinejad, the man who is threatening to wipe Israel off the map, as ‘a good friend’. Similarly, while Russia agreed to purchase pilotless planes from Israel and Medvedev’s uses rhetoric against the Iranian enrichment programme, there is further tension because of the flow of Russian weapons to Iran and Syria, which are destined for Hamas and Hezbollah, something Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu is not prepared to tolerate and may even prompt West to review.

The UN and Third World Development

If the UN is to function more effectively and is to take on an increasing role in global affairs, it may have to consider the current discontent over the leadership of its Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Most recently, a leaked report by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry states that at a time of world economic crisis and an on-going deadlock in the Middle-East peace process, when the UN should seek solutions , the Secretary-General and the UN are ‘conspicuous in their absence’.6 If such report is to be taken into consideration, then it is not enough for a Secretary-General to just put on a brave face at the end of what has been perceived as a disappointing conference in Copenhagen, but he must become a mediator between nations and a character with a clear agenda able to bring forth a clear agreement on the subject.

Finally, it is very important that there is a review of aid flowing into the Third World. As Jacek Rostowski, the Finance Minister of Poland, recently exclaimed it is neither wise nor sensible that countries such as Poland should be supporting the likes of Brazil which is in real terms richer.7 At the same time, it should be questioned whether countries such as Zimbabwe are capable of directing world aid programmes. Therefore, the UN has the potential to co-ordinate more effective ways of dealing with the Third World just as having a clear stance on other aspects of global affairs. In other words, we must take control of events and not let them run their own course.

As the current developments in IR shows, the next ninety years are promising to be almost as colourful as the past although, let us hope, less extreme. The former ninety years saw the emergence of the European Union and the UN, the fall of the Soviet Union (followed by the subsequent rise of modern Russia) and increased fears about the consequences of the climate change. In the next ninety years new challenging events will no doubt occur, but we will still live with the effects of the current ones. Therefore, we must take control of events and not let them run their own course. If we don’t, in the future history may revenge itself upon us.


  1. Council of The European Union ‘Year of Renewal’ CONSILIUM – President of the European Council (January 8 2010). (accessed January 15 2010).
  2. Sinner, M. ‘Greek 2010 budget right step, more needed-Juncker’ Reuters (January 15 2010). (accessed January 15 2010).
  3. Reuter, W. ‘Timebomb for the Euro: Greek Debt Poses a Danger to Common Currency’ Spiegel Online International (December 12 2009).,1518,665679,00.html (accessed January 15 2010).
  4. Rahr, A. ‘Reaching Out to Russia’ IP Global: Published by the German Council on Foreign Relations (Spring 2009). (accessed January 15 2010).
  5. Steinvorth, D. ‘Ankara’s New Foreign Policy’ Spiegel Online International (October 19 2009).,1518,655974,00.html (accessed January 15 2010).
  6. Isherwood, J. ‘Leaked document says Ban Ki-Moon lacks leadership skills’ Spiegel Online International (August 19 2009).,1518,643809,00.html (accessed January 15 2010).
  7. BBC News Europe. ‘EU push for climate funding unity’ BBC (October 30 2009). (accessed January 19 2010).

Suggested Reading from Inquiries Journal

The first decade of the twenty-first century was a period of change for Russia. The crisis of the 1990s was/were overcome and its international posture has improved. However, the scope and the stability of the shift are... MORE»
The subject of European legal integration entered the spotlight of interdisciplinary studies in the mid-1990s and has continued to maintain, if not increase, its prominence in scholarly literature (Mattli and Slaughter,... MORE»
Among European states in the aftermath of the Second World War, multilateral cooperation was seen as a long term stabilisation for peace. The European Union (EU), since its establishment in 1957 as the European Coal and Steel Community with six members, saw several enlargement rounds over the subsequent decades, driven by the idea that ever more members mean new markets and therefore increase economic benefit for everyone. The idea of EU enlargement... MORE»
Since Britain joined the Community in 1973, discussion of its problems and merits has moved away from the sublime and towards the ridiculous. We are seeing today a polarisation of views on Europe’s future between strident federalist centralisation on the one hand, and fervent nationalism on the other. The public are being increasingly forced into the mistaken view that one of these two extremes must be adopted. But both outlooks contain... MORE»
Submit to Inquiries Journal, Get a Decision in 10-Days

Inquiries Journal provides undergraduate and graduate students around the world a platform for the wide dissemination of academic work over a range of core disciplines.

Representing the work of students from hundreds of institutions around the globe, Inquiries Journal's large database of academic articles is completely free. Learn more | Blog | Submit

Follow IJ

Latest in International Affairs

2022, Vol. 14 No. 04
With over 10 million stateless people globally, statelessness has increasingly become a pressing issue in international law. The production of statelessness occurs across multiple lines including technical loopholes, state succession, and discriminatory... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 09
The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated current global challenges. However, this article argues that this time of crisis can also be a unique opportunity for the existing global economic institutions - G20, WTO, IMF, and World Bank (WB) - to make the... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 02
On January 1st, 1959, a small band of Cuban rebels shocked the world, overthrowing the American-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. These rebels were especially known for their guerrilla tactics and their leaders, such as Fidel Castro and Ernesto... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 01
Israel has increased the nation’s security presence around the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. Here, the research project analyzes how transaction costs resulting from Israeli security policy impact the output of manufacturing activities... Read Article »
2020, Vol. 12 No. 09
The necessity of international relief is unending as new crises continue to emerge across the world. International aid plays a crucial role in shaping how affected communities rebuild after a crisis. However, humanitarian aid often results in a... Read Article »
2019, Vol. 11 No. 10
This article aims to present the biopiracy of traditional knowledge from India by the United States, which has occurred directly through the use of patent law and indirectly through economic power and cultural imperialism. Throughout this essay,... Read Article »
2018, Vol. 10 No. 10
After joining the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2004, Estonians felt secure and in charge of their future. However, following the 2007 Bronze Horseman incident in the Estonian capital of Tallinn which included... Read Article »

What are you looking for?


How to Use Regression Analysis Effectively
Finding Balance in Graduate School
"Should I Go to Graduate School?"