Power transformation

By invitation only
Teija Tiilikainen / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen Teija Tiilikainen / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen
Mika Aaltola / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen Mika Aaltola / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen
Jan Techau / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen Jan Techau / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen
Robert Nurick / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen Robert Nurick / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen
Katri Pynnöniemi / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen Katri Pynnöniemi / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen
Peter Trubowitz / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen Peter Trubowitz / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen
Kari Möttölä / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen Kari Möttölä / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen
Erwan Lagadec / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen Erwan Lagadec / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen
Charly Salonius-Pasternak / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen Charly Salonius-Pasternak / Photo: Mattias Lehtinen
Photo: Mattias Lehtinen Photo: Mattias Lehtinen

Wed 9.9.2015 at 9:00-12:30
Restaurant Palace, Unionsali
Eteläranta 10, 10th floor, Helsinki

U.S. position in the global hierarchy of major powers is challenged by a range of old and new actors and trends. Yet, there are increasing complexities and challenges. At a time when the spheres of global life are ever expanding and new non-state actors and structural forces are increasingly central, the ability of the U.S. to match the expectations placed on it by its citizens and allies might be diminishing. It seems that the standard power transition model, whereby the decreasing of the power of a hegemonic actor was always transferred to emerging actors, might not be valid anymore. The transfer of power is being overwhelmed by the diffusion of global power to new actors and domains, facilitated by global interdependence and especially by the digitalisation of global life. The seminar will explore the different aspects of power and its transformation and in particular assess its impact to US politics and position globally. The seminar is part of the 2nd CUSPP Summer Session on "Smarter Forms of Hard and Soft Global Power” organized by the Center for U.S. Politics and Power at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. The Summer Session, now organized for the second time, is an interdisciplinary event, convening researchers and policy experts from Europe and the United States.

PROGRAMME:

OPENING REMARKS OF THE SUMMER SESSION
Teija Tiilikainen, Director, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Mika Aaltola, Programme Director, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs

KEYNOTE PRESENTATION:
"THE TRANSFORMATION OF POWER IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS”
Jan Techau, Director, Carnegie Europe

Comments: Robert Nurick, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Atlantic Council

Katri Pynnöniemi, Senior Research Fellow, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs

Chair: Mika Aaltola, Programme Director, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs

PANEL: LONG TERM PRIORITIES FOR U.S. FOREIGN POLICY

Keynote speaker: Peter Trubowitz, Professor, Director of the U.S. Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science

Comments: Kari Möttölä, Professor, Network for European Studies, University of Helsinki

Erwan Lagadec, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Atlantic Council

Chair: Charly Salonius-Pasternak, Senior Research Fellow, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs


Summary of the 1st session:

Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs Teija Tiilikainen gave the welcome words and opened the seminar. She led to the topic of the seminar "transformation of power” by posing a question – what is power? States are not the only actors in international politics, but rather the multinational actors should be taken into account by studying the whole setting of actors. By referring to Michel Foucault, it was also pointed out that not only actors but also structures are relevant. Director Tiilikainen also referred to the different discourses of power and transition of powers.

Director of the Center on US Politics and Power (CUSPP) and the Director of the Global Security Research Programme at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs Mika Aaltola also welcomed the audience by saying a few words about the Center and the strategical level of knowledge in Finland. Knowledge of the US has seemed to decline after the Cold War. From the perspective of Finland it is relevant to consider the US role in the region and in the global governance. Last year’s CUSPP Summer session was organized on the topic of Nordic-Baltic Security and the US Role in the region. This year the Summer session aims to have a broader view. The security needs of regions, people and states are moving. Therefore, the complexity of insecurities should be understood. Programme Director Aaltola highlighted the following issues: As the US is seen as having an important role in the world, what are the specifics of this role? The view could be pragmatic or moral – what should be the value basis (military versus other means of powers). Other aspects to be considered are criticism, expectations and demands (the US’s own strategic vision and that of its allies). What should be the overall balance and priorities and how should power be smartly utilized? In conclusion, the US continues to be an object of fascination. But that we have an interest does not necessarily mean that we really understand it.

The keynote speaker of the seminar, Director of Carnegie Europe, Jan Techau concentratedin his remarks on the different aspects of transformation of power and the difficulties to grasp it. As Techau pointed out, there is a certain need for a grand narrative but in the end the task is almost impossible. By covering all these actually become useless.

In his speech, Mr. Techau focused on factors shaping power in the 21st century. Firstly, globalization, meaning that everything is connected and flows freely. Another aspect is the increase in actors and the new players; NGOs, terrorist groups, informal networks, online communities etc. These seem to be hard to map out. Other "trends” or questions that were mentioned include, for example the new global middle class, the empowerment of individuals, technical developments, singularity (machine-men), and regionalism as a next big thing. Techau also pointed out that the possibility also exists that nothing is really changing that much at all.

As an example of the complexities and long-term timelines Techau mentioned the European politics and refugee crisis. Why are governments stressed, why is everybody overwhelmed and why is the EU not functioning? It seems that the EU is facing a comprehensive policy failure. As part of the public policy failure, Techau mentioned related policy fields, that are not only problematic now, but have been for the last 20 years: immigration policy, integration, asylum, border control, humanitarian aid policy, organized crime (business model), labor and social transform policies, identity politics and trade policies.

The question of the definition of power as a capability to find solutions to complex problems was mentioned as one of the topical questions. The following were mentioned as part of Techaus remarks: 1) hard security – firepower, readiness – the value of military operations is what comes after the military conflict – stabilization (hybrid warfare;) 2) climate policies- environment protection – undertaking of global government, global economic fairness, science value to back it up, biodiversity; 3)economic trade – global governance, fairness in the world ; 4) development aid - what used to be something else, is now about anticorruption, women’s rights, civic empowerment etc. All the big issues have become more complex – and need more and better understanding

According to Techau we now see the complexity that basically has been there, but has been overlooked. However, there are many tools and actors. One of the related questions then is the diffusion of authority and knowledge. The question is about comprehensivity, (e.g. small players that can be integrated or full integration) Another relevant issues of decision-making is, how to find the right balance between effectiveness and accountability. The question at least in democracies is who controls the elites (the question of big data) and prevents possible abuses. How is the government bound back to the people, the owner of the sovereignty?

At the end of his talk, Techau mentioned that trends challenge power. The question therefore is who adapts best to the new rules. It is in our own hands, and not in those of Russia or China, whether we rise or fall as was pointed out by Techau. According to him more political integration is needed to keep the Eurozone alive.

As a commentator, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, Robert Nurick emphasized in his talk the divisions of public-private, government/ non-government and military/non-military. The present day policy agenda consists of new types/ways of issues. As an example, hybrid warfare (–or asymmetric warfare as called in Russia) is used so elastically that it has lost its meaning

Nurick also raised a question for the decision-makers in times of crisis - what is our business and what are our responsibilities? The answers are not clear or simple. How do you avoid escalation? The question of decision-making at the national and institutional level, consists of many actors who have not been used to working together.

One example is the cyber – which consists of both public and private aspects as most of the infrastructure is in private hands. Including individuals, non-government and government entities need to decide who has what responsibilities. There is no real consensus on the extent and limit of government powers in this respect – where to persuade rather than make orders?

Furthermore, Nurick pointed out the topical issue of counter-terrorism. Who or what to blame for the Iraq policies? ISIS – whether it is for example the Obama’s premature withdrawal, or Bush’s decision in the first place –seems to be a heavily partisan question. We know military intervention can maintain peace, but cannot keep the peace alone. Rather, political accommodation is needed, but it is hard, when it requires dealing with the complicated situation of economic failure connected to ethnic conflict and government failure. The relevant question is what needs to be done afterwards.

In sum, Nurick pointed out to the question of how to get across the old barriers – in the US the political community is broad and the size is both a benefit and a problem.

Commentator Katri Pynnöniemi concentrated on the issue of how Russia fits or does not fit to the picture and to the idea of transformation of power. She mentioned the collapse of the Soviet Union as an example of power diffusion at the local level. The 2000 transformation of Russian political discourse had a chance to develop differently. In regard to the Ukraine conflict, soft power in Russia seems to be only an academic issue. At the local level Russia uses the complexity as a benefit. In regard to the cooperation between military and civilian power Pynnöniemi mentioned the public security document of December 2013, where the civilian component is included, but not very well developed yet.

Questions that were posed by the audience tackled with the question of complexity. The comment by Senior Visiting Fellow Michael Haltzel at FIIA, for example, stated that the West has all the tools to integrate and master, but in the long run, lots of these problems are immediate ones that need to be settled now. What should be also taken into account are the counter reactions. Other questions touched upon the question of union effort, without the union, linkages that are developed but they are rather weak still, and the leadership and its relation to decision-making.

Summary 2nd session:

The main focus of the 2nd Session was on the US long term policies in the era of increasing complexities and challenges and thereby on understanding the role of US on the global scale and investigating upcoming transformations of the policies taken to maintain US leadership.

First speaker, Peter Trubowitz was discussing American long term priorities and he focused on the issues that concern the US relationship between International Relations and Domestic policies, on how the domestic front will influence the International Relations front. He argues that it is very convenient to discuss these two fronts separately, although it is important to integrate the two aspects. 

Peter Trubowitz posed a question – Is the US in retreat? The answer lies in the concerns of the Americans. The US desires less, not more, engagement in the world. Most citizens of the US are concerned with domestic policies, issues on health policies, employment and other related topics regarding their welfare, although it is necessary to remember that most citizens of the US do gain from globalisation in terms of the money that it provides. He emphasized that the long term priorities of the US should be concentrated on promoting International economics and preventing any power to gain control over Eurasia. It is up to Barack Obama`s successors to find the ways to achieve these goals. 

Barack Obama played an important role in trying to re-balance Domestic policy and International goals. He worked on rebalancing regional commitments, for example the crises in Libya and Syria. Barack Obama dealt with these crises with caution and continued to work with rivals to solve the problems. Many might say that this creates a cause to think of Barack Obama as a weak leader, although it is necessary to understand that his strategies are created under the circumstances in which he needed to operate. Every leader inherits political circumstances domestically and internationally. The factors that he has inherited are explaining Obamas choices and most probably they will influence the choices made by his successor. First of all, the US exists in a more complex world and it also enjoys more military power and security. It has highest economic growth and it faces no geopolitical threats. Even China is far from an imposing challenge to the US. In comparison with the situation before Barack Obama`s leadership, nowadays the US enjoys more geopolitical slack. Historically when the US is facing foreign rivalry, the leaders have been cautious about their decisions thereby avoiding being blamed for the decisions that have been made "under their watch”. The US has, for example, faced this situation during the Cold War era. Secondly, US Domestic politics are becoming more complicated. In the early 40s and 50s Republicans and Democrats had much common ground in important questions and it was normal to cooperate, nowadays the situation is very different and it is getting even worse. 

Peter Trubowitz emphasized that there was a time when Americans saw globalisation as a win – win situation but nowadays this has changed drastically and it is not foreseen to return any time soon. This does mean that American leaders will emphasize reducing the costs of International involvement by setting clear regional priorities, for example, the pivot to Asia. There are many unanswered questions – Which regions will lose out? Will Europe be one of the "losers”? Will it actually reduce the US’s costs? There are no clear answers to these questions.

Similarly to Peter Trubowitz`s statement, Kari Möttölä also saw Barack Obama`s grand strategy as part of legacy. Kari Möttölä argued that the legacy Barack Obama is providing is better than the one that was given to him. Obama`s presidency has historically been very controversial and the question stands whether the new successor will be able to continue the path that Barack Obama has laid out? Barack Obama has had to reduce US spending and meet other challenges that reduce US power. Americans were used to seeing International politics as a clear choice because of their hegemony, although this is not the case nowadays.

Kari Möttölä posed a question – What makes Obama`s strategy special and unique? The answer lies in being constrained and in the reduction of involvement. The US has to adapt structure and transformations. Nowadays power is not only more complicated and complex, but also more relevant. Nevertheless, the US should concentrate on liberal states. The US will remain the most powerful country even if its foreign policy might be more careful than before. In practice that would mean more trade initiatives, strategic initiatives with China, modest response to the situation in Ukraine, re-insurance for NATO and so on.

Erwan Lagadec, as the previous speakers, gave a talk on the topic of complexity. He argued that 9/11 was a wakeup call that emphasized the need for strategy that could be adapted quickly and could deal with the complexity that the security environment poses. The times have changed, as has the security environment: what seemed to be evitable nowadays is inevitable. Nobody has the knowledge of what will happen in the future and what kind of behaviour can be expected.

According to Lagadec we should not only discuss what the world will look like in 2030, we should also focus on developing ourselves, striving to answer questions about what we are going to be and what we can do to overcome upcoming challenges. The growing complexity of the world, with its international systems, is a challenge that the US’s administration might face. Every actor in the US wants to lead and be in the first row of decision making, which makes the system more complex. Another facet of the growing complexity is the availability and circulation of official documents. Citizens of the US are mostly not the ones that read them; instead these documents provide ample opportunities for other players on the International arena, including adversaries, to access information