The Global balance of power has for long been the international relations model to asses the international situation. As 2010 draws to an end this would be an apt time to asses the current status of the world's superpower and the nations that compete with it.
In 2010, the US worked to extricate itself from the Iraq and Afghan wars which depleted her resources and undermined her prowess. Troop levels became synonymous with success to the US public. The US attempted to pursue the same policy in Afghanistan as it did in Iraq, but found the conditions much different to the fertile ground it found in Iraq. 2010 saw the world's superpower consumed with attempting to disengage from foreign policy ambitions that were undertaken at the beginning of the 21st century. In Iraq the US established a political architecture which would protect the interests of the various factions, however the March 2010 election has resulted in a hung parliament and with ethno-sectarian differences so deep that by the end 2010 we have a weak government at best. Any discussion of troop withdrawal is premature when it is US forces that keep the political architecture together.
In Iraq the US reduced its troops to 50,000, however it has over 92,000 contractors in the country, conducting Obama's counter intelligence strategy which has failed to show any demonstrable success. The negotiations with the Taliban appear to have stalled even before they began.
The US may still be the world's superpower but it today faces larger, deeper and broader challenges than a decade ago. The only bright note for the US was that it was able to impose its missile defence shield upon NATO in the Lisbon summit during the year.
Russia's resurgence continued in earnest in 2010. Russia was able to continue with its expansion into its former Soviet periphery. With the US marred in two wars Russia for the last decade has been working to reverse US attempts through NATO and European Union expansion in bringing the former Soviet republic under its influence. Russia in 2010 worked to end the colour revolutions instigated by the US in order to expand its influence beyond its immediate territory. In February 2010 Russia ended the Orange revolution in Ukraine with the election of the pro-Moscow Victor Yanukovych. Yanukovych immediately agreed to extend Russia's lease for the Sevastopol naval base in the Crimean Peninsula (where the Russian Black Sea fleet is based) for an additional 25 years.
Russia also overthrew the Tulip revolution government in Kyrgyzstan bringing the central Asian republic back in the Russia's fold. With the US attempting to untangle itself from its two wars, Russia will in all likelihood find US attention turn towards it. Whilst Russia poses a threat to US influence its declining population and military industry will need to be dealt with to pose an effective challenge.
China's economic power continued to grow in 2010. Still considered by many to be the nation that will replace the US as the world's superpower, during 2010 China replaced Japan as the world's largest economy in the world after the US. China at the end of 2010 is also the world's largest exporter. The question regarding China is will such economic power turn into political power?
2010 was a year of heightened tensions in Sino-US relations. Washington pushed ahead with its strategy to re-engage with Southeast Asia and to re-assert its commitment to the region's security. The rising rivalry between Washington and Beijing for influence in South East Asia has until now revolved mainly on soft power initiatives involving diplomatic exchanges, aid and economic incentives. Chinese leaders avoided behaviour that aroused fear or suspicion on the part of its neighbours and economic partners. It has utilised its ‘soft power' - diplomacy, development aid, and cultural ties - to cultivate friends and allies. However expanding US military ties in 2010 appear to be bringing an end to so called peaceful competition.
In 2010 China showed a much more aggressive attitude towards the US. China is rapidly modernizing and expanding its arsenal of missiles, ships and aircraft. This has given China's army a much more prominent say in Chinese policymaking, as a result of China's increasing reliance on the military to secure supply lines for its economy. As the Peoples Liberation Army's clout has grown it has begun commentating in the press on issues concerning Chinese foreign policy. Rear Adm. Yang Yi, former head of strategic studies at the Chinese Army's National Defence University, wrote in August 2010 in the military newspaper People's Liberation Army Daily: "[The United States] is engaging in an increasingly tight encirclement of China and constantly challenging China's core interests. Washington will inevitably pay a costly price for its muddled decision" In 2011 and beyond China will need to decide if its economic power will be used for political ambitions, or if it remains like Japan, an economic power.
The Greek debt crisis exposed the gaping holes in the European unification project that began over 60 years ago. The European Union was created without any rules regarding exiting the Union. As more information came to light regarding Greece's finances it became clear that the Union's viability was in question.
More fundamentally a union of smaller states into a larger political union is a weak method of amalgamation. It lacks the characteristics found in full unification where a people become one nation. A union as a method of binding peoples and nations is always prone to political differences as it continues to recognise the sovereignty of constituent nations, this leaves it open to influence from the outside and held hostage by national interests.
In 2010 the global economic crisis, Europe's inability to establish a military defence force outside US dominated institutions have all weakened the union. The declaration by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in October 2010 that multiculturalism, or Multikulti, as the Germans put it, "has failed, utterly," is an ominous sign that the Greek sovereign debt crisis and certainties about a united Europe have frayed and Germany for the first time since WW2 has started to look beyond the EU. Germany is the financial and economic guarantor of Europe. When Germany constructs notions of the German nation, historically the national interest was conquering Europe.
2010 has seen Turkey rise to prominence on the international arena. A number of analysts have described Turkey's recent assertiveness as a new resurgence with the nation playing a leading role in a number of international issues. Negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme, intermediating between Azerbaijan and Armenia over disputed territory and participating in indirect negotiations between Israel and Palestine has left some nations in Eastern Europe expecting the return of the Ottoman Janissaries. Turkey is today showing a new confidence beyond Turkish borders, long absent after the Ottomans. Various experts are now describing Turkey's ascendency as neo-Ottomanism. Turkish policies in the Caucuses, in Energy and the Middle East are not too different to America's aims in the region.
In 2011 and beyond Turkey will need to decide if it wants to be an independent power or continue playing the patron.
The Ummah's yearning for Deen has alarmed the West who view the Khilafah, Shari'ah and Ummah as a threat to very essence of Western liberal democracy. However without a state the Ummah will be unable to shift the global balance of power. The politicisation of the Ummah will continue to bear heavily on the Muslim rulers who will have to resort to ever more brutal methods to maintain their grip.
2010 ends with the US still the worlds superpower, although a weakened US to a decade ago. Russia continues its resurgence, however there are a number of policy areas it will need to address to pose a challenge to the global superpower. China for the moment continues with its economic and regional ambitions and remains for now only an economic threat to the US. France, Britain continue to work with the US and complicate its plans when it's in their interests, such a strategy however will not remove the US from the global pecking order.