In Our Time

Reversion to Balance

The decline of once great powers, real and perceived, is a major theme of the early 21st century that is likely to become more pronounced as the century progresses and the balance of power, propelled by the shifting balance of energy and influence, shifts from West to East.

On the eve of World War II, the great Western powers were Great Britain, France, Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States.  Three quarters of a century later, the British are painfully aware of their diminished status in the world: the loss of empire, their vastly reduced army and almost nonexistent navy, their loss of political and economic influence on the Continent, their disappearance from most of the rest of the world, and the effective end of the Anglo-American alliance on which they relied for more than a century.  The French (the French people, that is) are dismayed by the loss of gloire and of empire, their subjugation by the European Union, the Americanization of French culture, mass immigration from the Third World, and the Islamization of France.  The Russians, while pretending to accept Vladimir Putin’s pretense of the resurrection of the czarist empire, probably understand that their country is in fact headed for economic, cultural, and demographic disaster.  The Germans, as everyone (especially the Germans) expected, have regained in an astonishingly short time their pre-war status as the powerhouse of Europe,...

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