Declining USA Influence – UPSC GS2

Context: Declining American influence post Afghanistan withdrawal.
Examples of a declining American influence:
Superpowers suffering military setbacks at the hands of weaker forces indicates great power fatigue, prompting both their allies and rivals to rethink their strategic assessments. In the case of the USA, this fatigue and a gradual erosion of its ability to shape geopolitical outcomes in faraway regions is visible in the following events:
  • In Iraq and Libya, it failed to establish political stability and order after invasions.
  • It could not stop Russia taking Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
  • In Syria, it was outmanoeuvred by Vladimir Putin.
  • Finally, the way American troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban to power has strengthened this perception of great power fatigue. It has also emboldened America’s rivals to openly challenge the U.S.-centric rules-based order.
How the US authority is being challenged by its rivals across the world?
  • Russia
    • Russia has amassed about 175,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, indicating that Vladimir Putin could order an invasion of Ukraine. He has also backed Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko over the refugee crisis on the Polish border of the European Union.
    • The Russian President is sending a clear message to the West that the region stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, the eastern flank of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is a Russian sphere of influence.
    • Countering Russia can be done via imposing harsher sanctions, but they have achieved little previously. Moreover, economic sanctions will push Russia further towards China.
  • West Asia:
    • Iran, which has stepped up its nuclear programme after the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal, has refused to hold direct talks with the U.S.
    • If the U.S. lifts the sanctions, it could be read as another sign of weakness. If it does not and if the Vienna talks collapse, Iran could continue to enrich uranium to a higher purity, attaining a de facto nuclear power status without a bomb (like Japan). This would be against America’s interests in West Asia.
  • South China Sea: China is sending dozens of fighter jets into the so-called Taiwan Air Defence Identification Zone (TADIZ). This has triggered speculation on whether Beijing is considering taking the island by force. As the U.S. is trying to shift its focus to the Indo-Pacific region to tackle China’s rise, China is seeking strategic depth in its periphery.

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