Report on Plenary Meeting “Peace and Security in Europe and Asia in the Context of American Power”

12th Rhodes Forum, September 27, 2014

The meeting was moderated by Chandra Muzaffar. The seven keynote speakers were Phyllis Bennis, Kumiko Haba, Fred Dallmayr, Junaid Ahmad, Sara Flounders, Tao Xie and Valentina Fedotova.

The moderator opened discussions with observations on why the question of peace and security in Europe and Asia has become so significant at this point in time. In both continents it is the desire of the US elite to perpetuate its hegemonic power that has provoked reactions that have led to tension and conflict.

Phyllis Bennis described how the US elite is attempting to pursue its superpower role in a changing global scenario. She was of the view that instead of resorting to force and violence, there should have been a vigorous attempt to resolve conflicts in West Asia in particular through robust, sustained diplomacy.

Kumiko Haba focused upon how longstanding animosities in Europe had been overcome through the politics of reconciliation in the post second world war decades. For a variety of reasons this was not happening in Asia where different motives and agendas on the part of the US have created a more complex situation.

Fred Dallmayr analyzed the Ukraine conflict from the perspective of the NATO drive for enlargement since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was important for Europe to wake up and come to grips with the emerging geopolitical realities in the continent.

Junaid Ahmad looked at conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the inter-play between domestic, regional and international forces. He showed how in these conflicts certain views of Islam and Muslims rooted in colonial, orientalist thinking continue to persist and undermine efforts to seek just and amicable solutions.

Sara Flounders covered a wide variety of issues ranging from the crisis in the capitalist system and the US drive for global hegemony to the economic woes in Greece and the lack of peace and security for ordinary citizens in the US itself. She underscored the imperative need for resistance to global capitalism and global hegemony at this juncture of history.

Tao Xie offered comparisons of hard power and soft power between the US and NATO, on the one hand, and China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, (SC0) on the other. If conflict is to be replaced by harmony, and if harmony is a goal of certain emerging powers in the present era, it is crucial to ask what one means by harmony and how that harmony would express itself in the national and global arenas.

Valentina Fedotova reflected on the long-term implications of the Ukraine conflict on relations between Russia, on the one hand, and the US and Europe, on the other. She also examined critically the demonization of certain political leaders in the conflict and the consequences of the rise of ethno-nationalism upon international relations.

Two interactive sessions were woven into the Plenary. Seven questions and comments were raised. They enhanced the quality of the discourse.

In making his concluding remarks, the moderator noted that though the speakers addressed varying aspects of the theme, their presentations were rich in insights. They had contributed to a deeper understanding of the challenge to peace and security in Europe and Asia in the face of US power.

Chandra Muzaffar,

Rhodes Forum
27 September 2014