London: The United States was dealt a blow by the financial crisis but remains the world’s main power and can maintain its influence if it works with allies to achieve its goals, a study said on Tuesday.
A report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank in London said that despite taking an economic hit, the downturn has highlighted how other states look to Washington for their lead.
“The vivid message of the financial crisis... was that America continued to be of vital importance to other countries, including its putative rivals as pre-eminent powers,” the IISS said in its 2009 strategic survey.
This is confirmed by the interest generated by US president Barack Obama’s attempts to engage with countries such as Iran and Russia and extend a hand to Muslims in the Middle East, following his election in November 2008.
“Virtually all (countries), from their different perspectives, wanted Washington to be less ineffectual in its international relations than it had been in the previous years,” the report said.
However, the IISS warns that Washington will increasingly have to rely on other countries to help achieve its aims -- something Obama is already doing.
America’s economic clout has been reduced following the worst global economic downturn since the 1930s, but the IISS said the crisis also confirmed its status as a world leader.
“America’s banking system may have been paralysed and all but bankrupt, but the crash showed the enormous resources that the United States could bring to bear to deal with the situation,” the think tank said.
Meanwhile, the IISS warned against any assumption about the inexorable advance of China as a rival, saying the crisis exposed how dependent Beijing is on exports and how closely its economy is linked to the United States.
China holds about $700 billion of US Treasury debt -- ensuring it has a significant stake in maintaining the value of US investments and the dollar.
While Beijing maintains “substantial” military, political and economic ambitions, the report notes that it is US rather than China-led partnerships that continue to dominate in the Asia-Pacific region.
“It remains the case that for most international issues, the United States has greater opportunities to gather coalitions around its point of view than does China,” it said.
And the IISS argues these coalitions -- so called “mini-lateralism” -- will be vital in the future.
Obama has acknowledged the limits on the United States’ ability to impose its will on other countries and achieve its foreign policy goals by itself, both practically and in terms of support at home.
Currently, he is “seeking to build coalitions of the relevant (coutries) to advance shared interests”, on issues such as climate change as well as specific regional concerns, the report said.
“Domestically, Obama may have campaigned on the theme ‘yes we can’; internationally he may increasingly have to argue: ‘no we can’t´,” it said.
“That’s why in the next year or two, the greatest demand on US talents and power will be to persuade more to become like minded and adopt greater burdens.”