Earlier this morning we hosted one of our regular breakfast club events at the RAC in Pall Mall. In conversation were Dr Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs) and Sir Christopher Meyer, British Ambassador to the United States during the Bush administration from 1997 until his retirement in 2003. “Is the decline of the US unstoppable?” was the topic of discussion.
The consensus on the panel was that despite its current financial woes and political deadlock, the US would return to pre-eminence in the global order, albeit with much stronger competitors challenging its previously unrivalled hegemony. Robin pointed to factors such as population growth, internal economic competition between states, a world-leading higher education system and unparalleled technological innovation as the main drivers of US reversion.
Sir Christopher was also in fine fettle, and argued that if the US and China could increase interdependency based on mutual co-operation and an alignment of strategic interests, they could potentially form a world-dominating “G-2” club. In terms of US-EU relations, he pointed out that whilst Europe remained an essential trading partner for the US, the current administration in Washington was sceptical about its ability to contribute cogently to a wider strategic partnership with a co-ordinated defence strategy at its core: “Europe remains a collection of nation-states with often divergent interests; multilateralism has been exposed as an emperor, not quite with no clothes on, but certainly nothing more than a loin cloth” was Sir Christopher’s revealing analogy.
A lively and engaged audience asked some thought-provoking questions, ranging from the future of the renminbi as a global reserve currency, to US relations with Putin’s Russia and an increasingly influential sub-Saharan Africa.
Their predictions for the 2012 US presidential election? Sir Christopher said Mitt Romney would clinch the Republican nomination as he was the most “nationally electable candidate” and, whilst running a close race, would ultimately lose to Barack Obama. And Robin? Well he was spared from having to prophesy by the clock.