How can the US preserve its strategic relationships with allies? | Thomas Carothers

As a metaphor for the prospects for America’s place in the world, the words “bad vibes” come to mind. The latest data confirms that’s a pretty good description of relations with the United States, NATO, the EU, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, Israel, and the Gulf States.

Altogether, these countries account for about 17% of global GDP, almost 20% of international trade, and almost 15% of the world’s population. As a global order designed to support peace and stability, and protect weak and fragile states, these countries are vital.

Defenders of the status quo argue that the increase in international collaboration that is necessary for prosperity and peace is good for the United States. But research shows a more cautionary perspective.

US allies face ‘dangerous’ levels of decline, and greater freedom can be costly, George Friedman says Read more

We study US allies in the major democracies, and identify eight trends that define and undermine their mutual prosperity.

U.S. allies experience growing gaps between their performance in key geopolitical and social economic categories. Overall, their economic conditions are deteriorating, while global economic integration improves, with lower costs and better access to markets. According to the Pew Research Center, for example, the gap between Americans’ wealth and others’ is the biggest it has been in 80 years.

The right approach is to get allies to share the burdens of global leadership. Yet, between 2015 and 2017, the US enjoyed overwhelming support for military action from its global allies, the UN, and its allies in Europe and Latin America.

Finally, global allies reap huge social and economic benefits, yet they have failed to invest in education, health, infrastructure, or science to reverse their declining economic conditions. As more and more resources are dedicated to the state, more and more of the well-being of the world’s people is increasingly sacrificed.

Take Japan, where for more than 30 years Japan’s population has declined. In fact, the end of the growth cycle could be well underway, since Japanese birthrates have fallen below replacement levels. According to another trend we study, each Japanese woman has at least one child only once in 10 years.

In addition, the United States has pursued an “America first” foreign policy that eschews international alliances and multilateral institutions. Not surprisingly, that has led to poor relationships with core US allies. And while US allies’ power to influence international affairs and cooperation with partners has declined, US allies are losing ground on the core national issues for American domestic politics. The divergence between alignment on domestic priorities and on foreign policy has become a major vulnerability for the US in the international arena.

That said, we must also recognize the short-term benefits that are derived from relationships and co-operation with the US. Global allies commit to spreading peace and prosperity around the world. But by engaging less in global governance and international institutions, they reduce the chances for peace.

When we don’t cooperate or don’t share the burden of global leadership, there is no longer any bargaining space in international politics for global citizens and non-civil society groups that are marginalized.

Here are nine steps that Washington can take to ensure that U.S. allies can continue to be strategic partners in the years to come:

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