A Radical Global Realignment

Wars create strange bedfellows. Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan are new U.S. allies. The Northern Front, a collective of anti-Talilban fighters that few Americans had ever heard of two months ago, is America's front-line force in Afghanistan. Reluctant allies Japan and Germany are moving to join the U.S. in global military actions in ways that couldn't have been imagined in the past 50 years. Pacifist Japan would like to send troops to help with behind-the-lines support in Afghanistan. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder wants to have German troops fighting alongside U.S. soldiers. Then there's Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, who is considering whether Russian troops can join the U.S. effort as search-and-rescue forces. Putin was one of the first to back President George W. Bush's fight against terrorism and is casting his lot with a Western alliance in the hopes of gaining strong support to rebuild his economy.

What's going on here is a grand realignment of the cold war map. The fight against terrorism is a unifying force, especially when it works to a leader's advantage. Schröder would like the world to finally accept his nation as a political as well as economic power. Japan's Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, wants to overcome a pacifist constitutional ban on using troops abroad. While German and Japanese military help is welcome, their greatest contribution would be to boost the world economy by fixing their own economies. Schröder's Germany, which accounts for one-fourth of Europe's economic output, is sliding into recession. The best thing Schröder can do for the alliance is to follow through on his stalled economic reforms: lowering taxes, reducing excessive unemployment benefits, fixing a broken pension system, and forcing Germany Inc. to open itself to foreign takeovers. Koizumi needs the courage to force Japan's banks to sell off bad debts and get bank lending started again.

The world is changing before our eyes. America's traditional allies in Europe and Japan may see their roles diminish in the years ahead if their economies continue to fade. Russia now has much to offer America in its fight against terrorism--geography, energy, technology, and experience in such a battle. If Europe and Japan fail to restore their economic vibrancy, they could find themselves playing diminished international roles as a new U.S.-Russian alliance shapes world events.

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