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Transatlantic Security Task Force Series

Policy Brief

January 2015

Summary: Unlike Europe, the

United States has generally been
skeptical of multilateral institutions and mechanisms. Yet
transatlantic powers are increasingly reliant on multilateral
options based on a reliance on
codes of conduct to achieve their
strategic objectives, rather than
formal treaty-based governance.
The author also addresses
the shifting power balance in
international organizations and
explains how the rise of revisionist powers challenges world
order and mechanisms of global

Global Governance, Transatlantic Relations,

and World Order
by Stewart Patrick
U.S. vs. European Conceptions of
Global Governance
Generally speaking, U.S. officials tend
to be more skeptical than their European counterparts about multilateral
institutions and mechanisms, particularly large bodies like the United
Nations. There seem to be two main
sources of this skepticism: power and
political culture.
First, to be blunt, the United States
retains far more unilateral, bilateral,
and ad hoc policy options than any
other country in the world. With
that, U.S. leaders claim that they must
retain freedom of action to protect
world order; seeing if this freedom
of action actually translates into
outcomes is another matter. Moreover, the massive predominance of
the U.S. military coexists uneasily
with collective rules, notably the UN
charter, in governing the use of force.

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Second, a significant percentage of

Americans have historically been
skeptical about international institutions, which they often perceive as
unaccountable and apt to take refuge
in lowest-common denominator policies, buck passing, and free riding.
Americans are also more ambivalent
about international law at least
when applied to the United States.
Since they are deeply attached to
popular sovereignty, they resist any

suggestion of subordination of the

U.S. Constitution to supranational
institutions, such as has been done
in the European Union. U.S. officials
uniformly avoid the term global
governance, which many U.S. citizens
and conservative public officials
associate with unaccountable world
Finally, the separation of powers
complicates the U.S. assumption of
multilateral commitments, particularly proposed treaty obligations,
which require the advice and consent
of the U.S. Senate.
Consequently, U.S. administrations, regardless of political stripe,
increasingly adopt a heterogeneous
approach to multilateral cooperation. The orientation combines
reliance on formal institutions like
the United Nations/NATO with ad
hoc approaches, from the Nuclear
Security Summit, to the Proliferation
Security Initiative, to the 5+1 talks
with Iran, to the coalition approach
to Libya and now the Islamic State
group. This involves forum shopping
and the creation of ad hoc arrangements, as well as pursuit of complementary approaches. One example is
addressing climate change through
the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change, the
Major Economies Forumon Energy

Transatlantic Security Task Force Series

Policy Brief
andClimate, and parallel national processes of pledge and

undermining the bodys legitimacy. The world has changed

since 1945, and the UNSCs legitimacy and effectiveness
will decline dramatically if it cannot adapt.

Welcome to the G-X World

As I argue in my Foreign Affairs piece The Unruled World:
The Case for Good Enough Global Governance, we are
witnessing the multi-multilateralization of world politics.1
Transatlantic powers will continue to rely on formal, treatybased universal organizations like the United Nations and
the Bretton Woods Institutions. Yet, because many perceive
that the institutions are failing to adapt to new threats
and new actors, transatlantic (as well as other) powers
will increasingly turn to other options. These institutions include standing alliances and regional institutions,
of which they are members, but also new partnerships
such as those with other regional bodies, like coalitions of
the willing, consultative groups (such as the G7 or G20),
single-issue groupings assembled for specific purposes,
private-public partnerships, and hybrids or agglomerations
of all of the above. Welcome, in other words, to the G-X

Geopolitical competition is moving into cyberspace, as

scores of countries are creating cyber commands. Todays
multi-stakeholder system of Internet governance is
threatened by authoritarian nations that advocate statist
approaches under the guise of security. For transatlantic
nations, there is a clear need to win the support of swing
states (e.g. India, Brazil) for an open Internet and negotiate
norms for cyber-war/cyber-conflict, and cyber-crime,
as well as to find the proper balance between privacy and
surveillance. The West should forge a coalition of likeminded states, along the lines of the Financial Action Task
Force, to preserve an open internet.
Transatlantic countries need to act now to defend a stable
and open Outer Space domain. Increasingly, new spacefaring nations and new dilemmas (congestion, weaponization) are outstripping existing institutions, including the
Outer Space Treaty. It is time to internationalize the European Code of Conduct for Outer Space. Likewise, with the
oceans, it is critical to defend freedom of navigation and to
insist on acceptance of the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (accepted as common law by the
United States).

Transatlantic countries will increasingly eschew the quest

for comprehensive approaches to complex policy domains
(such as climate change or nuclear proliferation) and disaggregate such problems into discrete challenges. We are also
likely to see less emphasis on formal treaty-based international law, and more reliance on codes of conduct. I call
this global governance in pieces.

New frontiers in technology are creating new areas with

few rules, resulting in extreme risks as nations compete
or ungoverned activity goes awry. As developments in
synthetic biology, nano-technology, geoengineering,
drones, and 3D (and 4D) printing continue, transatlantic
partners must react with governance solutions to this
emerging sector.

Transatlantic Powers Should Address Critical

Governance Gaps
The UN Security Council (UNSC) is in need of reform. The
failure to accommodate rising powers into the UNSC risks

The UN Security Council (UNSC)

For the West, the Limitations of the UN-Centered

Global Governance System Are Nothing New
The transatlantic community has never relied entirely on
the UN Security Council (or any other single global organization) to advance its strategic interests. Early illusions
about the centrality of the UN Security Council to transatlantic security were dispelled by the outbreak of the Cold
War. The Western response was to create NATO, replacing
a system of universal collective security with a narrower
but more dependable system of collective defense.

is in need of reform. The failure to

accommodate rising powers into
the UNSC risks undermining the
bodys legitimacy.

The end of the Cold War created new openings for the
UNSC to advance some transatlantic security objectives.

1 Stewart Patrick, The Unruled World: The Case for Good Enough Global Governance,
Foreign Affairs 93(1), Jan/Feb 2014.

Transatlantic Security Task Force Series

Policy Brief
But NATO has remained the cornerstone of transatlantic
security. The UNSC still plays an indispensable role on
many issues (such as North Korea, peacekeeping, and
non-proliferation), but the veto provision makes the UNSC
a poor vehicle for advancing any strategic objectives that
runs counter to a permanent UNSC members interests.
Thus, the UNSC remains paralyzed on Syria while passing
valuable resolutions on other issues such as Sudan or
foreign terrorist fighters.

fundamental principles of international order, even basic

conceptions of conventional diplomacy. Todays leading
non-Western states, including the BRICS countries as well
as Indonesia, Turkey, and Nigeria, are not interested in a
frontal assault on the pillars of Western Liberal Order. Most
of them, and especially China, have benefitted enormously
from the current security and economic order.
Nonetheless, the major non-Western powers are at least
partly revisionist. They consider that global institutions,
from the UNSC and Bretton Woods Intuitions to the
World Trade Organization, are stacked against them. They,
therefore, insist on becoming rule-makers rather than ruletakers, and they occasionally threaten to exit if decisionmaking processes are not revised to reflect their weight and
give them a chance to shape the multilateral agenda. They
also accuse Western states of being the actual revisionist
powers, particularly when it comes to post-Westphalian
notions of contingent sovereignty like R2P.

The question is how should the transatlantic community

proceed without UNSC support when it feels compelled
to act. The choice may be between doing nothing and
adopting coercive measures without the explicit imprimatur of the UN Security Council, as NATO did in Kosovo
or even more controversially some countries did in
Iraq in 2003.
Global governance tends to reflect the values and objectives
of its Western architects, but this may be changing. The rise
of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine may pit a postWestphalian West against other blocs of countries that
maintain a Westphalian devotion to state sovereignty.

Emerging powers have formed a number of minilateral

groupings, from BRICS to IBSA (India, Brazil, South
Africa) to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to
expand their diplomatic options, compensate for delayed
institutional reforms (including in the IMF), and collaborate on issues of common interest. The BRICS now hold
annual summits, have created a BRICS development bank,
and laid plans for a BRICS contingency fund, which may
compete with the international finance institutions. But,
these new institutions are, in fact, complementary to
existing bodies, and will hopefully push other institutions
to reform faster. Moreover, the BRICS are not a coherent
bloc with a geopolitical strategy. The forum is best seen
as one minilateral forum among others where countries
can publicize joint opinions and coordinate positions on
specific topics. In this sense, it is not so different from the

Revisionist Powers Threaten the Legitimacy of Global

Governance, but Not the Liberal World Order
Revisionist powers, including but not limited to Russia and
China, do challenge the legitimacy of certain global governance mechanisms. But their dissatisfactions are unlikely
to threaten the overall global liberal order. Major nonWestern powers are a diverse lot, and their interests, values,
and aspirations often conflict.
Furthermore, none of todays major powers can be
classified as revolutionary in the sense that revolutionary France, the Soviet Union, Communist China, or
Khomeinis Iran were. Each of those powers challenged

Revisionist powers, including but

It is important to note that the BRICS are not a particularly tight-knit community. The group unites three vibrant
democracies with two authoritarian powers. In the context
of the UN, India, the most vocal aspirant for a UN Security Council Seat, is partners with China and Russia, who
steadfastly refuse to consider UNSC expansion. It also
includes three strategic rivals China, Russia, and India
that harbor intense suspicion of one another. Moreover,
Russia may be more of a declining power than a rising
power. Finally, the most important bilateral relationship for
each of the BRICS, arguably, remains its relationship to the

not limited to Russia and China,

do challenge the legitimacy
of certain global governance

Transatlantic Security Task Force Series

Policy Brief
United States, so they are unlikely to challenge world order
norms too intensely.

The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the

views of the author alone.

Be that as it may, the gravest current test to established

norms of international security is Russias quest to reincorporate portions of the former Soviet Union and establish a
sphere of influence within its near abroad. Russias seizure
of Crimea and proxy intervention in Ukraine contravenes
fundamental UN Charter norms concerning sovereignty
and territorial integrity, while its elevation of the nationality principle over that of citizenship is an invitation to
anarchy. A close second, in terms of an actual threat to
liberal order, is the evident Chinese desire to dismantle the
U.S.-led security architecture in East Asia and its willingness to violate established norms of dispute resolution
under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the
Sea to expand its jurisdiction and effective control over the
East and South China seas.

About the Author

Dr. Stewart Patrick is the senior fellow and director of the Program on
International Institutions and Global Governance at the Council on
Foreign Relations. His areas of expertise include multilateral cooperation in the management of global issues; U.S. policy toward international institutions, including the United Nations; and the challenges
posed by fragile, failing, and post-conflict states.

About GMF
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) strengthens
transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges
and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan. GMF does this by
supporting individuals and institutions working in the transatlantic
sphere, by convening leaders and members of the policy and business
communities, by contributing research and analysis on transatlantic
topics, and by providing exchange opportunities to foster renewed
commitment to the transatlantic relationship. In addition, GMF
supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies. Founded
in 1972 as a non-partisan, non-profit organization through a gift from
Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF
maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition
to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has offices in Berlin,
Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, and Warsaw. GMF also
has smaller representations in Bratislava, Turin, and Stockholm.

So, while these actors seek to challenge governance

mechanisms, actions fueled by domestic ambitions with
a disregard for established norms, coupled with a lack of
coherence among these so-called revisionist states, limit
their ability to impact the liberal world order.

Dr. Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer
Director, Paris Office
German Marshall Fund of the United States
Tel: +33 1 47 23 47 18