The Crisis of Liberal Order and Future of Global Cooperation

The Crisis of the Liberal Order and the Future of Global Cooperation

22 Jul 20

On Tuesday, July 21, 2020, THO and the Atlantic Council hosted a webinar together on the “The Crisis of the Liberal Order and the Future of Global Cooperation”. Featuring Senior Advisor to the President of the Republic of Turkey, Professor at the Turkish National Defense University, Gulnur Aybet; Executive Vice President, Atlantic Council, Damon Wilson; Deputy Director, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security; and Director, Global Strategy Initiative, Atlantic Council, Matthew Kroenig as a Moderator. Ali Çinar and Defne Sadıklar Arslan opened the webinar as respective President of the Turkish Heritage Organization, and Director of the Atlantic Council in Turkey.

THO was honored to receive high-level specialists from Turkey and the United States for a timely discussion on the crisis of the liberal order and the future of global cooperation. Mr. Çinar and Ms. Arlsan stepped in for Opening remarks about the current state of the international order and the thriving years of cooperation between the Turkish Heritage Organization THO and The Atlantic Council. This discussion aims to analyze the future of geopolitics in a post-pandemic world by looking back at history, understanding ongoing challenges, and much-needed revitalization of alliances.

This pandemic raised a lot of concerns on the liberal order as countries have questioned international cooperation, closed borders, and challenged the current set of institutions.  As Moderator, Matthew Kroenig progressively led the panel from defining what the “liberal order” means, its contemporary design and challenges, to the future of global cooperation. From their insightful views, based out of Ankara and Washington, Professor Aybet, and Mr. Wilson, also highlighted to us the role played by the Turkey-US bilateral relationship in this international order. 

Defining the liberal order

The liberal order is constituted of three eras pointed out Prof. Aybet, one following the end of the Second world war, with the creation of a set of universal institutions and norms, the collapse of the USSR in the 1990s  pursued by thriving decades of liberalism, and the progressive decline of this unchallenged order since then. From another standpoint, Mr.  Wilson intended to draw a concrete idea of what this liberal order meant for us since the late 1940s. As he explained throughout his presentation, in the last seven decades peace, prosperity, and individual freedom increased throughout the world. This liberal order helped nurture an environment for democracies to thrive in, legitimate institutions and practices developed to reduce insecurity and great power wars. Both speakers underlined the importance of the United Nations and the NATO alliance which are enabling prosperous alliances such as the one existing between Turkey and the United States. 

Challenges to the liberal order 

Despite the robust principles and institutions set in the 20th century, the liberal order is nowadays facing a lot of shortcomings. According to Professor Aybet, since the end of the Cold War, this global order has been tarnished by foreign interventions in domestic affairs and selective implementation of universal norms, such as the UN norms. She shared with us that governmental "oughtness", i.e. the idea of a state being morally obligatory to other states, has been disregarded in the last decades. Mr. Damon added that notwithstanding the good intentions set by the founders of this liberal order, inherent difficulties and imperfections existed since the beginning. Nowadays, our challenges are diverse, either coming from external forces and different regimes such as China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, or arising from new technologies, greater accountability, and financial instability. From an American perspective, Mr. Wilson asserted that in the last 15 years, both domestic (great recession, sharpening political polarization...) and foreign affairs (multiple wars...) produced great uncertainty. With extraordinary optimism, he invited us to reflect on the key features of the democratic model, one that is intrinsically "messy" and grows through criticisms and competition. 

The future of global cooperation 

For the last few decades, the liberal order has encountered unprecedented challenges from multiple forces. Professor Aybet clearly outlined that the future of global cooperation relies on a better understanding of each other's interests. Concerning the Turkey-US bilateral relationship for example, there is a need to reevaluate the importance of the transatlantic partnership on both sides. She underlined that if Turkey was initially considered as a functional and mainly securitarian ally of NATO, nowadays the country also provides greater economic and strategic benefits. According to her, it is necessary to recognize Turkey's priorities, such as security stability and energy resilience, to foster transatlantic cooperation. She is especially calling for need-based decisions that are not exclusively coming from the transatlantic core, the United States and Europe, but from a variety of perspectives. Differently, Mr. Wilson called for stronger alliances to solve global challenges such as climate change and against autocratic types of governance. For him "there is a compelling need to adapt and revitalize our system" and cooperation is the key to this new design.