The G-Zero scenario

Differences at the G-20 summit suggest it may be every nation for itself now.

Back in 1999, when the G-20 replaced the G-8 and was formally constituted, the world was a far more secure place. The agenda for the 20 member states was focused on one ambition: the promotion of international financial stability. Following the latest summit in St Petersburg last week, it is safe to say that the seven meetings that took place between the heads of government yielded little. The G-20 met in the shadow of global financial instability and the threat of a possible strike on Syria, backed by only two of its members, the US and France. The rest, including summit host Russia, are either vehemently opposed to any military operation or will only support UN-sponsored action. While the latest compromise solution could stave off military action, differences regarding the global economic meltdown and the weapons needed to tackle it were also evident. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's stated objective was "an orderly exit from the unconventional monetary policies being pursued by the developed world for the last few years". It's a case, clearly, of each member country looking after its individual interests rather than the greater global good. Even within the BRICS umbrella, India's economic travails received scant support from Russia and China.

So, is the world in 2013 in the throes of what author and geopolitical analyst Ian Bremmer labelled the G-Zero? Last year, Bremmer argued in his book, Every Nation for Itself, that the world was facing a leadership vacuum, with the US in decline and China still struggling with economic uncertainty and disparity. Moreover, he believes that the diverse political and economic values of the G-20 have produced a global gridlock. His core argument is, given that so many challenges transcend borders, the need for international cooperation has never been greater, while, paradoxically, countries across the world are growing increasingly insular. The global leadership vacuum, he predicted, would provoke uncertainty, volatility, competition and, in some cases, open conflict.

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