The loss of influence of the United States seen by Karine Prémont

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The loss of influence of the United States as seen by Karine Prémont

Karine Prémont, professor at the School of Applied Politics at the University of Sherbrooke.

< p class="e-p">The conflict in Ukraine and the threat of Russian President Vladimir Putin to use atomic weapons are reviving in an entire generation anxieties experienced during the Cold War years and confronting the youngest with this danger for the first time. They recall that not so long ago the world was divided in two: east and west, communism and capitalism. It was the time when the specter of the nuclear threat was brandished as a weapon of deterrence.

“People had two options or a third, which was to stay neutral. Today there are many more. »

— Karine Prémont, professor of American politics at the University of Sherbrooke

In American power put in check, from the Vietnam War to Iraq, a book she has just published, the specialist in American politics, Karine Prémont, recounts one of the most tense episodes in the history of relations between the United States and the former USSR: the Cuban Missile Crisis. Thirteen days of extreme tension between the two world superpowers where the world held its breath before the very real possibility of seeing a nuclear conflict break out. We came close to disaster. We have never been so close, she underlines.

The new book by Karine Prémont, professor at the University of Sherbrooke.

This crisis happened 60 years ago almost to the day. On October 16, 1962, US President John F. Kennedy was informed by his intelligence services that Soviet missiles and launch pads were on Fidel Castro Island, 150 km off the coast of Florida. A Soviet response to the American invasion of the Bay of Pigs a year and a half earlier. The failed 1961 overthrow of Castro, a communist ally, by CIA-trained Cuban exiles is arguably one of the most important [reasons for Soviet strategy], explains Karine Prémont in her book.

This discovery of an enemy arsenal a few fathoms from the United States led to a series of negotiations, military maneuvers and negotiations which, fortunately, ended in a diplomatic solution. The military leaders wanted to drop nuclear missiles on Cuba. Fidel Castro encouraged [Soviet President Nikita] Khrushchev to use nuclear power against the United States. There were strong heads, on both sides, who wanted to provoke things, analyzes the one who is also deputy director of the Observatory on the United States of the Raoul-Dandurand Chair of the ;UQAM.

“Reason prevailed because Kennedy and probably Khrushchev also wanted absolutely to avoid a nuclear war. »

— Karine Prémont, professor of American politics at the University of Sherbrooke

Hearing again the Russian president threatening to use nuclear power to crush his Ukrainian neighbor, six decades later, raises concerns for many who experienced this episode, but also among Karine Prémont's students who did not grow up with this threat.

“I have a lot of students who are living in fear of nuclear war. It's something that hasn't been talked about a lot in their lives. We talked a lot about terrorism, cyberattacks, but not much about nuclear power. »

— Karine Prémont, professor of American politics at the University of Sherbrooke

In a way, this missile crisis, which was ultimately one of the great successes of US foreign policy, serves to calm concerns: it demonstrates that a peaceful outcome is possible even in situations of extreme tension. . The missile crisis is really a reference for me [because] reason prevailed. History shows it, there are mechanisms that allow de-escalation, she argues.

If the United States managed to do well during the missile crisis, it is quite different in the conflicts that will follow, explains Karine Prémont. The Vietnam War and the Iraq War are two examples where the all-powerful country is losing its luster. These military failures have helped erode the influence that the American giant has wielded since the end of World War II.

The specialist also evokes the attacks of September 11, a lack of interest in foreign policy under Donald Trump and certain decisions taken by the administration of Barack Obama. What we see is a loss of US moral leadership in the world. They've lost some of that aura.

“The United States has lost some of that beacon role that it has. they had at one time. »

— Karine Prémont, professor of American politics at the University of Sherbrooke

This loss of influence is also tangible when we observe the role that the United States is currently playing in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, notes the political scientist.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on September 21 the mobilization of reservists and brandished the threat of the use of arms nuclear, assuring in the same breath that “it's not a bluff”.

Navigation in international waters is much more complex for the United States. We can clearly see that they want to send a message of firmness, but they don't want to provoke either Putin or China. There's a whole maneuver that's needed in the United States that maybe wasn't on the cards a few decades ago.

Even if a country like China s increasingly imposing on the international scene, the United States remains very strong economically and culturally, emphasizes Karine Prémont. It is their military and political leadership that has diminished a little. Because there was this stubbornness to use the army or firepower to solve problems that did not necessarily require this solution.

Karine Prémont will be present at the Estrie Book Fair this Thursday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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