“The question is whether the West is in decline or just withdrawal,” a high-ranking Israeli security official told me in a closed meeting on March 2, as Russian troops were heading out to Crimea, elevating the crisis in Ukraine to global dimensions. My interlocutor was one of Israel’s top decision-makers. “The whole world is talking about this,” he related.
“This is being broached at every meeting of foreign ministers or defense ministers and at every forum where issues of global balance of power, world order and global crises are being addressed. And there are many such examples. Look at what’s happening with the Chinese. They deliberately ratchet up tension with Japan, taking control over the South China Sea, behaving as if the United States doesn’t exist. North Korea for a long time has been slighting Washington, doing whatever it wants. In connection with the Syrian crisis, US President Barack Obama let Russian President Vladimir Putin take center stage. An agreement was signed, but now it turns out that its implementation is faltering, yet there’s nobody to talk to. The negotiations with Iran are stymied. They won’t lead to an agreement but will give the West three years of quiet. Meanwhile, Iran cements itself as a nuclear threshold state, continuing to develop cutting-edge centrifuges and ballistic missiles and pursuing weaponization. To me,” the source added, “it seems not a withdrawal but rather a rapid decline.”