LONDON -- The Sept. 11 attacks on America ushered in a new era in international relations, reshuffling old alliances and antagonisms for a struggle likely to be as defining as the Cold War, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said Thursday.
"A new strategic era has dawned," said Institute director John Chipman. "The U.S. has a newly defined enemy which is neither the old Soviet Union nor a potentially resurgent China, but international terrorism. ... New relationships, even alliances, will be built ... and these may well be quite long-lasting."
Chipman, speaking as the institute released its annual global assessment of military forces, predicted anti-terrorism efforts would permeate relations among nations just as the Cold War did.
"There will come a point at which the campaign against terrorism becomes routine, part of the sinews of international relations," he said. "Like the Cold War, the campaign will be punctuated by special crises, and hot conflicts, yet characterized by a long determined effort to ensure victory."
With a hard-to-find enemy, the new battle will be even harder to win than the Cold War, he added.
Panel members said the focus on terror could reshape America's relationships with Russia and China and had already focused attention on the need to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
For the first time since the Cold War, Russia since Sept. 11 "has something to contribute" to the West, giving it an opportunity "to develop itself as an equal partner to the United States and Europe," said Oksana Antonenko, a senior fellow at the institute.
The reshaping of relationships has already begun, said Philip Gordon, analyst and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, pointing to U.S. talks with China, to Russia and to the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, "where we've already lifted certain sanctions regarding the nuclear program."
"We see it in U.S. policy toward the U.N., where Congress has paid back dues and finally confirmed a U.N. ambassador," he added.
He said Chipman was right to compare the war on terrorism to the Cold War "in its magnitude and the way it transforms and reshapes foreign policy."
"But it is too soon to know for certain that it's going to be as far-reaching as the Cold War," Gordon said by telephone. "That will depend a lot on what this administration does. If the administration chooses to make it the defining issue for the next four years, it will be."
The International Institute for Strategic Studies panel also predicted new domestic political priorities in many nations, prompting an increase in defense and security spending.
With the advent of a destabilizing kind of "mass-casualty terrorism" like the attacks on the World Trade Center, "most countries are going to be wondering how to protect themselves," said Steve Simon, the institute's assistant director.
Focus on foreign policy
Chipman predicted a renewed focus on foreign policy and said politics in many nations would become more conservative, particularly with regard to immigration and civil liberties.
"Gone are the days when the phrase 'It's the economy, stupid,' could summarize political priorities," he said, quoting former President Clinton's 1992 campaign slogan.
Despite President Bush's efforts to build an international anti-terror coalition, he has not abandoned his fundamentally unilateral approach to the world, Chipman said.
Because other countries are helping in many different ways, few will be able to influence the U.S.-led coalition's overall priorities, he argued.