The unipolar moment in international relations is over, and we are now entering a multiplex world

Domestic critics in America blame the Russian annexation of Crimea on Obama’s weak foreign policy. Republican Senator John McCain calls Obama the “most naive [U.S.] president in history.” But outside the beltway, a different perception is rapidly emerging, which sees Ukraine not so much a failure of Obama’s foreign policy, but as a sign of general U.S. decline. As Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. says: “Much of this criticism [of Obama] shows wilful ignorance of the limits of U.S. power in a transformed international environment where no single state is able to achieve outcomes by itself or prevail over others, even by using overwhelming hard power.”
In his January 2012 State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama asserted that that “anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” But in a December 2012 report, the U.S. National Intelligence Council argued that while America will remain the “first among equals with the rapid rise of other countries…the era of American ascendancy in international politics that began in 1945 is fast winding down.” Ukraine offers further evidence of that.
Rising powers

And the report of the World Bank-supported International Comparison Program — that China is set to overtake the U.S. with India coming third by the end of this year — sends the same message. It means that for the first time since World War II, the leading military power is not the largest global economy.
Perhaps the most important lesson of Ukraine is that U.S. cannot co-opt the rising powers to support its own strategic vision and approach. In his influential 2010 book, Liberal Leviathan, American political scientist John Ikenberry argues that whether America is in decline or not, the liberal world order it had created and dominated since World War II would persist and might even co-opt its main challengers including China. As he put it, “The rise of non-Western powers and the growth of economic and security interdependence are creating new constituencies and pressures for liberal international order.”