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August 14, 2022

The world after DSK

“DSK’s resignation from his top position in the aftermath of the scandal was his only honourable exit. Of course that he is presumed innocent under the US justice system, but the world could simply have not coped with having a headless IMF headed by someone who has been prosecuted.”

A deathblow marks the end of de career powerful IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn who also happened to be ranked the first in various polls measuring voting intentions ahead of the 2012 presidential election in France, generating a myriad of comments, especially in his homeland, France, but also in many other countries. One such opinion sounded the depths of European specificities seeking to motivate DSK’s behaviour when he allegedly ‘dashed’ at the maid who unexpectedly walked into his New York hotel room. From invoking Kant and describing DSK’s conduct as ‘heroic’ to the fact that in the US the Police did not hesitate to arrest one of the most powerful men on planet reported to the authorities by an obscure immigrant coming from an African country – this one being really serious and calling for further commenting, as it highlights one of the pillars of the unmatchable strength of the US system – almost nothing seems to have been forgotten. Either it was the geopolitical conspiracies – some really extravagant – Russia allied with France to end the career of the powerful head of the IMF or to punish him for trying to help Greece that is facing bankruptcy – or the differences between the two sides of the Atlantic in what regards the attitude towards sex or power seen as an aphrodisiac, the DSK scandal reverberated in the entire international mass-media as one matching – why not? – the beginning of a regional war of unpredictable proportion.

DSK’s resignation from his top position in the aftermath of the scandal was his only honourable exit. Of course that he is presumed innocent under the US justice system, but the world could simply have not coped with having a headless IMF headed by someone who has been prosecuted. His resignation was rushed by unequivocal statements made by various personalities of the international finance. That is quite understandable, as it all came to the very credibility of the institution without which the world could plunge even deeper into the current financial and economic crisis. The process of identifying a new leader for the IMF has already begun. The ‘parties’ have already made their positions known and are getting ready for the big clash. Holding this crucially important international position at a time of systemic crisis is an asset disputed not just by personalities and economic schools, but especially, although not integrally, by the holder of planetary power engaged in the global competition: major powers, economic blocs/groups or whole continents.

The office held by DSK until last Wednesday (May 18), when he resigned, was instantaneously claimed by other parties. China, India and Brazil said DSK’s place should not be reserved for another European according to the informal agreement made after WWII by the actors of the international financial and economic system (according to which the IMF would be headed by a European and the World Bank by an American). One of the arguments was that the centre of weight of the world economy has suffered major modifications in the meantime. BRIC, that has become in the last ten years a bloc of big emergent powers, at the latest meeting of the group in Beijing, last month, turned into BRICS, after receiving a new member: South Africa. On the other hand, besides the dynamism of all these states and emergent economies, the international system has a specific global economic governance component – G-20 – already formalised in April 2009. Or, under such conditions – analysts say – the selection of the new IMF head should be a transparent process, consistent with the current global realities.

On the other hand, Europe claims the post belongs to it and has therefore mobilised all its influence in that respect. Prime Eu­ropean leaders – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Eu­ropean Council Pre­sident Herman Van Rompuy – have openly declared their endorsement of a European candidate. The most reliable candidate so far seems to be the current French Mi­nister of Finance, Christine Lagarde, but without excluding others, such as former Bundesbank President Axel Weber or former German Foreign Minister Peer Steinbruck.

The international media have insisted on the fact that, ever since its first sitting, G-20 agreed to keep the old division of power between Europe – the IMF – and the US – the WB. It means that the new emergent powers will now have to put the G-20 to the test to see how well it will work, but, at the same time, we have to admit that everything will probably depend on how fast a consensus can be reached on an own candidate. On the other hand, it has been stressed out that Washington will have the ultimate decision. It is little probable that the US may renounce their position at the World Bank in the foreseeable future, and that will only strengthen the European position. As German newspaper Die Welt was saying: ‘Why should Europe now withdraw from this game and willingly give up influence? Particularly given that there are good reasons at the moment to have an IMF head who has a good understanding of Europe and its complicated internal relations. After all, the insolvent euro-zone countries haven’t yet been brought back from the brink.’

Admitting to the fact that the world economic centre has decisively moved, the same publication was stating: ‘Given the economic rise of Asia, Europe will lose power sooner or later anyway. But it shouldn’t wantonly and prematurely give up influence in places where it still has some.’

So what is the world like after DSK? The same as it has always been: a never-ending fight for keeping influence in the international system of states, but now at an entirely different level than in the previous decades. The Westphalian system is obviously headed to an economic bipolar reality: Asia and Euro-America.

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