The financial crisis currently gripping the United States, and reverberating around the world, has strengthened the claims of a growing number of observ¬ers and political scientists that the American unipolar moment is passing.2 On September 25 in a speech to the Bundestag, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck deemed that the crisis will cost the United States its role as a super¬power of the world financial system. A month earlier, commentators argued that the impunity with which a newly assertive Russia intervened in Georgia served as yet another example of America’s diminishing influence on the international stage and illustrated the precariousness of the emerging international system.
However, the erosion of American power in general, and the consequences it spells for the contemporary global order, were key issues in international relations theory and practice long before panic descended on Wall Street and the Russian army rolled into Georgia. Emerging countries and regional blocs headed by Russia, China and the European Union are catching up to the United States economically. Internal challenges notwithstanding, Russia and China are renewing their military capabilities and adopting assertive foreign policies that are sometimes at odds with American objectives. The establishment of new multilateral institutions, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), may signal the birth of an alternative security regime in the East. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as well as his Banco del Sur, both represent nascent attempts to extricate Latin America from the long standing hegemony of the United States.