A year ago, mere mention of the notion of a multipolar world was a sure way to lose friends and dinner invitations in Washington.
The London G20 summit shows just how far power has ebbed from the United States, and from the West in general. Until late 2008, the Group of Eight mostly Western industrialized nations — the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Russia and Japan — was the key forum for economic governance.
The new, unwieldy top table has emerged faster than anyone dared predict because a humbled America and a chastened Europe need the money and cooperation of rising powers such as China, India, Russia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia to fix the world economy.
The United States remains the pre-eminent military and economic power, and how it manages to clean up its banking system will be the biggest factor in the length and severity of the crisis. But how the emerging countries manage their currency reserves, exchange rates, trade policies and energy exports will also determine whether we recover from recession in the next 18 months or slide into a depression.