A new era of great power competition is unfolding between the United States, China, and Russia, accompanied by a certain leadership vacuum in what has become known as the liberal international order. This is according to Wolfgang Ischinger, veteran diplomat and former German ambassador to the United States.

Ischinger was addressing reporters ahead of this week’s Munich Security Conference. As conference chief, he noted that this year’s event has drawn participants from across the Atlantic. In particular, he welcomed the attendance of House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former presidential candidate Senator Mitt Romney.

As reported by Deutsche Welle is Germany’s international broadcaster, the Munich Security Report (MSR) which was released on February 11, concludes that the world is drifting into a “new interregnum” in which the remaining defenders of liberal values are trying their best to navigate a period of uncertainty and instability.

Ischinger told reporters that “2019 is going to be a fateful year for the European Union,” not least because of the European Parliament elections in May and the appointment of a new European Central Bank president in October. For that reason it was important, he said, that the MSC this year shows the “non-European participants that the EU is ready to fight for its interests by asserting itself”.

The MSC also accuses US President Donald Trump of displaying “an irritating enthusiasm for strongmen across the globe, suggesting that this administration is living in a ‘post-human rights world.’”

This, the report argued, undermined the US’ professed effort to rally “the noble nations of the world to build a new liberal order,” as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put it in December, and to oppose authoritarian great powers. “For longtime trans-Atlantic allies, it is still hard to stomach when Trump praises illiberal leaders from Brazil to the Philippines,” the report scolded.

The MSC also accuses US President Donald Trump of displaying “an irritating enthusiasm for strongmen across the globe, suggesting that this administration is living in a ‘post-human rights world’”

“US strategic documents have singled out China and Russia as the two most important challengers,” the report continued, but the rivalries between these three great powers are playing out in different ways. The conflict between Washington and Beijing is focused mainly on economic and trade issues, for instance, while Russia and China see themselves as an alliance of autocracies against the West, even as they remain in geopolitical competition with each other.