As we move into the final months of the year, credibility is on the line in many parts of the globe. The United States knew its credibility with Middle Eastern allies would be at stake as Washington tried to distance itself from the region's most consuming conflicts, but it also had to do so in order to regain credibility with its allies in other sensitive areas, such the Russian and Chinese peripheries.
Russia, not happy with the United States creeping too close in its backyard, is now escalating its presence in Syria and potentially Iraq, attacking the credibility of the United States in leading the fight against the Islamic State while using that obtrusiveness to draw Washington into a serious dialogue. Simultaneously, Moscow will keep the calm in eastern Ukraine, restoring its credibility among major European powers who would much rather negotiate with than confront the Russian bear.
Russia is playing a complex game with the United States this quarter, but Washington will not be coerced to the negotiating table. And as the United States reinforces its allies, the standoff with Russia will only deepen.
The credibility of the Chinese Communist Party is also at stake as the economic slowdown persists and as the limitations of Beijing's interventions become more apparent. Commodity prices will remain depressed as China contends with tremendous oversupply in the housing market, making a major boost in new construction unlikely before the end of the year.
Caught between an irresolvable migrant dilemma and a Greek bailout program that is sure to get snagged again when the reforms fall short, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meanwhile fight to maintain her credibility at home. When the European Commission gives breaks to Spain, Italy and France for missing their budget deficit targets, the reform mandate from Brussels will be further compromised.