Europe’s double bind

Пандемия выявила разрыв между стремлениями и действиями европейцев. Если европейские лидеры серьезно настроены защищать мультилатерализм и интересы Европейского Союза в двадцать первом веке, им нужно примириться с сегодняшними геополитическими реалиями. Об этом статья Марка Леонарда для ECFR

Mark Leonard, ECFR

Covid-19 has made a mockery of the world’s great powers. US President Donald Trump promised to “make America great again”, but his administration’s handling of the pandemic has been anything but great. Chinese President Xi Jinping has often spoken of a “Chinese dream”, yet his own response to the crisis has relied on algorithmic authoritarianism. And Europeans who often pay lip service to multilateralism have met the pandemic with closed borders and national solutions, rather than leading a global response.

In fact, in Europe’s case, covid-19 is forcing a deeper reckoning. The post-cold war dream of a rules-based international order with Europe at the centre is in tatters, and the European Union is now being buffeted by both philosophical and geographical shocks. Philosophically, Europeans are confronting the fact that raw power, not rules, is the main factor determining today’s global dynamics. Over the past three years, Europeans have watched their two biggest trading partners transform from champions of globalisation into the leading exponents of “decoupling”.

Because neither America nor China wants a conventional war, both have taken to weaponising regional and global institutions. While the United States has politicised what were once seen as public goods – including the financial system, interbank transfers, the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund, and the internet – the Chinese are increasingly using state aid and strategic investments to manipulate markets and undercut the West in key areas.

The geographic shock is that global politics is now centred on Asia rather than Europe. During and immediately following the cold war, Europe’s regional order and the Western-led global order seemed to reinforce one another. There was a genuine sense of transatlantic community and shared values, with Europe serving as the front line in the US-Soviet competition. Europe mattered – and successive US presidents were highly attentive to European concerns.

But the Sino-American rivalry has shifted attention away from European issues, and American disengagement in the Middle East, eastern Europe, and the Balkans has created a vacuum that Turkey and Russia are rushing to fill. In the 1990s, Europeans assumed that these other powers could be accommodated within the European regional security order, with NATO and the EU serving as the main pillars. But, particularly during the last decade, the dream of European unipolarity has given way to the realities of multipolarity.

These twin shocks – the abrupt shift from rules to power, and from Europe to Asia – have shaken Europe’s conception of order. No longer are European plans for regional and global arrangements mutually reinforcing. Instead of the European legal order being nested within a broader Western security framework, the two domains are now increasingly in conflict with each other.

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