A US-less Europe : Time for EU Diplomacy, Engagement and Strategic Autonomy

A US-less Europe : Time for EU Diplomacy, Engagement and Strategic Autonomy

It’s an especially cold and snowy winter this year. With oil approaching a $100 per barrel, many across Europe will suffer. A confluence of factors- COVID 19 shortages, low energy reserves, failure to anticipate recovery of energy prices, etc.- means that Europe is in crisis once again. The U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, is being held in November 2021, with hopes to avail a new strategy to deal with climate change. Unfortunately, Europeans and their politicians alike will have to deal with the more pressing energy shortages and widening price premiums, in order to prevent a winter catastrophe and save lives.

More broadly, something in Europe is brewing. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and a global pandemic, Europe today is in search of direction. And as Europe decouples from its relationship with the US, there is an ever-more urgent need to carve a vision for the future. Internally, French President Macron is bold about pushing forward a European foreign policy strategy rather than rely on US security promises. Germany, meanwhile, has chosen change within the spheres of continuity, and will be present to influence Europe alongside its European counterparts. Eastward, the new kids down the block- such as Poland and Hungary- have a different vision of the EU. Their struggles are “European” issues, and as such require EU active engagement.

It’s time for Europe to unite. The alternative, history reveals, is a path filled with blood and conflict. A US-less Europe: Time for EU Diplomacy, Engagement and Strategic Autonomy.

Globalization and America’s Uni-polar Moment

The fall of the Berlin Wall, and the implosion of the Soviet Union disintegrated the pre-exisitng bipolar world order. The dawn of a new century meant the US would soon decide world matters single-handedly. It influenced global policy and foreign affairs, from oil prices to interest rates, from war to peace.. All that the European neighbors across the Atlantic had to do was react and follow along. A reactionary monetary policy given the status of the Dollar, a reactionary stance when it comes to wars in the Middle East, a reactionary policy when it comes to foreign policy.. The list goes on, but the point is that Europe was no longer at the center of the map, a tragic identity crisis. And now, fast forward a couple decades. This “American” moment, in retrospect, was short-lived.

The 2008 Financial Crisis Threatens the Fabric of Europe, and Forces a Strategic Revolution

Following the 2008 Financial Crisis, friends and foes alike are questioning America’s credibility. Europe is particularly uneasy. As new players challenge the global order, winners and losers will emerge. US allies in Europe fear that once push comes to shove, they will be left to resolve conflicts by themselves. Germany and France, two European heavyweights, are scrambling to keep Europe united, and to forge geostrategic alliances within the new emerging world order. The decline of the West and rise of the rest is creating new realities on the ground. China is a global actor, presenting a unique economic and political model. India is showing undoubted economic potential. The center of gravity of world politics and economics has shifted East, closer to Central Asia, Africa, and East Asia.. Remaining relevant requires the EU to tread in these uncharted waters. Doing so without the active engagement of the US will prove impossible.

European Revival Requires New Ideas, New Leaders and Unity

This is not to say that Europe is all but gone. In fact, European leaders are waking up to this new reality. French President Macron is bold about forging an independent European foreign policy. An independent foreign policy would secure geostrategic alliances, preserve security and European interests. Germany will also be present to influence and promote Europe’s interests. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s departure has paved the way for change but much-needed continuity as well. The SPD victory, as well as election results, ensure that Germany will continue to safeguard democracy and protect European unity.

Populism in Europe is also being seriously challenged. Populist governments across the continent facing a variety of challenges in the aftermath of Covid 19. Interestingly, recent developments in Czech Republic reveal that democracy and institutions have prevailed. This is despite all the anti-democratic, populist rhetoric plaguing public and political life. Pro-EU sentiment among people remains astonishingly high, understandably given that millions of citizens in Central and Eastern Europe make a living by working in richer Western Europe. Not all is gloomy in dear Europe. Check out our article about the value of a good passport here.

Europe Needs Diplomats, Not Soldiers

As the US retreats from global affairs, Europe should seize the opportunity and fill the vacuum. However, as American soldiers go home, it is European diplomats that should fill in for them. Europe has no choice but to stand firm in the face of anti-democratic tendencies, authoritarianism, economic protectionism, unfair trade, human rights violations, territory annexation such as happened in Crimea. Just as pressing is dramatic climate change, terrorism, cybersecurity attacks, international migration, digital transition and artificial intelligence, and energy independence. More importantly, all these issues do not necessitate military action.

Thus, the EU, with its financial might, technological edge, regulatory and diplomatic prowess, is in a great position to step in and influence global affairs and policy once again. Forget the debate about a “European Army”; what the EU needs is an environment of unity and autonomy, first and foremost, so as to translate the vast tools at the EU’s disposal into active engagement on a global scale.