The United States and other major countries like Russia, China, Israel, and most of the Middle East just aren’t taking Europe seriously. Walter Russell Mead explains in The Wall Street Journal that, despite disagreements with Europeans on many issues, Americans should wish for a strong European partner. He writes (abridged):
Last week offered fresh evidence that the most consequential historical shift of the last 100 years continues: the decline of Europe as a force in world affairs.
As its economy lags behind, Europe is becoming more divided politically. Brexit negotiations have inflamed tempers on both sides of the English Channel; Central European countries like Hungary and Poland are alienated from the West.
Neighbors like Russia, Turkey, Israel and the Arab states flout the EU’s wishes at will. European influence in Washington, already declining in the Obama years, has reached a nadir under Donald Trump. Neither Moscow nor Washington showed much regard for Europe’s interests while suspending the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which limits missile deployments in Europe. China takes Japan and India more seriously than it takes the EU, and neither the U.S. nor China has been particularly concerned about what Europeans think as they negotiate bilateral trade arrangements that may redefine the world trade system.
One European initiative did work: the single market. Europe remains formidable as a consumer bloc, and the EU’s ability to regulate the conditions under which foreign companies like Google and Gazprom operate inside its wealthy market is the most important card in its hand.
Leaders in France and Germany remain firmly committed to the European project, but with Britain on the brink of secession, Italy and Poland mutinous and Hungary defiant, the outlook is dimming.
Some on the nationalist right in the U.S. welcome Europe’s decline. This is a mistake. A strong Europe, even if it is sometimes cantankerous and disagreeable, is better for the U.S. than a weak Europe that can neither secure its own neighborhood nor contribute to global stability.
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