We will not live in a world directly divided between totalitarianism and democracy, especially because of the existence of an important gray area between those two types of regimes. Greater internal instability should be expected. Unfortunately, China and others will be tempted to compensate for domestic difficulties with a more assertive foreign policy.
Coming back to Europe, what role should we play in this chaotic world? And how would you suggest positioning ourselves vis-à-vis the US?
Europe is one of the places where the change is going to be the most dramatic. One century ago, Europe was the center of the world. World War I was dubbed the "European war" because of the European empires fighting. During the Cold War, even if the major powers were not European, Europe was the place where the conflict had to be decided, in Berlin especially. After the Cold War, Europe reinvented itself, not as the main stage of world politics, or as a central power, but as the laboratory of the world to come. Europe thought its post-modern understanding of politics and statehood would be attractive and suitable to the whole world.
In the last years, Europe considered the features of its model to be universal when they were exceptions - exceptions forged by a long history, a collection of small and medium-sized countries, economically developed and with an aging population. So Europe should first and foremost focus on what the European order is going to look like.
Regarding the EU-US relationship, challenges lie in the unpredictability and instability of US politics, since every election looks like a (potential) regime change. The US has become a "civil war state". Making alliances with such a state is much more difficult. Yet the transatlantic relationship is fundamental if Europeans want to shape the global order and not only the European one.
Our relationship with our European neighbors is also going to be challenging. We used to think that the EU was simply bordering future member states. But it is no longer the case, as some of our neighbors have different identities and ideas themselves now.
Are we not facing the risk of a "clarification war", maybe a global one? As far as Europe is concerned, even if the Germans were to push the button today for one hundred billion more defense expenditures, could Europe cease to be protected by the US soon?
The European project was built on the assurance that no country would have to fight a war again. The Ukrainian crisis marks a dramatic shift. The oblivion of war, in some circles, was perceived as a cultural decay of the West, especially in Europe. It was particularly striking to see people suddenly ready to sacrifice their life for the stake of their state, which is basically the Ukrainian story. It created a true shock, reminding the Europeans of a different type of understanding of the world.
In the short to medium term, Europe will not have sufficient capabilities to be able to engage in a major conflict. But current dynamics should not lead to the kind of total war that people feared in the 1950s. What we should expect is to see major powers engaged in almost never-ending military operations. The century of wars can be followed by centuries of "special operations''.
Copyright: JOHN THYS / AFP
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