Will the crisis weaken the United States? The answer is yes, if one believes that the world requires a leader to manage the crisis, and that this belonged to the United States (despite Trump's claims of isolationism). But, more realistically, the answer is no: this crisis does not need a leader. Trump is conducting his own policy and the country has reacted accordingly. It will overcome the crisis faster and better than the rest of the world, thanks to its companies, its taste for risk and its steadfast optimism. Let’s also not forget the American army, which will remain the most powerful in the world for a long time.
That leaves Europe: scorned, fragmented, ineffective. In Italy, for instance, there have been complaints about German selfishness, French smugness, Dutch lack of solidarity and Brussels’ helplessness. How has Europe really fared? In the health sector, no European-wide strategy was implemented but, as has been said, no health crisis management would have been expected from a supra-national organization. In other fields, we have witnessed a very rapid financial response from the European Central Bank, but also from the member states, with the facilitated activation of the European Stability Mechanism and the joint debt of all the European States. Germany set an example by taking on more debt than the others. And Italy takes advantage of this: its spread has moved very little.
From an operational standpoint, an important fact has been overlooked by those who expected mask donations or pharmaceutical ingredients from this or that country, in the name of European solidarity. This is not a financial crisis, where countries can lend, or even give, money to their neighbors. It is a health crisis: countries keep the medical devices they need, unless they are certain to have very large surplus stocks. Thus, there are no German ventilators in France or Italy, but German hospital beds are more easily available (more than 200 European patients have been transferred to hospitals in Germany, with Berlin covering the full cost of their treatment). How is this possible? Because the country, and especially its Länder, knew that they had excess capacity in this area.
What will be the consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak for Europe? Obviously, a widening of the EU’s North-South divide. Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and the northern countries, were affected by the virus much later than the southern member States, and thus managed it better than Italy, France or Spain. German industrial capacity made the manufacturing of plenty of test kits possible, largely outnumbering the French production (but they did not produce masks, as the textile industry also collapsed in Germany). Finally, decentralized healthcare at the level of the Länder probably facilitated the management of the epidemic in a country whose population is older than the French one, with a greater number of resuscitation beds.