OPINION

The gap is large and the neighborhood is restless

the-gap-is-large-and-the-neighborhood-is-restless

Our geopolitical neighborhood hasn’t seemed this dangerous and unpredictable in many decades. Where to start? In the Balkans, developments are swift: in North Macedonia, Bulgaria, in relations between Serbia and Kosovo relations, in Bosnia.

The European Union seems incapable of managing problems in the Balkans because it offers neither tangible incentives nor decisive action. On the Polish border, another dictator is testing Europe’s endurance with his forceful political aggession. There is also a lot at stake on Ukraine’s borders if we consider Western concerns about Moscow’s intentions to be well-founded.

All this is happening at a time when Europe does not have a “boss.” The US government will not want to get involved in a crisis in Ukraine if it does not have Europe behind it. Former US president Barack Obama knew that if he talked to German Chancellor Angela Merkel he could make an agreement that would eventually be accepted by the entire European leadership.

Now Merkel is leaving and, at the moment, there is no one who can make such a deal with President Joe Biden or Russian President Vladimir Putin. The EU, on the other hand, is deeply divided. Its leaders cover a wide range of political principles and values, which makes unanimity almost impossible at this critical juncture.

What is the danger? The danger would be for the West to appear unprepared and weak in the face of open blackmail like that exhibited by Alexander Lukashenko. The danger would be if nobody was afraid of the West’s wrath, or believed that they had nothing to gain from joining a Western bloc of countries.

We live in a time when strong leaders are on the other side of the fence. Traditional Western democracies lack this kind of leadership. No one in Europe should want a cold war with anyone. We do not need to invent rivals, as has often been the case with the United States.

But we urgently need Europe to act like an adult when it comes to strategy. The neighborhood is getting more restless, the post-American world is here and we can no longer sleep in peace thinking someone else is concerned about our security and foreign policy. Geopolitics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. When someone leaves and someone else is absent, those who do not play by the rules and don’t care about long deliberations will grab whatever they can.