Europe today is paying for the mistakes and lack of leadership in the last 20 to 30 years. At the world table where a tough geopolitical poker game is being played, Europe is sitting like a poor relative, without strong cards in its hands. The big players are either snubbing it or demanding that it follows where they lead.
What did Europe not do? It never prepared its own, small but flexible army. Nor was it able to establish an effective mechanism for gathering intelligence and coordinating in times of crisis. It was left behind in this issue, believing that someone else would always protect it, as was the case in the Cold War. Europe is also lagging behind in technology and the new economy. American tech giants tower above their counterparts on the continent, as the EU has not been able to create its own Amazon or Google.
And of course Europe has managed to become a hostage in the field of energy. It did not make sure it solved the problem in time. Instead, it hurried toward a transition to green energy without calculating the consequences. Today, it is paying the bill. Russia earns billions every day, as does the US, to a lesser extent. Europe just pays.
However, the European leadership also has a huge responsibility for how we got here. Its job was to push for a new security architecture that would not pit Moscow against it. This was possible after the end of the Cold War. Europe should have chosen a more generous and rational management of the West’s victory over the Soviet Union. But it had been spoiled by America’s post-war domination, which, in fact, has led to the longest period of peace and prosperity in Europe.
Europe is now facing the consequences of its actions. History does not change, one cannot correct the mistakes of the 1990s, nor can one magically make up for lost time. It will take at least 10 years for Europe to acquire significant military capabilities, become energy independent and turn its economic power into the prowess of a superpower. And this will only happen when European leaders finally decide to do it – if they decide to.
We are now entering a relentless cold war. The choices will be difficult. The luxury of time will not exist. Europe will have to make some decisions. There have already been many wake-up calls for Europe, which have been ignored. There is another one now. Will anyone heed it?