As the global hegemony of the West is put to the test, the leaders of the big Western powers are busy having a public spat. While a wide range of strongmen in capitals from Moscow to Tehran and Beijing must really be enjoying the spectacle, it is a truly sad development.
America will soon find itself at a crossroads. There is an ongoing tug of war between President Donald Trump and the country’s deep state, and the outcome is hard to predict. A lot will depend on whether US Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of State James Mattis, both retired generals, remain in their positions. Many people in Europe believe that the two top staffers are key to keeping Trump at bay.
Meanwhile in Europe, the idea is gaining traction that the Old Continent needs to wean itself off its strategic relationship with the United States. It is no coincidence that, after French President Emmanuel Macron called for the creation of a European army, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also publicly backed the idea. Their attitude indicates that they do not view the Trump administration as an ephemeral or one-off political event.
Europe became spoiled after the Second World War as the United States catered to all its security needs. Now European leaders realize that even if Trump is ousted, they had still better get their act together to enhance the continent’s hard power, an area in which Europe risks sliding into marginal status.
There is, for example, an agreement on the need to produce common military hardware, rather than having every member-state produce its own weapons separately. The economies of scale would be huge and they could, as in the case of Airbus, enable the European Union to grow into a global player.
At the same time however, the political mood in Europe does not favor the plans of Merkel and Macron. The continent again appears divided and fragmented. Developments are playing into the hands of nationalists. Nationalism is one of Trump’s pet themes.
A great deal is at stake, also for Greece. The long-standing statement “We belong to the West” risks becoming more complex as a critic in the future might ask, “And which West do you mean exactly?”