From a geopolitical standpoint, it’s time for Europe to grow up. US President Donald Trump all but considers Europe a rival power – and never misses an opportunity to underscore this point. The European Union may be an economic power on an international scale, but otherwise it is not really seen as a serious force to be reckoned with.
There is no such thing as a single European army or a serious mechanism for collecting and assessing information. Decision-making, meanwhile, tends to be a slow and complicated process.
Trump’s rise to the American presidency could serve as a wake-up call for European leaders and already there are talks on practical issues.
The joint production of military equipment would make Europe a key player and lend the continent a strategic advantage. Research and know-how do exist but what is sorely missing is political will.
Another key issue is the creation of a strictly European interbank transaction system. Currently, the United States can block European banks or firms for violating sanctions as global transactions are carried out in dollars and are monitored by American agencies. This is technically not a difficult thing to do. However, Europe lacks the necessary political will.
The problem is that following the end of the Second World War, Europeans grew spoiled. They thought they could concentrate on the business of having a good time, while leaving security and defense issues in the hands of Washington. Now they realize that the US is no longer there as it once was. The American president is making this as clear as possible. The threats, meanwhile, are coming thick and fast.
Unfortunately, Europe also lacks the necessary leadership and political will to take it to the next level. President Emmanuel Macron of France has the vision and the plan, but he has met with a growing wave of opposition at home.
The government in Berlin shares Macron’s concerns and proposals, but is dragging its feet in making decisions. Great Britain, which has traditionally played a role in security and foreign policy, is caught up in Brexit navel-gazing. The rest of the continent is being shaken by forces of nationalism and populism for which the very idea of an ever-closer and stronger union is a red flag.
The EU risks being left out in the cold without an American shield and, at the same time, without a plan about building its own.