In 1992, shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the prominent German philosopher Peter Sloderdijk wrote that Europe’s hour had come, raising a question of historical importance: Would Europe be able to bind the U.S. and Russia together in a bold trilateral relation defining the new West?
Twenty years later, in the aftermath of Russia’s recent presidential election and in the final hours before Tuesday’s presidential election in the U.S., it seems clear that Europe has failed to do so. Rather than being the powerful glue that secures a renewed relationship between Russia and the U.S., Europe could soon find itself the object of benign neglect by both of the former Cold War rivals, with Europe’s security and trade ties with both of them dysfunctional, underperforming or eroding.
In the West, NATO’s glamour is fading, and the idea of a trans-Atlantic marketplace, energetically promoted in the 1990s, has never really taken shape. In the East, the idea floated by Moscow in the past decade -- much to Washington’s concern -- of a new “European security architecture” beyond NATO never materialized either. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s more recent idea of a common market “stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific” is dead in the water because of major European reservations over Russia’s track record in human rights, its adherence to European values and its position on international crises, among other concerns.