I’m grateful to the Atlanticist for republishing Steven Philip Kramer’s Strategic Forum article, The Absence of Europe, because otherwise I would have missed it, and it’s really a must read for anyone interested in U.S.-EU relations, EU defense and EU common foreign policy. It’s a thorough, balanced and non-dogmatic treatment of the many challenges that the EU must resolve if it really wants to assume a partnership role in international security, with all the responsibility that entails.
I’ve flagged recent progress on EU defense, but as Kramer points out, there are fundamental insitutional impasses that need to be opened before Europe really becomes a global actor that can back up its soft power appeal with hard power backbone. I think the role the EU played in containing the Georgia War, as well as in the financial crisis, has demonstrated the need for a strong European executive and common foreign policy, as well as Europe’s ability to overcome its political divisions to achieve unity in the face of crisis. Whether that will be enough to resuscitate the Treaty of Lisbon remains to be seen. But I think the past three months have illustrated the concrete benefits of a strong Europe better than all the theoretical arguments that preceded them.
On a related note, Kramer obliquely mentions something that’s worth underlining, namely the domestic weakness of the heads of state of the U.S., U.K., France and Germany. When Barack Obama takes office on Jan. 20, he will be the only popular head of state among the four, and at a time when all must risk potentially unpopular decisions regarding international crises ranging from Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran to the global financial meltdown.
Kramer’s takeaway is noteworthy: in the absence of the EU, the U.S. might be forced to try to come to an arrangement with China and India to shore up its status as international arbiter. Meaning that the 21st century could very well be the Asian-American age.