The U.S. Still Needs Europe to Compete With China

The U.S. Still Needs Europe to Compete With China
U.S. President Joe Biden holds a press conference during the NATO Summit in Madrid, Spain, June 30, 2022 (photo for NurPhoto by Celestino Arce via AP).

Does the United States need Europe? That question is currently under much debate in Washington policy circles.

One argument, as captured well by former Trump administration Pentagon official Elbridge Colby, is that since China is the principal threat to the U.S. and seems poised to take increasingly more aggressive actions toward Taiwan, Washington must prioritize deterring and potentially countering Beijing in Asia. While Europe may have problems, most notably the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, they are problems that Europe, not the U.S., must take the lead in solving. Washington can still assist in those efforts, but only as a secondary player.

The other argument, as recently put forward by RAND’s Mike Mazarr in Foreign Affairs, is that pulling back from Europe would make no sense. To the contrary, Mazarr argues that disengaging from its NATO allies in Europe could “badly weaken the United States in its growing competition with China.” Cooperation with Europe strengthens Washington in Asia both directly, such as by coordinating with the British to produce submarines for Australia to counter China, and indirectly, by signaling to allies in East Asia that the U.S. is a dependable security partner wherever there’s trouble.

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