New global tasks or persevering for a change?

Europe is watching with puzzlement and growing despair at how the world is changing. The liberal global order as it was established after 1945 is becoming weaker. The guarantor for this order, the administration of the United States, is turning away from this role. China, while implicitly
suggesting that it might take over this role, is far away from it, at least far from any support for a liberal order. Russia (a middle power with nukes and based on carbon-based energy resources) is far away from both: order, and liberalism.

The EU, the biggest economic bloc and with two permanent seats in the Security Council, is considering its options. While alliances with either China or Russia are out of the question, the 70 year alliance between the EU and the US is under threat.

What, then, is a higher risk to the EU? To muddle through and hope for a better U.S. president (possibly an erroneous tactic), or to finally take over more of its own responsibility—especially in security and trade?

-Klaus Segbers

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  1. Ivanna Machitidze 3 months ago

    While discussing the two scenario options offered for the EU in the introduction, the organisation should prioritise own agenda first, which would contribute to its credibility as the global player. Hoping for the favourable change to occur in the US political climate as the solution for EU's own "crisis of identity" would only prove the inability or unwillingness of the EU to take full responsibility of its own path. Furthermore, it would imply that Europe, while determining the issues of foremost significance for itself, still looks towards US as in the Cold War period or the 1990s.
    In the circumstances of the US retreat from the multilateral obligations undertaken during the Obama presidency, the EU has the chance to fill in the window of opportunity and take the lead in preserving and promoting the liberal democratic values. However, it seems to be easier said than done. The foremost challenge is whether the EU's vision of its own role in the contemporary world is shared unanimously by its members.
    Lack of internal unity over the priority of the liberal democratic values is the challenge which appearance was missed while the EU has been dealing with financial crisis, bailouts, Brexit, migrant crisis etc. So far, the undemocratic players as Russia are making use of the diverse priorities inside the EU and weakness of the liberal democratic consensus contributing to the growing clash. EU should utilize the enormous potential of its soft power, its approach to security and prove that the current problems are of temporary character and not part of the larger trend of frustration over the liberal democratic values and current world order.

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  2. Justas Paleckis 3 months ago

    A new world order is needed. One can not pretend that nothing fundamental happened during these 73 years. Yes, Brexit and Trump in particular prove that there is the need for change. But even if in some magical way the UK does not leave the European Union and the next US president will be similar to Obama or Bush, changes will still be inevitable. It must be understood that today it is not the G8 that decides the destiny of the world. Major decision-making needs to be moved to the G20, which will be G25 or more after a few years. Today, it is hard to get used to the idea that China will be the most powerful country in the world. Tomorrow, there can be other changes in the club of great powers The EU needs to clean up its own backyard and then once again show the world how former enemies can overcome the past and work more closely together. Also, the EU must set an example in cooperating with Turkey, China, Russia, Iran and other "difficult" neighbors of our planet, recognizing each country's right to be different from the "golden billion" countries. Moreover: the EU must take the initiative to give much more power to the UN. Today maybe it is not too late. Tomorrow it will be too late, because the threats that can destroy the world are growing every year, their number is increasing. They can only be tackled by common efforts of the countries of the world.

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  3. Stephanie von Kanel 3 months ago

    There have not been many, globally speaking, attempts to reshuffle the status quo in recent years (not least in my lifetime). The status quo offered by the liberal world order is indeed one we are comfortable with. This comfort extends to policymakers, global leaders in politics, industry, economics, academia and various other fields.
    What we are seeing now is in some respects a 180-degree-shift of the foundations of this order from the nation-state which has been largely considered its pioneer. This is both confusing and concerning. But rather than consuming the assumptions promulgated by the media about this apparent global reshuffle of affairs and allies, the focus should be redirected to hypothesising potential reroutes and new global power-peripheries. Though there are far bigger concerns than media stories, this is also a time of great opportunity for other states.
    It does not seem China is entirely attracted to becoming the new hegemon, though history shows this may not be entirely true for the Russian administration. Though larger states in the EU may not necessarily be attracted to the role of hegemon either, letting the current US administration continue its populist and conservative course isn’t a safe bet to the liberal order and global economic system. State leaders should consider other allies and the power there is in the numbers.

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  4. Anastasia Wischnewskaja 3 months ago

    I do not think that European decision makers do not understand how serious and deep the split with the USA is. A German foreign office expert at a public event recently dismissed exactly the same idea voiced from the audience: why don’t we just muddle through and wait for the next US-President? In fact Europeans started taking over more responsibility even before Trump came into power: they had the lead in Ukraine negotiations and the European Commission is working on its own connectivity strategy as a reaction to China’s penetrative Belt and Road Initiative. European leadership will be way more benign the American one – the Iraqi War has shown the stylistic differences, but I am sure that it will come about.

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  5. Mina Sumaadii 3 months ago

    What, then, is higher risk: to muddle through and hope for a better U.S. president (possibly an erroneous assumption), or to finally take over more of its own responsibility - especially in security and trade?

    At this point it seems that hoping for a better U.S. president is a higher risk. While there are continuous talks in the media about Trumps impeding impeachment, it is more likely that he will be allowed to finish his term to avoid further chaos in American politics. In any case, the tendencies of withdrawal of the U.S. from foreign engagement are strong. The U.S. is increasingly unwilling (unable) to play the role of the ‘stabilizer.’ Thus, the next president is unlikely to change much of this trend. Trump may just become a convenient scape goat for an undiplomatic exit, but it seems that at the end of the day he played his role in speeding up the process. The only thing that might change with a change of administration is trade friendliness. Nonetheless, in terms of security the EU needs take over.

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  6. Lwin Cho Latt 3 months ago

    Undeniably, the current trend in foreign policy from the US poses a distinct threat to the liberal international order. How does the EU preserve its values of peace, development, security and trade while the US shows signs of no longer sharing those values? In order to take a stronger leadership role in the global political community, the EU would need to strengthen its partnerships with like-minded states by carefully deploying its privileges in terms of economic and veto power. However, regional issues such as increasing migration and refugee problems, risk of negative impacts from Brexit, and terrorist threats have caused an increased uncertainty around deepening and widening integration. Before regaining its regional unity in foreign and security policy, the risks of EU (rationally or not) far outweigh if it dreams to take new tasks for global governance. Its current shaky relations with the US might be in favour of more collaboration with China (not with Russia). Using Chinese advantages (a highly emerging economic power and a main veto player in the UNSC) over global politics can best work for the EU in preserving international norms as a new world order that might have less risk.

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  7. Friederike Kies 3 months ago

    The world order is undergoing changes. Rising populism, protectionism, migration and environmental challenges are currently pressing issues at stake. In challenging times strong alliances between countries are of particular importance. However, as stated above, the liberal world order as it was established after 1945 is becoming weaker. Pressing questions that arise are:

    How will this world order evolve in the future? Furthermore, how should the EU (re)act to current changes?

    The EU cannot simply muddle through and hope for a better U.S. administration. As Merkel recently said, “Europe can no longer rely on U.S. protection.” Rather, it is time to take up more responsibility, particularly in the areas of security and trade. At first sight this change seems threatening and challenging. However, this may also hold an opportunity for the EU. By taking up more responsibility the EU may grow stronger and unified eventually leading to a louder international voice.

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3 Comments

  1. Zhang Yuncong 3 months ago

    As a firm ally of the United States, Europe has entirely relied on the United States for security (although EU has differences in economic and political terms). But with President Trump's coming to power, the United States has made it clear that it is unwilling to share European defense responsibilities. While recognizing the importance of independence, Europe also needs to improve its relations with Russia and give Russia appropriate space. China does not want to be and have no ability to act as a world hegemon, but China is indeed willing to share more responsibilities. But Europe should reduce its hostility towards China and understand the differences behavior of different civilizations. Europe can no longer rely on the United States, nor can it expect other countries to replace the United States— In my opinion, what Europe should do is to resolve internal differences and become a stronger Europe.

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  2. JING Lingyu 3 months ago

    Liberal global order is under threat, when there is more and more revisionist challengers. US failed to handle its domestic problems such populism and social division so the consequences are unilateral foreign policies and illiberal tendency. At this moment, EU must take over US previous position in global society. As a normative power, EU has more influence on international norms setting. Current global issues can not be solved by US unilateral policies or military force. There are more and more demanding for international institutions and regulations such as global migrations and trade. There is no hope for a new US president in short-term and no other liberal powers will take over the leading position in liberal order except EU. EU itself is a great example of succeeded regional liberal order and EU must diffuse its model to the globe. It will be done gradually by imitation without coerce. China and Russia may against it by military and economic power but their domestic models are not sustainable. The liberal global order is empty now, but EU must make it meaningful by EU normative powers.

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