The advantage of having had Trump is the shock of it. For Europe especially, security guarantees lulled countries into a sense of eternal peace. The first shocks were the civil war in Yugoslavia, 9/11 and then the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The following shocks were the demise of the Arab spring, Russia’s behavior in Ukraine, the refugees escaping civil war in Syria and Brexit, then Trump. Europeans should have felt several more shocks especially when it comes to Chinese behavior.
But a critical and responsive sense of European self-interest was never created. Nothing was institutionalized to properly responded to these shocks. Just a few think tanks and papers like the FT (thanks for that) took the trouble of formulating interests on the EU level. For the rest we saw a fractured patchwork of knee jerk responses based more on national sentiment and wishful thinking rather than unified strategy.
Europe still can’t wake up to the necessities. In fact, rather than fully wake up to a changed world, understand self-interest on a EU level and ramp up capabilities to address the challenges, Europe seems eager to nap more. The sigh of relief of a Biden victory has much to do with a desire to lock the unpredictable and distressing world out and nap another round under the eagle’s wings. There are some good energies now waking up but embedded as they are in conservative German and French interest-thinking, the breakthrough to a common European security narrative is still far away.
Gideon, I’m sure you’ve read
and while it’s mostly about the Pentagon it just hammers home how Europe is not even aware of the game let alone has any traction on it. Mind that what happens now with Trump attempting to move people off Twitter and Facebook onto right wing social media in a politically controlled realm is somewhat akin to how Russia tries to maintain cohesion and how China controls thought. These countries are trying to protect and control their own myth and nation building capabilities while weaponizing global platforms in the fight for people’s loyalties and identities. Brexit and Trump both were in no small measure brought into being by foreign and hostile forces using global social media as myth- and nation-deconstructing tools.
Biden may bring temporary relief as some of the security embrace will return, but the development of that common European security narrative, that has to include the UK, is urgent.