Guest Post: Without the US, Europe is fighting a losing battle-By Thomas Straubhaar

The balance of power in the world has changed dramatically – politically, economically and militarily. The EU is the biggest loser of this development, because it remains only an ally. By Thomas Straubhaar

The original article aeppeared in Die Welt, 20 March 2015,

Translated from German by by Johannes Gunesch 

Henry Kissinger, Francis Fukuyama, Amitav Acharya: In addition to the former US Secretary of State many other wise geo-strategists currently think about a new “world order” – as the title of Kissinger ‘s latest book reads.

Large stacks of books can be found in American stores with headings such as “Political Order and Political Decay” by Fukuyama, who had written after the collapse of the Soviet Union about the “end of history” – probably a bit premature as it turned out. A more skeptical, but also more realistic account of “The End of American World Order” is provided by Acharya, a well-known political scientist at the American University in Washington.

Even though the authors take different approaches, their messages are similar: The world order in the postwar period is finished. The balance of power has changed dramatically. Together with Europe, the US dominated world politics and also the global economy for a century. But now China, India and Brazil are pushing for the stage, and Russia is fighting for its place in a multipolar balance of power.

The present is completely different

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the weights of the world economy were clearly distributed. The West – led by the US and the European Union (EU) – defined certain rules that the rest of the world had to follow. Those who did not voluntarily do so were politically, militarily or economically forced. Sanctions, boycotts, blockades, and even (American) troops were deployed across the globe according to Western notions of law and order. The present however looks entirely different. The emerging economies in Asia, Latin America and Africa have caught up in recent decades in all respects to the west – militarily, politically and economically. Just look at the latest data from the International Peace Research Institute SIPRI (Link: in Stockholm. It indicates that China’s military budget and military expenditure, the world’s number two behind the US, has increased in 2015 by a further ten percent to 886 billion yuan (approximately 136 billion euros). This is in stark contrast to the EU, where numbers have fallen rather than risen.The emerging economies want more say and less Western tutelage. They want a say in the rules of the global economy. Different interests in the emerging and Western countries are becoming increasingly clear. It is therefore becoming more and more difficult to find common globally valid compromises.

The EU is the main loser

Nowhere is the lack of a common understanding more evident than in the failure of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to institute new rules for a global economy of the 21st century. This is even more pertinent because in the future trade in goods is not as much in the foreground any more as it was the case in the past.

The “Internet of Things”, the 3-D printer, global information highways, knowledge bases, and an international exchange of information and know-how determine the dynamics of the global division of labor. The WTO fails to provide a useful framework for those things as well as cross-border trade in services embodied in people.

The EU is the biggest loser in the tectonic shifts in world politics. No one has benefited more from the old world economic order than the Europeans. The new world economic order puts all that at stake.

Just as weak the European assets have become is indicated to Europe in many places, not least because of the military aggression of Russia.

Complete misinterpretation of reality

That’s why the US is an indispensable ally for the defensive EU: first, from a political point of view to create and maintain peace and freedom, and secondly from an economic perspective in the fight for open markets and international legal certainty. In all the debates about chlorine chicken or genetic engineering (Link: Europe and the United States mostly agree with each other in the critical issues. The differences are much smaller than with other cultures. When it comes to introduce the fundamental Western beliefs and values in a new world economic order, the US and the EU have no other partners across the world as close as each other.It’s not just an ignorant arrogance but a complete misconception of reality if Europe believes that it could establish a stable economic order based on Western ideas about comprehensive and equal human rights, individual fundamental rights and freedoms – especially freedom of expression and religious liberty, property and self-determination without the active support of the US. The US are indispensable especially for a successful and sustainable European trade with emerging economies in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

TTIP as a litmus test

Europe relies more strongly on good transatlantic relationship than the US. This is because the political conflicts escalate currently far away from the USA in the direct or indirect European neighborhood – in Ukraine, in North Africa, the eastern Mediterranean and in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. By itself, the militarily insufficiently prepared Europe is merely relegated to the sidelines and remains endangered to be inadvertently drawn into violent conflicts.Only in conjunction with the US, Europe has a chance to preserve common Western interests in a future that will be so completely different from the past. This is because the emerging economies or governments driven by religious movements will want to bring in and enforce their perspectives, values, and interests.In this multi-voiced choir, Europe will not stand a chance to be heard as a soloist. At best, the EU can succeed together with the United States to act as a counterweight to the populous emerging economies.Therefore, a transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) (Link: between the US and the EU is of fundamental importance. It is ultimately the litmus test of whether the geostrategic relations between Americans and Europeans are determined by commonality or differences.

Thomas Straubhaar is Professor of Economics, in particular international economic relations from the University of Hamburg. By the end of August 2014, he was Director and Chairman of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI). Since September 2013, the Swiss-born fellow of the Transatlantic Academy in Washington, DC, has been often staying in the US. He writes for “DIE  “WELT” regular columns on current economic, political and social issues.


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