A new transatlantic alliance is emerging following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but what form will it take once the dust settles?
Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine has reinvigorated transatlantic cooperation, bringing the United States and its European allies closer together than they have been since the end of the Cold War. A united transatlantic alliance sanctions Russia and supports Ukraine. For Europeans, the US campaign against Russia is not about regime change but about defending a liberal international order.
The power of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been threatened by Ukraine as the latter has democratized and sought closer relations with Europe. However, the invasion of Ukraine does more than violate democracy and human rights: it violates all the principles on which the international order after World War II was formally built. Even illiberal states, notably China, supported these ideals: sovereign equality of states, territorial integrity, and non-interference in internal affairs.
But a lasting return to American global leadership, backed by the transatlantic community in defense of liberal ideals, is by no means certain. Domestic political polarization in the United States is unlikely to recede anytime soon, limiting bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy issues.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Europeans continue to show little appetite for global leadership either. They will multiply attempts at transatlantic burden-sharing, particularly vis-à-vis NATO: Germany announcement he would spend an additional 100 billion euros ($104.9 million) on German defense to meet NATO’s 2% target by 2022. Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine was a reminder to the West how fragile the world order can be. NATO has been recognized as a defense alliance and has welcomed leaves Finland and Sweden, long neutral, to become members.
The EU also has applications welcome from Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to join the union in order to support their democratization. As one of the largest markets in the world, the EU and its member states hold substantial power to shape and maintain a liberal international order. Yet the EU and its member states have not tried to mobilize their power to share the burden of maintaining a liberal international order or assume a global leadership role.
Europe still seems to lack the political will to engage more actively in the fight against challenges to a liberal international order, with or without the United States. Despite promises to strengthen “European sovereignty” and the aggressiveness of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz “Zeitenwende” (historical turning point), Europeans seem unlikely to take on an increased global leadership role.
As with the US, internal challenges have undermined the EU’s effectiveness on the global stage. The euro crisis, followed by mass migration of Syrians and others fleeing civil wars, persecution and economic collapse, triggered nativist and nationalist responses in Europe.
The very success of EU expansion in terms of reach (like monetary union) and territory (like in the East) has fractured it internally and undermined its ability to speak with one voice. strong internationally. Divisions within Europe hinder collective action. For example, Europeans are as divided on the degree of engagement with China as they were with Russia. It also creates transatlantic tensions.
If neither the United States nor Europe is willing to take the lead in promoting and protecting a liberal international order, China could fill the power vacuum by seeking to “make the world safe for autocracyand in particular the Chinese Communist Party.
The liberal economic order has facilitated China’s rise, China’s economic growth relies on international markets, and China has joined and is increasingly engaged in multilateral organizations. China is a party to most international agreements, and it probably respects them at least as much as the United States apart from international civil and political rights treaties.
While the United States has debated decoupling its economy from China through tariffs and other regulatory barriers, China has invested in technology to strengthen its place in global value chains, rather than to ‘get out. The most likely scenario is “selective engagement” with a liberal international order, not only from the United States and Europe, but also from China.
In a move similar to that of former US President Donald Trump America’s Foreign Policy First, Beijing could withdraw from international agreements that it perceives as not serving Chinese interests. If its attempts to shape liberal international institutions to defend authoritarianism fail, China could fall back on a strategy of ‘contested multilateralism‘ Where ‘cooperative counter-hegemony‘.
China’s withdrawal could be fueled by the United States and Europe closing ranks to restore a liberal international order. Much will depend on which side non-Western countries, including India, Brazil and South Africa, take. On the one hand, they share the rejection of American domination by China and Russia.
On the other hand, the war in Ukraine has served as a wake-up call: not only has it destroyed the European security architecture, but it also threatens a rules-based order.
Countries that depend on managing interdependence through international institutions could join forces to support an international order that is less US-dominated and more respectful of sovereignty and rules-based.
Tanja A. Borzel is professor of political science at the Freie Universität Berlin and directs the center of excellence “Contestations of liberal writing”.
The research of Prof. Börzel’s “Challenges in Liberal Writing” (EXC 2055) Excellence Group is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) as part of the German Excellence Strategy.
Gregory Shaffer is Chancellor Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California at Irvine and President of the American Society of International Law. The opinions expressed are his own.
The two authors have declared no conflict of interest in relation to this article.
Originally published under Creative Commons by 360info™.