Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea is putting Europe’s economic interests in the area at risk. More than one third of Europe’s external trade takes place with the Indo-Pacific region and any escalation of tensions in this area will undoubtedly have a direct impact on Europe.
After Brexit, there is no guarantee that the major powers in NATO and the EU will agree on how to respond to future crises.
At a summit in Brussels on March 22, EU heads of government will issue a statement of solidarity with the United Kingdom following the recent nerve agent attack on double-agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. This statement of support follows similar strong declarations by NATO and the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council.
The question for Europe now is whether it needs to de-couple its strategy toward regional great powers from that of the United States.
Geopolitical competition has made a roaring come back in recent years. Russian President Vladimir Putin, always on the cutting edge of new fads, welcomed the new era with flair last week by introducing an entire new generation of nuclear weapons aimed at the United States.
It is time to move past institutional integration and develop practical European security capabilities.
Europe is facing multiple security challenges. Russia aims to undermine the European security order and has shown its willingness to violate other countries’ sovereignty and increase its nuclear power. The Middle East and North Africa are on fire, homegrown terrorism threatens the streets of Europe, and cyber and information warfare are on the rise.
Much like Europeans do not fully grasp the angst generated by prospects of Western-incited regime change in Russia, Russians dismiss far too easily how toxic in the EU is Moscow’s political and financial backing of European extreme right-wing movements. Both are viewed as direct threats to existential interests. So long as that deep-seated mistrust regarding each other’s destructive intent toward one another prevails, channels for cooperation will remain limited, and cooperation at the global level will be ad hoc and transactional.