A Weak America Means a Weak Europe
Does anti-Americanism threaten European interests? According to this op-ed article from the NRC Handlesblad of The Netherlands, America’s decline endangers European prestige, and will require EU leaders to do something they are ill-prepared for: fill the vacuum left by retreating American power.
NRC Handlesblad, The Netherlands
“As long as America is weak, European leaders will have to show leadership for the West as a whole. That is a role that decades of American supremacy have scarcely prepared them for.”
By Christoph Bertram
By Meta Mertens
August 6, 2007
The Netherlands – NRC Handlesblad – Original Article (Dutch)
By distancing themselves from the United States, European governments undermine their own influence. As long as America’s global profile declines, European leaders will have to demonstrate leadership to the Western world as a whole.
The power of America has been so great for so long that many think even George W. Bush’s presidency can do little to harm it. The incorrectness of this idea becomes clear from people like Vladimir Putin of Russia, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who are taking advantage of America’s shrunken influence and prestige.
This is no reason for schadenfreude [taking pleasure in the pain of others]. On the contrary, it’s high time that friends of the United States, especially Europe, realize that America’s weakness also undermines its own international influence.
The proof of America’s weakness is all around us. When American power was at its peak, Russia accepted the fact that apparently nothing could be done about NATO’s gradual penetration into the Soviet Union’s former sphere of influence. President Putin tolerated American bases in Central Asia which were installed to support the campaign against the Taliban, and he raised no serious objections when the U.S. withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, used to defend against missile-delivered nuclear weapons. Keen on admitting Ukraine as well as Georgia into NATO, America didn’t need to spare Russia’s feelings, because it was certain that the Kremlin would accept the changes as inevitable.
That was yesterday. Today, Putin is trying to regain the influence that Russia lost over recent years. With a skillful hand, he plays on the anti-American sentiment in Europe. Meanwhile, he puts pressure on the Baltic countries – a clear signal that NATO mustn’t be expanded any further. In Ukraine, the political forces which have resisted closer ties with the West have gained ground. The Kremlin also paints an exaggerated picture of the planned construction of a modest American anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, which Moscow says would damage Russian security interests.