June 18, 2024

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‘Europe has the ambition and potential to play a role in a multilateral world order’

‘Europe has the ambition and potential to play a role in a multilateral world order’

International13 Mar ’23 21:00Modified on 13 Mar ’23 22:00Author of the book: Jasper Dams

After the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the last century, the United States played the role of world leader for many years. Since the rise of China and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we are moving towards a multilateral world order, but Europe should also be added to this list.

Where America has long dominated as world leader, Europe has played a relatively minor role. Renee Jones-Bass, a former ambassador to Russia and the United States, recalled a statement by former NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer: ‘He always said: Europe is a toddler when it comes to military power, an adolescent when it comes to political power, a solid adult when it comes to economic power. ‘

According to Jones-Boss, Europe must depend on the United States in the military sector. He says we are too small without their military support. (Unsplash / Markus Spiske)

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That picture is changing, Jones-Bass notes. ‘I think we have progressed and progressed in Europe. I think Russia did not count on a strong response to the Ukraine invasion: economic sanctions, an increase in defense budgets, and cooperation within Europe on foreign and security issues.

‘Europe has the ambition and potential to take a place in a multilateral world’

Mathieu Segers is Professor of Contemporary European History and European Integration at Maastricht University

Multipolar world

Mathieu Segers, professor of contemporary European history and European integration at Maastricht University, agrees with the former ambassador, though he doubts how the institution of Europe can be future-proofed. ‘I think we have to take reservations: what will Europe’s role be in the long term? But looking at the moment, you can certainly say that Europe has the ambition and energy to carve out a place in the emerging multipolar world.

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According to Jones-Boss, before that ambition and potential can be realized, Europe must become militarily dependent on the United States. He says we are too small without their military support. In the United States, it is often argued that NATO countries should increase defense spending to 2 percent of gross national product (GNP). Although more countries have committed to reaching that 2 percent in the future, many NATO countries still do not have it.


According to Segers, there are two ways of looking at this military dependence. At present, the US is at peace with Europe’s military contribution, so it is reassuring. But there is also a downside: ‘If Trump becomes president again, what will the deals with the US still be? To what extent will Europe be pushed back as the West’s only truly credible leader?’

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Trump has always been strict in his rhetoric with NATO countries, calling for a standard of 4 percent of GDP. It is uncertain how Trump will handle NATO if he returns to power. According to Segers, it was important that Europe quickly became militarily independent. “Because of the delayed maintenance, Europe is not really ready for a scenario with a president like Trump.”

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