The relationship between continental Europe and the United States is strained: the debate on TTIP, the NSA affair, the disunity in matters of international security, and the battle for digital hegemony and the best workers from developing and newly industrialising countries – there are plenty of reasons for discord.
The West is no longer the community of interest it once was in the aftermath of the Second World War. This seriously reduces its ability to act collectively. It is also the reason for a new geopolitical complexity and a world-political stage of a backfall in darker times.
We currently witness the development of new wars, a thriving nationalism in China and Russia, the renaissance of the authoritarian political model, which oppose the principles of democracy, the terrorism of ISIS, and a rapid increase in social-economic injustice within and between states. All of this demands new approaches for a Western reunion that can meet the upcoming challenges with a single strong voice.
The opposition to the “West” is rising – within itself
But how can the “West” work towards a reunion, if the “Western model” is increasingly opposed even in the Western democracies themselves? Anti-Americanism is flourishing in Germany – not least in the form of “Pegida” and the national conservative platform of the euro-sceptic party AfD. In France, the Front National is at an all-time high.
So even within Europe itself, opposition to the “West” is rising. This opposition should be met with approval if it was purely an opposition against neoliberal elitism. This anti-Americanism would even be justifiable if it was aimed exclusively at the wall-street as a symbol for the much to powerful development of the Anglo-Saxon financial-capitalism. However, the anti-Americanism on the streets amounts to hatred of everything belonging to the political status quo, and particularly, a hatred of everything foreign. This new right-wing anti-Americanism heralds a new nationalism, which excludes and alienates. It is morally wrong and politically dangerous.
But are the US-Americans doing any better? Are they well disposed towards us Europeans? Not really.
Right-wing nationalistic forces, amidst them the Tea Party movement, are also on the rise in the United States. For them, Europe is politically unattractive and does not play any substantial role in geopolitical considerations. Even the Obama administration is moving away from the once close transatlantic alliance. Their economic and military strategies increasingly focus on the Pacific region. China is considered the new big player in world politics. The East is where the action is. All quiet on the Western front.
Talking about it is the first step
The United States consider Europe an essentially unimportant, and on top of that, internally disunited political actor. Even the bilateral relations to Germany and France are increasingly neglected. Germany, Poland, and France – the three main European powers – are left alone to deal with the Ukrainian crisis. American civil society and media do not seem to object. A clear commitment to Europe is missing. The American civil society and media do hold the power to object, but until now they have not used it.
It is thus no overstatement to say that the inner-Western relations have entered a new political ice age.
The West should grow together again. It should reunite. E pluribus unum – to make one out of many: this was the founding principle of the United States. We need such a movement for unity to provide a strong answer to a world characterised by disorder and the return of hostilities.
How can this be done? How can we move from vision to reality? What should be the guiding principles of this Western reunion? And how can we make sure that this new Western union does not automatically result in eroding diplomatic and economic ties to China and Russia? Would some Western states hope to profit from Western disunity and rather have good relations to China and Russia?
To re-establish a Western Union is no easy task. We should make it our principle duty to think about how it can be accomplished. This demands a re-evaluation on both sides of the Atlantic of what unites us, what is to gain, and what we must change.