The US and China are always going to be rivals for global domination, while Russia and the EU are explicitly not, and will not play such a game because of the lessons they learned from history. They would rather rely on soft power, backed by convincing military strength. This will inevitably bring them closer together in the middle.
Any discussion on actual and future relations between the US and the EU should start with a realistic assessment of the current internal status of those two global actors. Which United States – the country of the hysterical Democrats or the country of the nationalistic Republicans? Which EU – one of boosting Macron or of leaving Merkel; of the nationalist East or the hypocritical West?
What happens between the US and EU will depend on the outcome of the deep internal divisions among the elites in both unions. But the problem doesn’t end there: the global balance has changed in the last two decades and unipolar US (or Atlantic) dominance is over. Not because the United States is no longer the strongest military power in the human history, in fact, its strength continues to increase and grow, but it is no longer unchallenged.
The strength of the so called “golden billion” residents of the democratic, developed Western world is based on a social structure dominated by the power of the middle class, or consumers. The state socialism of Soviet times failed to create a real middle class, and failed as a system because of that. However, Chinese state capitalism succeeded over the last two decades. Russia is trying to do the same; nevertheless, it will be a big mistake not to realize the fundamental differences between those two governance systems. It seems that the potential third decade of Putin will be dominated by an attempt to build a middle-class society; the first one was dedicated to pursuing stabilisation, and achieving a military advantage was the focus of the second decade.
Let’s assume in a simplistic way that there are four current key global players: the US, Russia, China and the EU. A world dominated by one superpower tends to globalise because growing interdependence doesn’t change the balance of power. But a world divided in four tends to regionalise because there is no longer “one policeman in town.” The only inadequate military player on the table of four today is the EU. And if the EU elites, regardless of how divided they are, want to be at that table they will have no choice but to build a separate military capacity. And they will do so, because they’re well-aware of the old rule: if you are not at the table, you’ll be on the menu. Obviously, there’s an initial stage of building military independence; a process that will take a decade, and be portrayed as complimentary to NATO; it will remain so until the moment when the EU gets its own sophisticated weaponry and the systems under development now. Which inevitably means independence in cyber-space. And let’s not forget that the most important bridge between the EU and USA – the UK – will not function as such anymore.
The US and China are always going to be rivals for global domination, while Russia and the EU are explicitly not, and will not play such a game because of the lessons they learned from history. They would rather rely on soft power, backed by convincing military strength.
This will inevitably bring them closer together in the middle. Both sides realize that this middle ground is between two sharks and that their independence depends on joint action. Because the two sharks are not vegetarians.