History shows constant shifts of power which change the balance of politics, economics and trade, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
European powers dominated the world 100 years ago with some involvement from the emerging US and Japan. Two world wars changed the picture and after 1945 world power was split between the US and the Soviet Union. The nuclear threat of mutual destruction was so real that it guaranteed peace.
America remained the only and uncontested global power following the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Things are changing now. New players, especially China, are challenging for domination, and Russia is also returning to the global scene.
Such changes create tensions and insecurity. Statesmanship is needed on all sides to avoid conflict and war. Weak areas are at risk of becoming a plaything for foreign interests.
So what is Europe's role in this?
Europe was in ashes in 1945 at the end of the Second World War. It was also a continent divided between the West and the Soviet satellites. America's protection and support for Western Europe produced three results:
- Successful reconstruction of the economy and society leading to unprecedented, sustainable economic recovery and success.
- A defensive shield to ensure Western Europe did not fall under Soviet dominance, having already suffered under Nazi dictatorship.
- Many years of peace in Europe, protected by US armed forces, which enabled the process of European unification and the German - French friendship.
Western Europe owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the US. America and Europe worked together, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, to integrate the former Soviet oppressed countries of central Europe into the democratic world and the European Union.
Fortunately, the European Union is established. But Europe risks losing out in the global power shift and, in its own interests, must not do so. Europe's weakness is its defence which is crucial at such insecure times of tectonic shifts. But Europe’s defence is close to non-existent.
Good relations between Europe and the US are absolutely necessary for Europe. But Europe needs to take its place in issues of security and not leave the security burden to the US to carry alone.
Germany's embarrassing inability to provide defensive support against the Islamic terrorist group ISIS in Iraq is just one example. The Americans are at least able and willing to provide Kurdish fighters with support from the air.
It was agreed to increase defence budgets at the Nato summit in Wales in September. Hopefully this will happen, although there are huge doubts. Europe cannot expect the US to defend European interests as much as their own.
The planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between Europe and the US will hopefully be achieved and boost the economies on both sides of the Atlantic. This is possible because the two economies are comparable in size. Comparable and efficient spending on defence would also help both sides of the Atlantic.
America would not be alone in making global decisions and, rightly or wrongly, criticised. And Europe could play a role as an equal partner.
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