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The Empires Strike Back at Europe

Among the many foreign-policy challenges on Europe's plate, few are as pressing as the escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey's neo-Ottoman pretensions are threatening European interests. Because Turkey has chosen its own path, the task now is to secure coexistence, rather than integration.

BERLIN – Donald Trump’s presidency is now history, which puts renewing the transatlantic relationship back on the European agenda. But there can be no return to the old, cozy dependencies of the Cold War era and the period thereafter, when America – the great protector – decided all important security matters, and Europe followed as a matter of course. To renew transatlanticism, Europe will need to make its own contribution to joint security, especially within its own geopolitical environment.

In its immediate neighborhood, the European Union faces three former global powers that are obsessed with their past imperial glory: Russia, Turkey, and now the United Kingdom. Each has a unique relationship with Europe, currently as well as historically, and all share some commonalities.

Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia clings longingly to memories of its superpower status, when the Soviet Union was the global equal of the United States. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey dreams of reprising the Ottoman Empire’s geopolitical and cultural expansion from the Balkans and the western edges of Central Asia to the eastern Mediterranean and the North African coast (Libya), all the way down to the Persian Gulf. And, finally, post-Brexit Britain is searching its soul in self-imposed (and not so splendid) isolation, even as it remains close to continental Europeans through NATO and strong cultural and historical ties.

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