Europe’s Power to Lead

Lacking in military "hard" power, Europe is often underestimated as a global player. But European countries' success in overcoming centuries of animosity, and the development of a large internal market, has given them a great deal of soft power, with the world's aspiring democracies looking to the EU for leadership.

CAMBRIDGE -- At this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, the buzz was about Asia’s growing power. One Asian analyst argued that by 2050, there will be three world powers: the United States, China, and India. He did not mention Europe, but underestimating Europe’s power is a mistake.

Yes, Europe currently punches below its weight. It is fragmented, peaceful, and normative in a world of hard power, but part of the world is not about military power. The use of force among advanced industrial democracies is virtually unthinkable. In their relations with each other , such countries are all from Venus, to paraphrase Robert Kagan, and here Europe’s focus on law and institutions is an asset.

As for other parts of the world, a recent Pew poll found that many Europeans would like Europe to play a larger role, but to balance American military power would require a doubling or tripling of defense spending, and few Europeans are interested in such an increase. Nevertheless, a smart strategy for Europe will require greater investments in hard power.

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