The Second Year of Europe

NEW YORK – More than four decades ago, US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger declared 1973 to be “The Year of Europe.” His aim was to highlight the need to modernize the Atlantic relationship and, more specifically, the need for America’s European allies to do more with the United States in the Middle East and against the Soviet Union in Europe.

Kissinger would be the first to admit that the Europeans did not take up his challenge. Nevertheless, we again face a year of Europe. This time, though, the impetus is coming less from a frustrated US government than from within Europe itself.

The stakes are as high as they were in 1973, if not higher. Russia shows no sign of withdrawing from Crimea or stopping its efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine. There is genuine concern Russia might employ similar tactics against one or more of the small NATO countries on its border.

Refugees have added to Europe’s strain, as has terrorism inspired by events in the Middle East or carried out by attackers from the region. Brexit, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, has now formally begun; what remains to be resolved are its timing and terms, which will determine its impact on the UK’s economic and political future and on others contemplating withdrawal from the EU. Greece and a number of other countries in southern Europe continue to be burdened by high unemployment, growing debt, and a persistent gap between what governments are being asked to do and what they can afford.