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The Transatlantic Rupture

In the past, Europeans often diminished the value of geography, which would have demanded a closer relationship with Russia, in favor of the geography of values, which justified a transatlantic orientation. When the US is led by an administration that is betraying those values, however, that argument no longer applies.

PARIS – The national park of Thingvellir, 30 miles east of Reykjavik, is Iceland’s most important historical site. It is the place where the Vikings founded the first democratic parliament in 930, and where the Republic of Iceland proclaimed its independence from Denmark in 1944. It also sits on a massive geological fracture, where the small Hreppafleki plate forms a narrow rift between the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia. In the current geopolitical environment, the symbolism is potent.

No doubt, there is a rift between the United States and Europe. The Hreppafleki plate can represent China, which has reclaimed its position in the top tier of global powers – a situation to which the US and Europe cannot seem to agree on a response. Or perhaps it is more accurate to have Hreppafleki represent US President Donald Trump, whose repeated provocations – including with regard to China – have depleted transatlantic goodwill, while undermining America’s role in the world.

The Cold War, from 1945 to 1989, was characterized by a bipolar world order in which stability depended on a balance of nuclear terror. After 1989, a more hopeful order emerged, led by a hegemonic US, though it was still destabilized by forces like international terrorism. But we have now entered a new phase, in which the US is actively alienating the rest of the world, by violating norm after norm.

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