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The West on the Brink

BERLIN – This year and next, voters in leading Western democracies will make decisions that could fundamentally change the West – and the world – as we have known it for decades. In fact, some of these decisions have already been made, the main example being the United Kingdom’s vote in June to leave the European Union.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump in the United States and Marine Le Pen in France could very well win their countries’ upcoming presidential elections. A year ago, forecasting a victory by either would have been considered absurd; today, we must admit that such scenarios are all too possible.

The tectonic plates of the Western world have started to slip, and many people have been slow to realize the potential consequences. After the UK’s Brexit referendum, we now know better.

The UK’s decision was a de facto decision against a European order of peace based on integration, cooperation, and a common market and jurisdiction. It came amid growing internal and external pressure on that order. Internally, nationalism has been gaining strength in nearly all EU member states; externally, Russia is playing great-power politics and pushing for a “Eurasian Union” – a euphemism for renewed Russian dominance over Eastern Europe – as an alternative to the EU.