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Europe in the Shadows

With the world increasingly dominated by the US and China, Europe must develop a much stronger common voice on economics, defense, and trade. But this will require Germany, in particular, to rethink some of its long-held positions.

BERLIN – Recently, I met up with an ambassador of a Southeast Asian country. We started discussing the current trade dispute between the United States and China, as well as the arrest, on a US warrant, of a senior executive of the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. My interlocutor then summed up the dilemma facing Germany and Europe. 

“The Chinese train left the station years ago. You will not bring it back. But you can’t leap on to it, either, because if you did, you would take a stand against the US,” the ambassador said. “We small countries know the feeling of sitting between stools, and we have learned to keep the balance. For you Europeans, this is new. You’d better learn to keep the balance quickly.”

The United States has long been Europe’s most important ally. But with China now its main competitor, the US is bound to continue shifting its attention to the Pacific. The world’s political and strategic center of gravity will move with it. If Europeans don’t wake up soon, a “G2” world, dominated by the US and China, will become a reality.