A World Without Europe Spells Danger and Woe


20th August 2012

The return of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis is redefining the region’s relationship with the outside world. Whether or not the euro holds together, the solidarity among European countries has been sorely tested and the sensitivity of national electorates to the distribution of costs and benefits within the EU has increased.

This tension at the heart of the European project puts on hold any notion that the EU could in the near future emerge as a coherent and forceful foreign policy actor – or at least until Italy and Spain have secure access to international capital markets and probably until more badly affected countries, such as Greece and Hungary, are regarded as equal partners. Until then, the UK, France and Germany will continue to pursue their national interests on the world stage but “Europe” will be absent.

This absence – rooted in economic factors but with both geopolitical and structural consequences – will be felt in numerous ways. The most important is the loss of Europe as an example of regional integration. Much of the continent’s influence in international affairs has taken place through the projection of its values and institutions to other parts of the world.

Asean, Mercosur and Nafta are not the direct result of European influence but they would not have developed as they did if Europe had not been around to demonstrate the possibilities. The EU has also shown itself to be an effective actor. It helped to broker the ceasefire between Russia and Georgia in 2008, it plays the central role in the post-conflict stabilisation of Bosnia and Kosovo, and contributes to numerous other peacekeeping operations across the globe.

A world without Europe will also be a more dangerous place. As centres of power continue to proliferate, Europe will be required to meet its own strategic responsibilities. While Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, may continue to build a more rational European External Action Service and the European Council may make some headway in strengthening sanctions on Syria and Iran, such actions will mark the limits and not the foundations for collective action. This is a problem because ultimately security is a collective endeavour.

When it comes to terrorism, crime, immigration, climate change, conflict or access to energy or other natural resources, crises from the Middle East to central Africa show that policy makers must work together across countries to achieve both shared and national objectives.

Such interdependence is the byproduct of the economic and security integration that constituted the west at the end of the second world war. It is not a new feature in the globalised world economy but it is more intense than before – even as populist and protectionist forces gain strength. The possibilities, then, for national policy makers to go it alone are far more tightly restricted – not only for Europe but also the US.

The implications can be seen in the changing patterns of American global leadership. At the end of the second world war, the US took much of the responsibility for co-ordination upon itself as the undisputed leader of the west. But, over time, this leadership became increasingly costly and the US became ever more overstretched.

Today there is nothing undisputed about American leadership. Other actors have become more responsible and more assertive. Within this new arrangement, and depending upon the region and the issue, Europe has a crucial role to play.

Barack Obama’s administration has recognised explicitly this changing global context: it gave Europe a privileged position in the architecture of its 2010 national security strategy; it supported French and UK initiatives in Libya; and it made a clear decision to pivot the emphasis in its deployments.

Yet we now face the prospect that Europe will not be able to live up to its responsibilities. The EU is divided. Germany feels overburdened by the eurozone crisis and continues to downsize its military. France is only beginning to confront the extent of its fiscal challenge and could well turn inward. The UK is preparing – in its prime minister’s words – for a decade of austerity.

The absence of Europe will leave the next US administration – whether Democrat or Republican – with little choice but to expand its foreign commitments. Mitt Romney has already written that into his objectives. However, such actions will only weaken the US economy and underscore the distribution of costs and benefits across the Atlantic.

In June 2011, the outgoing defence secretary Robert Gates warned against this prospect in his valedictory address in Brussels. His speech was viewed by many Europeans as alarmist; now it seems prescient. The only question is how long a hostile Congress will take to wake up to that fact. Yet finger-pointing across the Atlantic will serve no country’s national interest. A world without Europe will be an unhappier and more perilous place – even for the US.


Strategic advantage in a volatile world

The Firm

Nader Mousavizadeh and David Claydon founded Macro Advisory Partners in 2013 to provide a global client base with a competitive advantage in a complex world. Driven by a belief in the value of independent, long-term strategic counsel, MAP's co-founders created a firm that delivers actionable macro strategies to decision-makers in business, finance and government.

A volatile and fragmenting global landscape requires an integrated understanding of the political and economic drivers of change. Drawing on MAP's unique network, the firm’s partners — including Andrew Feldman and John Sawers — create tailored and innovative macro solutions mapped to the specific exposures, risks and opportunities facing the firm’s clients.

MAP's London and New York-based team of partners, directors and associates is supported by a Global Advisory Board and a group of Senior Advisors drawn from leadership positions in the worlds of business, finance, politics, diplomacy and technology.

Global Advisory Board
  • Louise Arbour

    Jurist in Residence, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
    Louise Arbour is a jurist in residence at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, and former UN Special Representative for International Migration.
  • William Burns

    President, Carnegie Endowment
    Ambassador Burns is President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and was the 17th United States Deputy Secretary of State.
  • Mala Gaonkar

    Co-portfolio Manager, Lone Pine Capital
    Mala Gaonkar is Co-portfolio Manager at Lone Pine Capital, and a former consultant at the World Bank.
  • Vikram Mehta

    Executive Chairman, Brookings India
    Vikram Mehta is a leading Indian businessman who was Chairman of the Shell Group of Companies in India.
  • David Miliband

    President, IRC
    David Miliband is President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, following a distinguished political career in the United Kingdom.
  • Vali Nasr

    Dean, SAIS
    Dr Vali Nasr is Dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University.
  • Jonathan Powell

    Director, Inter Mediate
    Jonathan is Director of Inter Mediate.
  • Carl-Henric Svanberg

    Chairman, BP
    Carl-Henric Svanberg is Chairman of BP Plc.


Macro Advisory Partners provides corporate, investor and sovereign clients with the strategic insights to navigate the intersection of global markets, geopolitics and policy.

In a world defined by volatility and uncertainty — and an abundance of information, yet scarcity of insight — we identify the strategic implications for decision-makers tasked with maximising opportunity and minimising risk. The Archipelago World is characterised by fragmenting markets, populist politics, policy unpredictability, revolutionary technology, and weaponised arenas of finance, regulation and cyber.  The implications of this environment are dramatic and lasting. To help our clients anticipate and navigate these shifts in the macro landscape, we bring together deep on-the-ground analysis with long-term strategic judgement tailored to our clients' specific interests, exposures and concerns.

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