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The Future of Transatlanticism Is Up to Europe

Summary:
European leaders who speak of a need for "fundamental" change in the transatlantic alliance are missing the point. The relationship with the United States has already been irreversibly altered, and what most needs to be updated is Europe's conception of itself. BERLIN – Politicians who don’t know what to do when confronted with new or difficult circumstances often resort to empty phrases. This certainly appears to be the case for Europe and its changing relations with the United States. America’s Compromised State Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images Toward a New Fiscal Constitution PS OnPoint

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European leaders who speak of a need for "fundamental" change in the transatlantic alliance are missing the point. The relationship with the United States has already been irreversibly altered, and what most needs to be updated is Europe's conception of itself.

BERLIN – Politicians who don’t know what to do when confronted with new or difficult circumstances often resort to empty phrases. This certainly appears to be the case for Europe and its changing relations with the United States.

For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel now argues that transatlantic relations need a “fundamental” reappraisal, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas insists that there is an “urgent need for action.” But what does this mean? Where are the concrete proposals specifying what such action should entail?

The fact is that we Europeans – especially we Germans – long took comfort in the assumption that the post-war order would more or less maintain itself after the Soviet Union’s disintegration. After all, the US was the only remaining superpower, and it happened to be our closest friend. While we looked after ourselves at home, the US (with a little help from its nuclear-armed French and British friends on the United Nations Security Council) would assume responsibility for the wider world.

But since the geopolitical upheavals of the 1990s, the US – unlike most Europeans – has actually reflected on the changing world. It concluded that in the twenty-first century, it would have to think...

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