The Euro-Atlantic Partnership - Lest We Forget Our Strategic Mega-Advantage
Posted on: May/31/2015 12:17 pm by: Max Primorac

Russia's flagrant violation of international norms, China's threats to strategic Pacific waterways and Islamic extremists' upending of the Middle East is more than enough fodder to leave us unsure of America's continued ability to shape global events. But that sentiment is misplaced.

Last week, I was invited by Germany's venerable Konrad Adenauer Foundation to speak at its Transatlantic Conference 2015: Partnership & Collaboration – Building Sustainable Strategies for a Changed World. What an uplifting reminder that the largest and wealthiest bloc of countries solidly share our commitment to a liberal and peaceful international order. We are stronger than we realize.

With all the talk of China as the inexorable next superpower and the future of US trade lying with Asia, in fact it is the US-EU hub that remains the fulcrum of global wealth, freedom and power. The 28 countries of the European Union number more than 500 million well educated and innovative people with a Gross National Product of $18.5 trillion, the world's largest. Last year, US-EU trade was $700 billion or over half of world trade. Since 2000, US investment in the Netherlands has been 14 times that in China and six times greater with tiny Ireland. True, global disorder is on the rise as are threats to our liberal way of life, but we score an autogoal by concluding, as many wrongly do, that our primary task is managing America's supposed decline rather than resolutely combatting threats to our shared democratic values and not cede to the collectivist temptation of might makes right.

No doubt, Europe's demilitarization of recent years is a problem and must be reversed. Yet, NATO remains the world's premier military alliance binding half the world's wealth production, the foundation of a strong defense. After the Cold War, NATO membership expanded to 28 members while the Warsaw Pact disappeared. How many countries can Russia and China call an ally? In fact, Vladimir Putin has done much to remind us of our partnership. His crass agression prompted the US and EU to jointly impose punishing sanctions on Russia. In reaction, Poland and the Baltic States formally seek permanent NATO, especially US, forces on their homelands, while the Scandinavians and other European capitals have begun to ramp up their defense spending. The US has subsequently halted further troop withdrawals from Europe and is weighing military aid to Ukraine.

During the conference I spoke about Russia's war on Ukraine and more generally on Western values. I compared the US-Soviet power disparity in 1985 to that between the US and Russia in 2013. In 1985 the Soviets had a larger population and an economy half that of the US. Today, Russia's population is nearly one-third ours and an economy only one-eighth in size. The Washington, DC-Moscow power disparity is enormous. Add to that equation the strength of our European allies and the much vaunted Russia bear looks anything but ten feet tall.

We often view Europe through the innocuous lens of travel, haute cuisine and high performing cars. Yet, the transatlantic alliance -- based not only on economic interdependence and collective security but most importantly on the binding firmament of common Western values -- is a mega-strategic advantage of both soft and hard power that should forcefully drive our rejection of Russian, Chinese and ISIL threats with unflinching confidence and resolve. 

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