Europe has been a geopolitical nonentity since the 1990s. With the largest economy in the world, 450 million people, and defense spending comparable to Russia’s, the continent could be a colossus. Yet Europe has never come close to equaling the combined clout of its constituent countries. Beset by chronic economic, political, and institutional limitations and crises, the European Union has for the last three decades exerted remarkably little influence on global affairs. Europe’s most powerful member states, meanwhile, have either seen their sway diminish, as France has, or, like Germany, resisted taking up the mantle of international leadership.
U.S. analysts have come to see European fecklessness as a given. In 2011, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that in the twenty-first century “Europe’s influence on affairs beyond its borders will be sharply limited.” Not only has Brussels disappointed Washington by refusing to share more of the burden of collective security but it has punched well below its diplomatic weight on matters of global import.The above excerpt was originally published in Foreign Affairs. Please click here to view the full article.