Sean Rego ’26
History can tell us a lot about the present and future. From history, we can trace paths and trends that lead us to where we are today. The history of Europe is no exception. It’s home to over 40 nation-states, diverse as they are beautiful. In its long and winding existence, we find both triumphs and horrors, both dreams and nightmares. And with that being said, we seem to never truly know the trajectory of this old world continent, especially in this time of rising tension.
With a surprise visit to Ukraine by President Biden and President Putin’s rare address on the state of the Russo-Ukrainian War, we are once again wondering about the future of Europe. As we dive into an age of uncertainty, will the nations of Europe stand firm together? Will they uphold their commitments with the West? Ultimately, will we see a Europe steadfast and strong, or disunited and maimed? Of course, these questions are nothing more than an exploration of possibilities. As Americans, we must consider the future of Europe and the fate of our Trans-Atlantic neighbors.
Perhaps, and this is simply the path of status quo, we will see a Europe remaining under American protection. NATO has binded North America and Europe together since the end of the Second World War. As of me writing, the USA remains invested in European security, with Ukraine as no exception. This is no small feat, as American military aid makes up more than half of global support. Additionally, when we consider military bases, power indexes and NATO military budget, America is an unmatched juggernaut.We’re in the age of Pax Americana, and our European allies are one of the many benefactors. While we spend billions on our global military, the likes of Germany and France remain relatively laxed in their own defense, even failing to meet promised budgets in 2022. By most accounts, it would seem that European nation-states really don’t mind lagging behind their American counterparts.
Will this continue though? While Europe enjoys this relationship, our divided Congress begs to differ. I doubt that much will be done in the next two years (and perhaps far longer than that) to aid our allies in Europe, simply because both parties would shoot down any plan made by the other. Furthermore, it’s questionable to say that the collective American populace cares much about affairs outside of the country. This isn’t to say that I believe America will break her commitments: rather, the affairs of Europe will be nudged aside for arguably more pressing issues, at home and in the Pacific. Rising tensions with China suggest that the United States will focus cooperation with her Pacific partners, like Japan, South Korea, and Australia, all of whom actually take the threat of war seriously and have highly trained defense forces.
Meanwhile, European nations each seem to be having an identity crisis. The big question is: how strong can our nation be against the behemoths of the modern age? For centuries, the powers of the continent ruled the world, but now they seem quite vulnerable. Will this lead to greater unity– something like a European Federation? Naturally, there is already the European Union, which works as a framework for intercontinental cooperation. Interestingly, a united European front has been made against the Russo-Ukrainian War. In Mid-February, European Leaders met in Munich to discuss increasing defense spending and cooperation, and even a suggestion to pool military budgets. It isn’t a complete fantasy for some form of greater cohesion, especially as the topic of invasion is now heard daily. Furthermore, decisions across the EU seem to be influenced more and more by the powers in Paris and Berlin. But even so, it’s far from a guarantee that we will see a unified Europe in the years to come.
For Europe to be united, it would require a continental system that obtains political, economical and militaristic balance. It would also need to up its game against foreign powers, and not take the warnings of energy crises, invasions and American abandonment lightheartedly. Fundamentally, a European superstate is a mere dream, and the powers that be have not the competence or motivation for such a staggering initiative, not at least in the coming years.
So where have we arrived? What’s the fate of this mythical continent? Well, without the massive amounts of American support that we currently see or some spontaneous revelation for unity, Europe will return to its natural form: different nations vying for power in and around the continent. Like in the centuries prior, we may very well see competition spark across the continent as the worries of outside dangers set in. Italy has made a considerable move to populism under the new Meloni government, France continues to try and keep its influence in Africa, Germany faces its self-inflicted energy problems, all while the United Kingdom tries to find its footing away from the mainland. Poland for one takes the threat of war very seriously. The Slavic nation does more to show it too, rapidly expanding its military, expecting to be a formidable force in the near future.
For each day that passes, I question more and more the continuation of the status quo in Europe. Whether you’re an American, European, or something else, it’s hard not to wonder about the future of a continent with such a monumental past. Some of the largest empires and most creative ideas have been birthed in Europe’s lands. The Russo-Ukrainian War, as tragic as it is, is in fact only a single moment in the story of Europe. Yet even the tiniest moments can sway the world. So in this moment of uncertainty, I can only imagine the path our partners across the Atlantic will take. As the chaotic forces of the world grow stronger, I can only hope that forces promoting liberty and freedom endure. And wherever the paths for our two grand continents take us, I hope Europe and America will choose cordiality in the age to come.
Featured image courtesy of Politico
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