While most of the world is engaged in the fight against the immediate fallout of the pandemic, analysts are trying to determine what the long-term consequences will look like and how to tackle them. The search for leaders of constructive reforms has been an important part of the conversation. At the same time, heads of government and leaders of international organizations have been undergoing intensive scrutiny.
The World Health Organization is generally considered to have failed the pandemic exam. The head of this UN agency is facing harsh accusations of tardiness, taking China’s side and spreading its narrative. The United States has already reacted and put on hold its financial support of WHO. Similar calls have started to emerge in Europe.
The EU, along with its leaders and its bureaucracy, has not been spared of criticism either. Ursula von der Leyen had to publicly beat herself up and apologise for not responding in a timely fashion. The EU has been dealing with day-to-day business, but it has not been unable to make long-term decisions in response to the looming economic recession.
Even now, when the good old crude oil is practically free, the old idea of the New Green Deal keeps dominating ongoing discussions in Brussels. Europe’s strategic autonomy is another example of daydreaming, even though NATO Member States can barely fulfil their military financial obligations. On the other hand, the new, ambitious European Commission has been silent on how to resolve regional conflicts in our backyard.
European leaders are also nowhere to be found. The Brits have drifted away from the Old Continent together with Brexit and Boris Johnson’s medical condition. In Berlin, the future of Angela Merkel and Germany’s political system are still unknown. In the prosperous city of Paris, protesters are telling Emmanuel Macron that they are hungry. It deprives the French President of any mandate to suggest a concerted international effort. In both Italy and Spain, tens of thousands of people have already died. The debate on potential Eurobonds has come to a standstill. European capitals are trying to monitor the developments taking place in distant Asian countries. However, such models cannot be implemented in Europe due to societal and ideological differences.
In this case, where will recovery plans for the Western Civilisation come from and who will lead the way out of the recession? The remedy and leadership have to be found within the transatlantic region. Despite the significant growth of Europe’s trade with Asia, transatlantic economic exchanges still prevail. They are not limited to trade in goods. The transatlantic market is also about services, mutual investment, innovation, R&D and e-commerce. All this overshadows trade with other regions. Finally, the transatlantic realm is about common standards, shared values and ideas. It is also a common pop-cultural ground with a similar dominant lifestyle.
In time, this lifestyle will have to change. Pandemics may replace the threat of a nuclear conflict in our collective mindset. However, it does not mean that traditional military challenges will cease to exist. New models for manufacturing and secure supply chains are also necessary. We must revisit our sanitary and food safety standards. We may be expecting a revolution in the way we communicate along with the role of the internet and AI. Today, more than ever, we could use the wisdom of the visionary author of “Solaris” – Stanislaw Lem.
Will new solutions for political and economic management materialise on the other side of the Atlantic again? In the 20th century, the US came to Europe’s rescue multiple times. It was the case during both World Wars. Then, there was the Marshall plan and victory in the Cold War. Washington was also crucial in resolving the Balkan armed conflicts and it has been the pillar of the expanded North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Finally, the United States led the battle against AIDS and Ebola.
Today, Europe is an area of prosperity. It has not been destroyed by war. Exotic solutions and messianic ideologies are not what it needs. Instead, Europe requires a pragmatic partnership. Washington remains the most desirable partner for such cooperation and leadership.
Also published in Polish by Rzeczpospolita.