Left-wing activists are concerned about the U.S. becoming too intrusive, but what they really should fear is a U.S. that turns its back on Sweden and Europe.
Is the West about to go under? For the first time in the post war era, this is now a scenario being taken seriously. In just a year’s time, most of what we take for granted may have been washed away.
The famous historian Anne Applebaum recently wrote that she had not been through a moment as dramatic as this in her adult life.
"Right now, we are two or three bad elections away from the end of NATO, the end of the European Union and maybe the end of the liberal world order as we know it."
Let us start with the European nightmare. On top of the euro crisis, we have added one disaster situation after the other — an urgent immigration crisis, a Russia out for revenge, recurring acts of terrorism, growing populism, and the threat of Brexit.
The common factors are fragmentation and weakening. If the British decide to leave the European Union in their referendum in June, Europe would change permanently. Brexit may also set in motion exits by other member countries.
Another tense situation is the French presidential election next spring. Today, it is hard to believe Marine Le Pen from the right-wing extremist National Front Party would have a chance of winning. But in case of such an unfortunate event, Russia would gain a close ally in the Elysée Palace in Paris. In addition, Le Pen has promised that France would leave both the EU and NATO.
Germany’s weakened leader is another factor. Angela Merkel has been the EU’s source of strength in the last few years. She has personally been the glue keeping Europe together and sanctions against the Kremlin in place. However, with Merkel now starting to falter, Europe is facing the risk of being without a leader.
Even on the other side of the Atlantic, trends are worrying. Talk in Washington is heavily dominated by the 21-page interview with Barack Obama in the latest edition of The Atlantic. Here the president gives his view of the world, including being fed up with war and with allies not contributing their fair share in relation to American efforts.
Time and again, Obama comes back to the problem of “free riders” who refuse to pay their fair share to protect their national security, counting on the U.S. to step in and lead when a dangerous situation arises.
It is clear that America no longer wants to be the insurance company of the world. The U.S. is fed up with being the one that, on its own, pays to keep waterways open, ensures oil is flowing safely, and that world order is guaranteed.
If this aggravation is a faint background chord with the internationalist Obama, it takes the shape of aggressive trumpet blasts with the nationalist Donald Trump. He despises the U.S. allies that drain the country’s resources.
With Trump as president, both alliances and security guarantees would be disposed of like balls of crunched up paper. In the same spirit, he would most likely also declare war on free trade. And that’s not the end of it. Trump has made it clear that he respects strong leaders like Putin. He wants to reintroduce waterboarding, deport Muslims from the U.S., and stop the work on climate control. His worldview is a declaration of war against the current world order. If it becomes a reality, it would be the end of Pax Americana and the trans-Atlantic link between the U.S. and Europe.
In its place, there would be a world of isolationism, trade warfare, moral breakdown, and authoritarian leaders exploiting the world for their own interests.
You could argue that this negative projection is unlikely to become reality. After all, it is a lot more likely that Hillary Clinton, rather than Trump, will be the victor at the end of the presidential election. It is also far from a foregone conclusion that the British will leave the EU. Perhaps the U.S. as well as the EU will be a lot stronger in a year’s time than they are today. If the EU manages to solve the immigration crisis, much of what threatens to break up the EU would get turned on its head. Merkel would regain her political strength, internal border controls would be removed, and Russian pressure would be diminished.
But the situation can also slip out of our hands. If so, we are witnessing a historical moment where the West as we know it gets dismantled bit by bit. That would sharpen all our senses.
From a Swedish point of view, it has never been more important to protect the trans-Atlantic connection to the U.S. and care for the unity of the EU. We shouldn’t waste energy on a United Nations campaign when the ground is shaking under our own house.
Left-wing activists usually fight U.S. presence in Europe. During the spring, powerful voices have debated over intrusive American aims to place nuclear weapons on Swedish soil, coming up with one creative and unlikely scenario after the other.
However, it is not the risk of the U.S. encroaching on our backyard we should worry about. The real danger comes with U.S. pulling out of Europe.
We need the U.S. more than ever as a balance against Putin’s Russia and as a trading partner. We certainly don’t want to be left alone in the Baltic Sea region. Thankfully, the U.S. has promised to increase its military presence in Europe again after the invasion of Ukraine, but the investment is temporary and can be pulled back at any time.
It would be good if the government acknowledged this dependency more openly, rather than keeping our love for America behind closed doors. Even on the left side of the political spectrum, they may soon realize that the only thing worse than having the U.S. as “world police” is not having them.