Marek A. Cichocki: Vassal by Choice

The degradation of the EU’s role in relation to the U.S. is clear, especially in the development of new technologies, innovations and security policy.

In April this year, Jana Puglierin and Jeremy Shapiro, two authors from the European Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank founded by George Soros, published a fascinating report. It is worth looking at it in the context of the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius. The authors argue that since 2008, Europe’s position in relation to the U.S. has been steadily weakening, and the war in Ukraine only reinforced this phenomenon. In their opinion, we are even dealing with the repeated “vassalization” of Europe in relation to Washington.

Both authors claim that this is the result of Europe’s own weakness. The EU economy is shrinking compared to the U.S. economy, which today outstrips Europe’s by about a third. The U.S. dollar maintains its position as the global currency, while the importance of the euro in the global economic system is weakening.

The degradation of the EU’s role in relation to the U.S. is very clear, especially in the development of new technologies, innovations and, obviously, security policy and military spending. Traditionally, such an observation of Europe’s obvious weaknesses ends with the usual calls for the mobilization of the EU, undertaking new projects, decision-making centralization and the strengthening of the EU institutions. And usually, not much comes out of it later.

It is worth asking why this happens. Why, since the financial crisis of 2008, has the EU continued to lose its strength and importance in the world? Why is this happening despite its apparent activism, reforms, solemn announcements of historical breakthroughs and the undertaking of massive projects? Why did Russia’s invasion of Ukraine show an EU that is defenseless and that can, at most, play the role of an “American vassal?”

Puglierin’s and Shapiro’s report encourages us to think about the reasons. I think there are at least three that are worth looking at. First, America quickly realized that the war in Ukraine meant a new global reality of serious geopolitical rivalry, while the EU remained mentally stuck in “the end of history” mentality. Second, Americans know that responding to new challenges requires strategic flexibility, while the EU remains rigid and dogmatic in its view of the world. Third, as America is rebuilding its strategic independence, the leading EU countries still believe that others will pay for their security.

Marek A. Cichocki

The author is a professor at the Collegium Civitas

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