Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

Finally Wean Europe Off Washington

| Sep. 02, 2022

Six months into Russia's war, seven thinkers outline its impact on foreign policy.


Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Foreign Policy asked a group of prominent thinkers how Europe's first major war since 1945 will shape U.S. grand strategy going forward. While their perspectives were different, most agreed on one thing: The war marks the end of the post-Cold War era and the return of heightened superpower competition in both Europe and the Pacific.

Now that the war has passed the half-year mark, we asked the question again—and found several surprises, along with themes already visible the first time around. The liberal West has held together astonishingly well, with NATO reinvigorated by the addition of two new members and the European Union discovering a new role waging economic war. The conflict’s lessons reach far beyond Europe, impacting strategic competition with China as well.

The war also points to some problems for Washington's strategists. First and foremost: Most countries outside the West have refused to choose sides. The conflict has also accelerated a painful process of decoupling between the superpowers—especially in technology—which likely puts the final nails in the coffins of unfettered globalization and open markets, key planks of the post-Cold War order. That, too, will require new thinking on many policy fronts.

The Belfer Center's Stephen Walt was one of the contributors.  His response begins below.

When Foreign Policy first asked about the Ukraine war's impact on U.S. strategy five months ago, I argued that Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine was an ideal opportunity to start the process of weaning the United States' European allies off their excessive dependence on U.S. protection. If anything, the case for a new division of labor has grown stronger since then.

The war has shown that hard power still matters in the 21st century, exposed Europe's military shortcomings, subtly underscored the limits of the U.S. commitment, and revealed Russia's enduring military limitations. Rebuilding Europe's defenses will take time and money, but having Europe take greater responsibility for its own defense will allow the United States to shift more effort and attention to Asia to meet the many challenges posed by a more powerful and assertive China....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walt, Stephen M.“Finally Wean Europe Off Washington.” Foreign Policy, September 2, 2022.

The Author

Stephen Walt