Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

Hand European Security Over to the Europeans

| Mar. 21, 2022

Stephen Walt is one of seven thinkers asked by Foreign Policy to weigh in on how the war in Ukraine will shift U.S. foreign policy.

For more than a century, U.S. grand strategy has focused on helping to maintain favorable balances of power in Europe, East Asia, and to a lesser extent the Persian Gulf. China's rise is the greatest long-term challenge to the United States' ability to maintain these favorable configurations of power, and Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine does not alter that fact. Looking ahead, the Biden administration should not allow the shocking events in Europe to divert it from the larger task of rebuilding strength at home and balancing Chinese power abroad.

Properly understood, the war in Ukraine shows that Europe taking greater responsibility for its security is not only desirable but feasible. The war has been a wake-up call for Europeans who believed that large-scale war on their continent had been made impossible by norms against conquest, international institutions, economic interdependence, and U.S. security guarantees. Russia's actions are a brutal reminder that hard power is still vitally important and that Europe's self-ascribed role as a "civilian power" is not enough. Governments from London to Helsinki have responded vigorously, belying predictions that "strategic cacophony" within Europe would prevent the continent from responding effectively to a common threat. Even pacifist, postmodern Germany appears to have gotten the memo.

The war has also exposed Russia's persistent military deficiencies....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walt, Stephen M.“Hand European Security Over to the Europeans.” Foreign Policy, March 21, 2022.

The Author

Stephen Walt