#geopolitical fridays: “Europe’s New Medieval Map”, by Robert D. Kaplan


After our weekly shore of #exploring, #seeing, #learning and #acting
along the theme of power, time to unwind with miscellaneous
geopolitical thoughts – it must be Friday.

Not surprisingly given that I live here
and am quite fond of, I often grapple with Europe. Today, I am
looking at an insightful article by
Robert D. Kaplan published January 15, 2016 in the Wall Street
in which he predicts that Europe will fracture under
pressure from within (failure of internal and EU politics) and from
without (the outside world – Eurasia and North Africa – breaking
in, de facto ending Europe’s insularity). Under such stress, the EU
will split along ancient fault lines that
hawk back to times long forgotten: into a core around a Holy Roman
Empire of sorts and into a wider periphery. At
the heart of this conundrum lies the fate of two institutions, the EU
and NATO, and US involvement in Europe.

Kaplan foresees a reversal of alliances
in the process of fracturing: The European core will seek closer
relations with Russia to counter-balance turbulence in the Middle
East, while the periphery will try to huddle into the protective fold
of the United States having lost confidence in the promise of NATO’s
collective defense.

“The decades when we thought of
Europe as stable, predictable and dull are over. The continent’s
map is becoming medieval again, if not yet in its boundaries then at
least in its political attitudes and allegiances. The question today
is whether the EU can still hope to permanently replace the
multicultural Habsburg Empire, which for centuries sprawled across
Central and Eastern Europe and sheltered its various minorities and

The answer will depend not only on
what Europe itself does but also on what the U.S. chooses to do.
Geography is a challenge, not a fate.”

Is Europe heading back to the Middle Ages? What is true is that
for the first time since the end of the Second Word War, geographic
proximity creates real, tangible effects for those European citizens
living sheltered lives at the heart of the continent. In addition,
the EU is perceived by more and more citizens as part of the problem,
and not as a solution to political challenges linked to economic
globalisation. In this context, it might be useful to read another
article, “Four
predictions on the Future of Europe”
by Jan Techau of Carnegie
Europe side by side with Kaplan’s. Techau heralds the appearance of a
more pragmatic EU in the future, held together by common interests.
For Techau, both the motor for change and the main question will be
how Europeans react to political globalisation: Rather than
proclaiming lofty ideals, Europe will have to defend its core values.

So it is safe to say that things will be far from boring. And, that quite likely, the US will continue to play the role of fairy
godmother/ nanny/ protector of the European Union, to the detriment of European maturity.

Johanna M

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