The economic growth generated by the globalization of the world economy over the past several decades has supported the rise of emerging powers. This in turn is leading to an expected change in the international system, giving rise to theories of a multipolar or a polycentric world, with higher interdependencies and multiple poles of power. Nevertheless, the consequences of the global financial crisis are currently challenging these theories and forecasts. At the transatlantic level, the combination of several trends—such as continuously shrinking defense budgets and declining public and political interest in NATO on both sides of the Atlantic, and a greater strategic emphasis in the U.S. on the Asia-Pacific region—could affect the United States’ level of engagement in Europe and, consequently, in Europe’s security.
Europe would find itself in a weak spot, facing difficulties in dealing with the possible (military, humanitarian, etc.) crises in its neighborhood, at least in the short to medium term. Yet Europe holds at least some of the right cards in order to remain a relevant actor in the future, based on its economy, internal structure, and functioning; it is well positioned to play an important role at the international and multinational level. In order to achieve this future state, Europe must dedicate thought and resources. The continuation and deepening of the transatlantic relation—even if not on an exclusive footing—would be a natural response to the challenges of the twenty-first century, and would prove beneficial to both sides of the Atlantic.