Two decades ago, Western democracies were confident that the world was ripe for a global order fashioned in their own image: Germany had reunited, the Soviet Union collapsed, Moscow appeared eager for closer cooperation with trans-Atlantic partners, and countries around the globe had embarked on a trajectory towards liberal democracy and market economy. History, it was claimed, had ended.
In 2016, this hope appears more like an illusion: violence and disorder in the Middle East is intensifying; a new Cold War between Russia and the United States is once again a possibility; and Europe—increasingly surrounded by conflict—lacks the will and capacity to exert much meaningful international agency. Meanwhile Americans, once supportive of the U.S role as eminent superpower and guarantor of international peace, seem inclined to disengage from the world.
What will the West look like over the next four years? Is it now indisputable that the international liberal order, structured around Western leadership, norms, and institutions, has fallen apart? How will the policies of the new U.S. administration shape the future of the post-Cold War order? How can Europe contribute? Can the global liberal order be salvaged, with its rough edges softened; or should be it be transformed to fit the realities of the 21st century?
On November 16, the Center on the United States and Europe, in partnership with the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America, hosted a panel discussion on the future of the West and trans-Atlantic relations. Speakers included Ralf Fücks of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Julianne Smith of the Center for a New American Security, and William Galston of Brookings. Constanze Stelzenmüller of Brookings offered introductory remarks. The discussion was moderated by Julian Borger of the Guardian.