European Elections Reveal Nations Want to Dine Lavishly, Skip Out on the Check

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Our concerns should extend well beyond Europe. After all, if the most cooperative and well-coordinated region in the world begins to adopt an "every nation for itself" approach to policy, what does this signal for the rest of us? Americans are already far more focused on jobs and debt than on foreign policy questions, and it's no secret that rising regional powers like China, India, the Gulf Arab states, and Brazil are far too busy with domestic development challenges to take on the costs and risks that come with a larger share of global leadership.

At a time when so many problems span borders—from the need to re-energize the global economy, manage conflict in the world's hotspots, cooperate on development of new energy technologies, contain terrorist threats, and limit the longer-term damage of climate change—leadership matters. Leaders have the wealth and power to persuade governments to take actions they wouldn't otherwise take. They pick up the checks that others can't afford and provide services no one else will pay for. On issue after issue, they set the international agenda.

The United States will continue to offer this sort of leadership on many issues, but a growing number of nations now have the political and economic leverage to resist change, and a debt-burdened, war-weary American public will insist that, at least for the time being, those who make US foreign policy must learn to do more with less.

If even the Europeans are looking out for number one, the world's lack of leadership can only get worse.

Ian Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group and author of the newly-released Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World (Portfolio, 2012). Follow him on Twitter at: @ianbremmer.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of ABC News or its parent company.

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