Europe is not ready for 2025

, by Gergely Kozar

All the versions of this article: [English] [italiano]

Europe is not ready for 2025
President Trump and Ursula Von der Leyen in Davos, The White House from Washington, DC, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Waning Atlanticism

When Donald Trump won in 2016, it was a shock felt around the world. People searched and scrambled for a new “leader of the free world”. For the first time since the Second World War people in Europe began to widely question the reliability of the United States and the value of NATO. For a time politicians even discussed initiating military integration in the framework of the European Union, and the new circumstance brought a desire for strategic autonomy practically into the political mainstream. The Permanent Structured Cooperation was initiated in this spirit in 2017. In practice however, the promise of European self-reliance has not materialised.

Part of the reason for that may be the subsequent presidency of Joe Biden. Biden may have been criticised for being old, but he also brought with him an old-school Cold War hawkishness and he has been consistently committed to European security. America’s commitment to NATO under Biden has been absolute, and no country has supported Ukraine more than the United States.

And yet, despite initial bipartisan support, the Republican Party has recently begun blocking aid to Ukraine. Orbán has done the same in Europe, also repeatedly calling for peace through concessions to Russia, and was recently in Washington for an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation, an influential lobby which lobbied against aid to Ukraine.

The Chained Colossus

This brings us to Project 2025, the Heritage Foundation’s flagship project, also titled the “Presidential Transition Project”. Project 2025 aims to provide the playbook for the next conservative administration, on the assumption that Republicans win the 2024 elections. While it is likely planned with a Trump victory in mind, The Heritage Foundation emphasises that its vision is not dependent on any particular president.

Before getting into details, it is first and foremost important to understand that the Heritage Foundation is not just any conservative lobbying group. It is one of the biggest names in the game, and was incredibly influential during the Reagan administration. Today Project 2025 is backed by over 80 conservative organisations. There is no reason to believe that the Heritage Foundation would not be incredibly influential should the GOP win the 2024 presidential elections.

Now as then, the Heritage Foundation has prepared a comprehensive policy agenda in the form of a nearly 900-page book Mandate for Leadership which, among other things, seeks to combat “woke culture warriors” and “the globalist elite”. Besides the complete erasure of LGBTQ+ people (labelling under some circumstances even the mention of their existence as “pornography” which they claim ought to be outlawed) and an emphasis on so-called Christian values, family and community, the central promise of Mandate for Leadership is the dismantlement of “the administrative state.” In American parlance, the administrative state refers to the various agencies and departments such as the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Justice (both examples are also specifically named in the document). Project 2025 identifies the apolitical “bureaucrats” of these institutions as threats to conservative aims. Through the “Unified Executive Theory” The Heritage Foundation argues that these departments answer to the executive and that the President holds ultimate power over them, which they aim to use to gut these institutions entirely. As a part of this process, Project 2025 is recruiting conservative loyalists whom they will be able to use to staff bureaucratic positions on day 1. Should they succeed they may replace the entire civil service with sycophants if that is what is necessary to enforce and entrench their vision of America.

While as of the time of writing the Heritage Foundation has yet to publish it, they are also working on a 180 day playbook to put their authoritarian plan in action and fundamentally transform the country before they can face meaningful opposition from the Democrats. Europe Alone?

All this culminates in a possible worst case scenario in which in 2025 American support for Ukraine dries up, as may concern for European security in general. Indeed, Mandate for Leadership sees the future of NATO as one where American involvement is restricted largely to a nuclear umbrella, with Europeans fielding the military forces needed to defend themselves. Given the lack of credibility of the United States triggering a nuclear war over the Baltic states, this represents de facto a considerably weakened commitment to European security. Europe is in no way prepared for this possibility. No meaningful steps have been taken since 2016 which would have made the European Union a credible military power or security provider, nor is the European Union going to be able to make up for lost aid to Ukraine.

Quite the opposite, attitudes towards supporting the war effort have already soured in some countries, with cost of living having quickly become a political priority as Russian oil was cut off. As the war drags on with no end in sight, the number of those who are willing to accept a humiliating peace at the expense of Ukraine is going to keep growing. Hopes of renewed trade with Russia or even simply frustration at aid sent abroad during economic hardship create a fertile ground for populism in Europe. Especially for countries further from Russia and without a history of Russian oppression, being entangled in such a war will likely become increasingly unpopular.

As the commitment of the US to NATO wavers, there may be a renewed focus on meeting NATO spending targets, often buying American, but this will not make Europe meaningfully more capable of defending itself, as Europe’s main weakness is not a lack of budget, but its political and institutional division into separate states with state armies and state foreign policies.

If under economic and security pressures the foreign policy visions of European governments diverge significantly, each looking with distrust to the other, each prioritising their own people, their own industry, their own cost of living, their own rearmament, then the European project may be in the most precarious position it has possibly ever been in.

It is not possible to turn back the clock. Institutional reforms, rearmament, a European military, these are things which take time and which we should have started building up when we had the chance. Of course, reform is better late than never, but even now it is unlikely that the European establishment will be able or willing to look reality in the face and make the necessary decisions to keep us safe.

If the worst comes to worst, if Europe does stand alone, then we as Europeans must rise to a historic mission to protect liberty and the rights of man both in our home region and the world. If, as is likely, our politicians are unable or hesitant to make the necessary steps, then we as federalists must call them out. More than that, we as federalists must be ready with a bold vision for Europe and be ready to seize the initiative. We must be ready to offer, demand, and if need be implement the solution Europe desperately needs.

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