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Fewer and fewer Westerners are buying the ‘Atlanticism’ idea

A recent poll has shown a growing number of people in the US and Western Europe are tired of NATO’s professed goals

As a political de-facto entity, the post-Cold War West has always struggled to articulate a common purpose. The underlying cause of this difficulty is that the real existing (as opposed to the ideologically imagined) West – despite appeals to historical, cultural, and value commonalities – is defined by geopolitics. It emerged out of World War II as a sphere of Cold War US domination and hegemony, especially in Western Europe. The declared purpose – subservience to US empire? This is not the kind of thing that lends itself to open acknowledgement.

The reach of this American empire, dating back to at least 1823 – the year of the original if somewhat casual announcement of the Monroe Doctrine – has, of course, not been restricted to this West. Ask those it bruised, bought, subjugated, and often killed in South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. But the West is special, in that it holds a particularly important and privileged position. Some American strategists – such as the late, Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski – have made a fetish out of arguing that without Ukraine, Russia cannot be an empire. While it is by no means clear that post-Cold War Russia wants an empire (not the same as a sphere of influence), it is certain that the US cannot be one without its hold over Europe – that is, the Atlantic edge of the Eurasian ‘heartland’.

And yet, when the Cold War ended, there was no conceivable good security reason for European states to remain subservient to the US. The Soviet Union and its Eastern European military alliance – the Warsaw Pact, an organization that President Joe Biden can now only remember as “that other outfit” – were gone, and the EU, with all its flaws, could have provided an institutional basis for establishing an autonomous European power bloc second to none in the world.

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