The West is losing ground to its rivals as time passes. This is the reality that the US and Europe are facing more than ever. The situation in Ukraine is stagnant, and the war fatigue has hampered and sometimes halted the aid to Kyiv. The prospect of Trump’s re-election as the US president looms over Ukraine as a frightening possibility. The war in Gaza is not going well for Israel and its Western allies, and Israel’s land and tunnel operations will take a long time. Biden and the European leaders, for both electoral and normative/geopolitical reasons, want to end the war and broker a ceasefire. Meanwhile, this passage of time benefits Russia and Hamas, and any outcome that validates their victory claims will undermine the credibility and weaken the norms of the West, as well as diminish its influence in the two vital geopolitical regions of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. If the current trend persists, 2024 will be the year when the West, especially Europe, will pay the price for its losses.
The situation in Ukraine is deteriorating, as Russia is advancing its interests. This is due to Russia’s relentless warfare, the West’s fatigue from backing Ukraine, and the inadequate and delayed delivery of weapons to Kyiv. Meanwhile, Finland’s joining of NATO and Sweden’s impending membership have heightened Russia’s sense of threat from the NATO region, and Trump’s potential re-election has cast doubt on NATO’s sustained support for its partners. In this context, Ukraine is drifting away from its aim of reclaiming its sovereignty over the lands occupied by Russia, and Russia is nearing its objective of securing the territories it has seized. This outcome enhances Russia’s menace; erodes NATO’s and Europe’s credibility and ability to protect their allies; and reduces their influence in Eastern Europe to an all-time low.
Israel’s overwhelming equipment advantage over Hamas will also not translate into a quick victory in Gaza. In fact, even if Israel achieves its goal of destroying Hamas and its military power, this will take a long time. Meanwhile, the prolonged war in Gaza and Israel’s blatant and reckless violations of international humanitarian laws will increase the pressure from international public opinion (especially in the Global South) and the Muslim communities in the US and Europe to stop this bloodshed as soon as possible. It will also expose the double standards of the West towards Ukraine and Palestine. In this scenario, the US, Europe, and the entire Western bloc will lose their claimed normative and value credibility in the eyes of many parts of the world, especially the Arab world. And while the United States still has some leverage to keep the Arab countries dependent on it (in the fields of military and security), the relations between Europe and the Middle Eastern countries will be severely damaged.
The scenarios depicted above were once the worst-case scenarios that the West envisioned for itself in relation to these two wars. Now, they are the most probable outcomes. In other words, the nightmare of Europe and the West is becoming more real every day. The nightmare that Europe is trapped in because of the US hegemony and its own inertia. In fact, the shift in the US strategy towards Russia and China, from deterrence and military balance to containment and weakening, has not only undermined Western deterrence but also failed to contain Russia and China. Russia is on the verge of a major victory, and China has capitalized on the atmosphere of distrust towards the West and has emerged as the leader of the global south. Thus, anything short of Ukraine’s victory and Hamas’s destruction will signify the West’s defeat in its geopolitical struggle with Russia and China. A struggle that the West seems to have already lost on the normative and narrative front.
All in all, Europe is suffering the consequences of the US hegemonic ambitions and its dependence on Washington. This time, the price will be higher than ever and will erode the reputation and influence of Europe in many parts of the world and even within its own continent. This is the familiar tale of Europe’s failures in recent years; failures that resulted from blindly following Washington. However, this time, the Europeans might want to heed the Chinese proverb “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake” and avoid paying for the US greed again.