European Union and the Emerging Great-Power Competition
World War II, and the period of decolonization that followed it, brought to an end the centuries-long global domination of Europe’s great powers. After 1945, neither of the global powers—the United States and the Soviet Union—was European, and a plethora of newly independent nation-states bounded onto the world stage. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US became the world’s only superpower – and quickly overextended itself. Having achieved victories both in the Pacific and in Europe, only the US was strong enough to provide the still-dominant West with a political and economic order. The unipolar moment ended with the senseless US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003, respectively. But the global order cannot exist in a vacuum, because other powers will always step in to fill the void. Hence, the new emerging power, China, has been rushing to assert itself on the world stage, as has a militarily reinvigorated Russia, the world’s other major nuclear power after the US. The current order is no longer defined by one or two superpowers, nor is it based on multilateralism or on any other framework designed to balance competing interests and contain, prevent, or resolve conflicts.
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