China and Russia test the limits of EU power
By Gideon Rachman
17 January 2022
Are Europeans doomed to spend the 21st century being pushed around by outside powers? In Brussels, they like to argue that the collective power of the EU is the only way of saving the old continent from that ignominious fate. Although no single European country can stand toe-to-toe with America or China, the EU collectively ranks as one of the world’s three largest economies.
But the idea that the EU’s economic weight can be easily converted into geopolitical power is undergoing a brutal reality check. The Ukraine crisis has seen the EU sidelined. Meanwhile China has imposed unofficial economic sanctions on Lithuania, an EU member — and Brussels is struggling to find an appropriate response.
If things go badly for the EU over the coming weeks and months, talk of a “geopolitical” Europe will sound increasingly ridiculous. But it is also possible that the current crises — in particular the Lithuanian challenge — will lead to a leap forward in the EU’s ability to defend its interests in the global arena.