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Even if the Russian-Ukrainian war has united Europe behind it, this does not mean that the old continent has overcome the many obstacles and issues that at times threaten to disintegrate and fragment it, contrary to what the early Europeans aspired to when they launched the unification project, which has made significant and historic strides.

There is a political reading that considers that the European performance in dealing with Russia’s war on Ukraine on February 24, 2022 was successful in terms of responding quickly to the requirements of confronting Moscow, providing military and logistical support to Kyiv, refusing to acquiesce to changing the balance of power on the continent by force and searching for alternatives to Russian gas and oil supplies.

However, none of this would have been possible without the great, if not absolute, American support for the Europeans in this war, and the fact that Washington considers that it is fully involved in it regardless of geographical distance.

At the same time, however, Europe’s near-absolute security and military dependence on the US at critical moments has raised many questions about the sustainability of these solutions and the alternatives available should the United States no longer play this role. This has already happened under former US President Donald Trump and is likely to happen again if he returns to office at the end of this year. Trump has made no secret of his willingness to cut NATO spending, which could jeopardize the European-US partnership and hinder European security. In the same vein, the divergence, albeit unspoken, between Europe and the United States cannot be overlooked in the approach to external threats. While Europe fears the “Russian bear,” Washington prioritizes confronting China and waging a brutal trade war with it on several fronts, in addition to the tension in bilateral relations between the two countries over the Taiwan issue.

While Europe, collectively or through its various states, does not have as many major interests in the Pacific as the United States does—which makes its priorities quite different—European dependence on Washington is indispensable in light of the growing military and security challenges. But there are many other issues facing European unity, including the rise of the far right in several European countries as a result of the expansion of neoliberal policies and the growing political rejection of state intervention in the exercise of its social function, even if only minimally. These waves of populist extremism based on nationalist tendencies are increasing their opposition to immigration and clamping down on migrants, leading to a setback in European relations with the South and the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The disparity between the different policies adopted by European governments affects internal European integration and the relationship with ideas related to human rights, democracy and other glossy slogans in Western literature that have been, and continue to be, severely tested by the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, with a death toll reaching more than 28,000, most of whom were civilians.

The whole idea of a European project has lost its enthusiasm in many European countries except France and Germany, which continue to lead the union and constitute a driving force for it, although each has its own domestic circumstances that may get in the way at some junctures. The divergence between European countries is widening on hot-button issues, such as the significantly different way Spain expressed itself on the Israeli war on Gaza compared to the German and French positions, which formed a front line of defense for Tel Aviv and its brutal war.

Modernizing the Union’s decision-making mechanisms remains difficult in light of the membership of 27 countries, which is set to expand to include Ukraine and Moldova, and needs a radical rethink, but the most prominent challenge remains: how can a confederation with such a large number of countries make decisions that not all members are happy with, and how to manage this while waiting for the approval of all members?