European security is in crisis. Like every crisis, this one not only has a prior history, it has also been in the offing for quite some time. 2008 marked a first peak, after the Bush administration offered the NATO Membership Action Plan to Georgia and Ukraine: Russia demonstrated in the war with Georgia who sets the tone in the former Soviet Union. A similar pattern emerged in 2014 in the Ukrainian crisis, this time with the EU in charge and Russia reacting even more forcefully. Since then, the crisis has escalated with almost unrestrained momentum. Its most recent expression is the termination of the INF Treaty, which carries with it the acute danger of a new (medium-range) missile crisis on the continent.
The Trump administration’s recent statements and actions have removed any doubt that it is set on dismantling part of the multilateral order which the United States once helped build. America’s retreat from the role of a hegemon that creates and enforces order is a problem for US allies committed to a rule-based world. What can they do to save it, and what can they learn from past episodes of US unilateralism? In this blogpost (based on a new article), we argue that even though great challenges remain, in many policy-areas the prospects of a “multilateralism minus one” have improved.