The crisis of the Liberal International Order (LIO) has resulted in, and been amplified by, the unilateral turn taken by the United States (US) under the Trump presidency. In this sense, ‘America First’ resulted in revisionism by the system leader vis-à-vis an order the US created and led for decades. This shift away from a historical US liberal hegemony has been even more consequential as it resulted in a leadership crisis and translated into episodes of rupture within the transatlantic community, which constitutes the backbone of the LIO. While the European Union (EU) initially positioned itself as a follower of the US, today it appears to oppose American ‘illiberalism’ through its rhetoric of ‘principled pragmatism’, expressed in an increasing number of issues. Building on the concept of leadership, this article analyses whether and to what extent the EU has the willingness to uphold LIO leadership and to what extent it is strategically equipped to do so. Following an analysis of the 2003 European Security Strategy and 2016 EU Global Strategy in order to comprehend better the EU’s relationship with the LIO and its willingness to lead, the article builds on two brief case studies: the America First trade policy and the Iran nuclear agreement. In turn, this facilitates examination of the EU’s capacity to lead and determination of the extent to which this leadership is accepted by other actors. The article argues that, while being limited by American preponderance over international issues, the EU is faced with a willingness-capacity gap but still attempts to uphold the LIO through pragmatic leadership by hedging.
European Union, United States, Liberal Order, Global Strategy, Hedging
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