The emergence of non-democratic powers such as Russia and China, and tensions in the Atlantic Alliance over disagreements on issues like the Kyoto Protocol and action in Iraq have raised doubts about the ability of 'the West' to lead the international political system.

At a public lecture hosted by the LSE IDEAS Transatlantic Project, Carnegie's Thomas Carothers and Professor Charles A. Kupchan discussed whether or not the transatlantic relationship is in jeopardy.

The Inevitable Demise of the Transatlantic Relationship
Kupchan argued that because of a loss of a common enemy at the end of the Cold War, the transatlantic relationship faced inevitable demise. The shift of international attention to situations in Iran, Iraq and the exacerbation of the Israel-Palestine conflict has brought issues on which Europe and the U.S. have traditionally disagreed onto the international stage. A demographic shift within the U.S. toward a new majority of citizens who do not have European ancestry will continue to undermine the cultural affinity Europe and the U.S. have enjoyed over the last two centuries.

The recovery of the transatlantic relationship during the second term of the George W. Bush presidency, however, demonstrates a realization on the parts of both Europe and the U.S. that the they still need each other. Yet the U.S. faces challenges in Afghanistan, Iran, on the economy, and climate change that may require help from Europe that it cannot fully provide.

Other Highlights included....

  • Thomas Carothers explained that there has been a significant socio-demographic divergence between Europe and the U.S. over issues like the death penalty, the presence of religion in politics, and maternity leave. In terms of the political spectrum, the American Left is almost completely to the right of the European Right - illustrating the extent of the tremendous ideological gap in the relationship.
  • Kupchan argued that multipolarity is the new world order. Kupchan and Carothers disagreed on the likelihood of the continued existence of the current Western liberal system in the face of emergent powers like China and Russia: Kupchan argued that the system will soon reach its demise while Carothers argued that the system affords a degree of protection that emerging powers will be reluctant to give up.
  • Kupchan argued that the idea of a 'League of Democracies', a global organization that could combat the shortcomings of the United Nations, would simply spark further conflict. In response to a globalised world, the West needs to think in terms of inclusivity to remain relevant. Carothers agreed with Kupchan, adding that support  to veto the proposals for the Atlantic Alliance are not the result of adherence to a certain political system, but instead of a strong attachment to the sovereignty of states - an attachment shared by both democracies and non-democracies.