While nations like North Korea and China take advantage of Trumpian chaos to improve their position in the international order, Europe remains paralyzed. European foreign policy, particularly toward great powers, remains dependent on the American position. The European Union as a whole has no integrated or coherent strategy for managing relations with great powers, while the EU member states usually don’t take a geo-strategic approach either.

The European Union is too weak and its countries are too divided to act in concert, as they would have to do to wield power over Trump. The United Kingdom is in the process of leaving the EU and Italy has elected a populist government hostile to the European policy on many fronts, as are the governments of Poland and Hungary.

Europe doesn’t seem prepared at all to act on its own, at least not against Trump. And rather than having a specific agenda with the U.S., Europe pursues the more abstract goal of preserving the international order that America created. But that’s the one goal Trump won’t budge on, because it goes against Trump’s fundamental instincts. He might be a weathervane on specific policies, but the thrust of his Weltpolitik is clear: everything is about bilateral deal making, not securing multilateral institutions.

Whether Europeans admit it or not, the Western-dominated international order is at its end. Against the backdrop of a gradually fragmenting global governance landscape, it appears all the more important for the EU to reach out to a much larger number of partners than before . The Union can only be successful in promoting its interests on the global stage if it has a proper grasp of the wide range of positions taken by its negotiating partners  not only individually but also as a bloc as well as the interests underlying these stances. Depending on the policy area in question, the key partners for, and adversaries of the EU will change and can only be identified through adequate outreach activities. The EU needs to demonstrate innovative thinking and embrace the changing nature of international affairs. Rather than clinging on the traditional formal institutions, the EU member states would benefit from adopting a more flexible attitude.

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