The war in Ukraine has upended common assumptions about global politics—consensus views shared among policy elites and the public in countries around the world about the balance of power that governs it. Ever since U.S. President Barack Obama declared a “pivot to Asia” in 2011, much American foreign policy and public attention turned to China, where Washington saw its primary security concerns. Meanwhile, in Europe, Germany led EU policies focused on building trade with Russia, trusting that commercial bonds would calm President Vladimir Putin’s territorial ambitions. NATO, the West’s most powerful security alliance, had been mostly dormant for the past 20 years, after a few missions in the Balkans in the 1990s and apart from airstrikes in Libya in 2011. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has scrambled all these priorities, relationships, and organizations. How are global dynamics changing?

Moisés Naím is a Venezuelan journalist and writer, a distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in Washington, D.C., and the author of The Revenge of Power. He was previously Venezuela’s minister of trade and industry, the director of Venezuela’s Central Bank, and an executive director of the World Bank. In Naím’s view, the war has changed the balance of power, primarily because of the newfound strength of Europe. The conflict has important economic consequences, Naím says, but the most significant outcome—and display of power—may be the sanctions imposed by Europe and the U.S. on Russia. As Naím sees it, the transatlantic relationship is again a central interest of the United States, and alliances around the world are reshuffling, but a few key questions will determine how long these changes last.

Michael Bluhm: What do you see being the biggest change to global politics from the war in Ukraine?

Moisés Naím: The single biggest change is that Europe discovered that it’s a superpower and didn’t know it. Unity meant a great enhancement of influence, and Europe became a top geopolitical protagonist, thanks to the willingness of its leaders and their supporters to move quickly in unprecedented ways to create a coalition we’d not seen before.

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