Today, America faces a momentous challenge: Europe is burning, and only we can put it out.
Europe is beset by three simultaneous crises. She faces an economic crisis in Greece, a political crisis in Ukraine, and a cultural crisis sparked by mass immigration.
Were our European friends only facing one of these challenges, they could cope on their own. Perhaps they could handle two.
But three existentially decisive crises at the same time? They’re struggling, and everybody knows it.
Europe’s economic crisis has a political solution, while its political crisis has an economic solution. We can help solve both.
Europe needs America’s help.
Unfortunately, America is experiencing its own crisis of confidence over our role in the world. Politicians and people in both parties are torn over whether we should turn inwards to isolationism or reinvigorate our commitment to promoting and preserving global peace and prosperity.
We are at a historic crossroads for American involvement abroad, and whether we choose to lead the world or be led by it.
President Obama has hesitated at this crossroads for seven years, eager to give soaring foreign speeches but entirely unwilling to make the tough choices that constitute real leadership. To put it bluntly, this has been very, very bad for just about everyone from the Ukrainians to the Yemenis.
We can’t afford any more hesitation.
We must choose to be a part of the world rather than apart from the world. And we must demonstrate a decisive, focused approach to solving problems with the considerable tools at America’s disposal.
This change in course must start in Europe.
It sounds counterintuitive, but Europe’s economic crisis has a political solution, while its political crisis has an economic solution. We can help solve both.
The economic crisis in Greece is not about money. Europe has plenty of money to go around, and America certainly does not need to offer them any. What they need is an adult – a force strong enough to guide them along the right path. We must be that adult by mediating a sensible resolution to the Greek crisis and avoiding Greece moving closer to Russia.
Last week, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis accused Greece’s creditors of “terrorism.” He resigned shortly thereafter, but one can hardly blame slandered European diplomats for taking offense.
For their part, European creditors need to be reminded that by sneering at Greece’s democratic process they are pushing Athens into the waiting arms of Vladimir Putin, who has hinted that Russia could bail out the Greeks if Europe refuses to do so. That would be nothing short of a disaster.
Since the two sides cannot or will not negotiate seriously with each other, we should invite them to an American-mediated forum so that our diplomats can facilitate a framework agreement to get Europe back on track and warn off the Russians, just like we did at Bretton Woods after the end of World War II. We should invite the Spanish, Italians, Portuguese, and Irish as well.
American political leadership can end the European economic crisis.
In Ukraine, Europe’s political crisis over its failure to save Ukrainians from Vladimir Putin’s invasion has demonstrated an embarrassing lack of willpower, especially as Europe refuses to rescue Ukraine from a catastrophic economic tailspin caused by Putin’s bloodletting.
Ukraine’s GDP is set to shrink by 9% this year, made worse by Russian sanctions and separatist control over areas that account for tenth of Ukraine’s economy.
America should substitute our economic might for Europe’s political cowardice in Ukraine.
We can expand our loan program and help stabilize Ukrainian currency markets. We should also push the IMF to increase its bailout package in order to prevent a financial collapse of Ukraine’s banks. As Ukraine’s economy improves, so will its chances of beating Putin.
We must also supply Ukraine with the weapons and technology it can’t afford, but needs in order to hold off Putin’s proxy invasion. An unending supply of tanks and heavy weapons rolls into Ukraine from Russia, but we won’t help Ukrainians protect themselves. Shameful.
Finally, by taking an active and muscular role in solving Europe’s political and economic crises, America can help to solve their immigrant-driven cultural crisis.
Europe is worried that mass immigration from the Middle East and North Africa is diluting European values and compromising their culture. But no country knows more about inviting and absorbing immigrants than America, so when we stand up unambiguously for human rights, free markets, and liberal democracy around the world it proves that Western values are strong and attractive.
American political and economic strength will reassure Europe of its cultural resiliency.
They may not admit it, but Europeans need America right now. They are overwhelmed by crises that we can help fix.
America must show political leadership in Greece, economic support for Ukraine, and clear commitment to the Western values that we share with Europe.
If America can step up and accomplish all this, it will be the first step in putting Europe and the world back on the path to peace and prosperity.
Evan Roth Smith is co-founder of nonpartisan political consulting firm Slingshot Strategies and co-author of Putin's Master Plan: to Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.