Courtesy Reuters

Twenty-FIVE years have passed since the collapse of Europe. Vienna- Versailles-Potsdam: these historic milestones mark the calamitous decline of the European world order during the last hundred and fifty years.

At Vienna, European statesmen sought to restore a European balance of power, having defeated-with the critical assistance of maritime Britain and Eurasian Russia-the Napoleonic effort to establish a unified continental system. In 1815, it was still European statesmanship that resolved Europe's imperial problems and thereby ordered the structure of world power.

At Versailles, with Russia excluded, European statesmen grappled with the new force of national self-determination and strove to limit the power of the single most dynamic European national entity, Germany; but they did so in a political and idealistic context created largely by a transatlantic statesman, who represented the entry of American power into the European arena. Europe alone no longer could fight its wars nor build its peace.

At Potsdam, 25 years ago last July, Europe was absent. In the prostrate capital of the most mighty European nation the future of the former center of the world was shaped in a confrontation between an Atlantic-Pacific continental power, the offspring of Europe's liberal tradition, and a Eurasian ideological empire, likewise a transplanted product of the European intellectual diffusion. Though some of the most lively debates at Potsdam were the personal contribution of the British war leader, the British presence-representing primarily an overseas empire-was already becoming an extension of American power.

A new post-European world order thereby emerged, with Europe itself powerless and divided. This was a shift of historic proportions, the disappearance of what for several centuries in fact had been the center of world power, the partition of hitherto the world's most dynamic continent, the emergence instead of two competitive, ideologically distinct, non- European centers of power.

To this day Europe is effectively absent from world politics. Its decline has been halted on the social-economic plane and in many respects actually reversed, but the basic political reality is still not fundamentally

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