Just how wide is the Atlantic?


The Atlantic is the second largest of the world’s oceans. At 106,460,000 square kilometres, it covers roughly 20 per cent of the earth’s surface.

Right now, it seems wider than ever before. The old world – Europe – and the new – America – are at odds, unable to see points of compromise and, more to the point, even reason to get back together.

What’s going on?

The Economist seems to get it. “To Europeans the United States appears ever more remote,” the paper writes, “under a puzzling president who delights in bullying them, questions the future of the transatlantic alliance and sometimes shows more warmth towards dictators than democrats.” It goes on to add that “Americans see an ageing continent that, though fine for tourists, is coming apart at the seams politically and falling behind economically—as feeble in growth as it is excessive in regulation.”

But then, the surprise.

The Economist sees fatalism about the divisions between Europe and America as misplaced.

It admits the problems of today and that past intimacies are fading. “The generation that formed bonds fighting side-by-side in the second world war is passing away and even the cold war is becoming a distant memory. Meanwhile, America is becoming less European.”

And yet, there may be room for optimism. “Trade flows between the EU and the United States remain the world’s biggest, worth more than $3bn a day,” says The Economist. “Shared democratic values, though wobbly in places, are a force for freedom. And, underpinning everything, the alliance provides stability in the face of a variety of threats, from terrorism to an aggressive Russia, that have given the alliance a new salience.”

Finally, it pays tribute to NATO, “at the heart of this security partnership”.

And then The Economist goes on to the real core of the big picture. “… to make themselves useful to America, Europeans need to become less dependent on it.”

That’s a call for more European action and a sober hope the US will respond in the right way.

One can but hope.