Europe's Power is Eroding

European Council on Foreign Relations' new "Power Atlas" shows: The global power potential of the West, particularly the EU, is steadily declining - with the exception of military power.

BERLIN (Own report) - The global power potential of the EU and its member countries is eroding and cannot keep up with that of the United States and China, as confirmed by data in "Power Atlas," recently published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Not only the German and the EU's relative economic power is systematically declining, Germany is also losing ground in terms of its share of major corporations with global influence. China is leading in every sector. In the high-tech sectors such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics and the like, the USA and China dominate. The EU, ECFR notes, "fails to keep pace." In the future, "geopolitics will be dominated by countries and firms" that excel in precisely these fields. Only in the military sector - in terms of the volume of military expenditures, the number of foreign military bases - are western powers, led by the United States far out front. The military could thus take on prime importance in the West's attempt to maintain its dwindling global dominance against China.

E7 Rather than G7

According to the ECFR, the global shift of power, which has long since begun and is expected to continue for years to come, can be clearly seen in economic indicators.[1] The relative preponderance of the G7 - once the largest western industrialized nations - is in steady decline. In 1990 it represented 50 percent of global economic output (calculated on the basis of purchasing power parity), today it represents around 30 percent and, according to forecasts, by 2050, it will only account for little more than 20 percent. At the same time, the preponderance of the group of countries, sometimes referred to as the "E7" is increasing. The "E7" ("emerging 7") are Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey. Their composite economic output, which, in 1991, was only around 37 percent of that of the G7, has now reached parity, and is predicted to represent half of the global economic output by 2050.[2] Where the G7 had based its dominant position in world politics on its economic power, this will not be possible in the future. The analysis shows that G7 nations are also individually declining. In 2050, the USA will rank third among the world's countries with the greatest economic output (pertaining to purchasing power parity) Germany, only seventh. Only Great Britain, according to the prognosis, will advance, from tenth to ninth place.

The main Battlefield

According to the ECFR, the "main battlefield," on which the great powers are currently fighting their power struggles is not a military but rather an economic one. The economic "weapons" fielded to attempt to gain the upper hand, range from free trade agreements, and punitive tariffs all the way to economic sanctions. Major corporations play an important role, competing against one another to corner markets and spheres of influence. As ECFR notes, on the Fortune Global 500 scale of the world's largest corporations, China - with 124 enterprises - is the country most represented. In 2000, only ten of its enterprises had made the list. At the same time, the USA has fallen from 179 major enterprises (in 2000) to 121 (2020), Japan from 107 to 53, France from 37 to 31, Germany from 37 to 27. Among the countries using sanctions against their adversaries - particularly in the economic sector - the West is far out front. The USA has imposed punitive measures against 29,116 individuals, companies and organizations, the EU against 15, 618. Of course, the West no longer holds a monopoly on the use of direct economic coercion through sanctions. As the ECFR notes, other states are increasingly resorting to the use of sanctions against the EU and its member states - alongside Russia and China, which have imposed counter-sanctions, also Turkey had temporarily called for a boycott of French commodities.

"EU Fails to Keep Pace"

The ECFR's "Power Atlas" finds EU countries being rather poorly situated in the finance sector, in important elements of critical infrastructure, as well as information and communication technology. The financial markets are still predominated by the USA. In the long run, the Chinese digital yuan could eventually supplant the US dollar as an alternative. The US tech corporations are leading in terms of the privately owned, strategically important, undersea telecommunication cables, while China is strongest in terms of state-owned cables. Otherwise, the United States and the People's Republic of China dominate the domain of high-tech industries - for example, in 2019, 75 percent of the cloud computing, 75 percent of all blockchain-related technology patents and 90 percent of the market capitalization of the largest digital platforms (USA: 68 percent and China: 22 percent). Europe lags far behind. The trend is similar in the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI), where according to the ECFR, China has risen into the leadership position. In the future, "geopolitics will be dominated by countries and firms" that excel in artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles, nanotechnology, biotechnology, quantum computing and similar high-tech sectors, the "Power Atlas" predicts. The USA and China are leading, the Atlas proclaims, the EU "fails to keep pace."

Western Military Dominance

The western powers still maintain an advantage primarily in the military sector. As the ECFR notes, the United States alone - with around US $1.83 trillion - accounts for about 40 percent of the global military expenditures. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, Europe (excluding Russia) accounts for 17.5 percent of the global military expenditures. If NATO member Canada, or countries such as Australia, Japan and South Korea are added to the list, the western countries and their allies account for two-thirds of the world's military budgets.[3] China accounts for 10.6 percent, Russia, for 3.3 percent. The situation is similar pertaining to the world's 100 largest arms manufacturers: US companies account cumulatively for 54 percent, European companies (without Russia) for 21 percent, Chinese companies for 13 percent, and Russian companies for 5 percent of total global sales.[4] The dichotomy between the number of foreign military bases is enormous. The ECFR does not give concrete statistics, however, the United States, with its more than half of all foreign military bases, is far ahead. Great Britain and France follow, maintaining bases in their colonies or former colonies. Russia maintains several, China, on the other hand, only one military base abroad. In the meantime, some emerging powers can be added, such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Cyberwarfare Capabilities

The ECFR notes that EU countries can only partially hold their ground in their capacity for waging cyber warfare. The think tank, headquartered in Berlin, uses the rankings developed at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School (Cambridge Massachusetts). The center is currently under the direction of Ashton Carter, former Secretary of Defense. It distinguishes between offensive and defensive capabilities for waging cyber warfare. According to the Belfer Center, China holds first place in the ability to wage defensive cyber warfare, followed by France, the Netherlands and the USA. On the other hand, in the domain of waging offensive cyber warfare, with military capabilities, including the ability to destroy the infrastructure of an enemy state, China ranks fourth. Third place is held by Russia, second, by Great Britain. The USA is in the lead.


[1] Mark Leonard (Hg.): The Power Atlas. Seven battlegrounds of a networked world., December 2021.

[2] The World in 2050.

[3] See also Die Militarisierung der Welt.

[4] See also War Sells.