Europe has been at the center of nearly every great-power competition of the last 500 years, either as home to one or both of the protagonists or as the decisive theater of struggle. No longer: The world wars of the last century saw to that. Yet Europe’s nations are still capable of playing a critical role in the defining contest of this century: that between China and America. Or, they can allow the continent to be reduced to a weak, divided region that struggles to make its influence felt.

China desires the latter, and has a strategy for achieving it. The U.S. should prefer an active and capable set of European allies, but its policies have too often played into Beijing’s hands.

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