After Westphalia? Europe, the United States and Russia in the 21st Century
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No other region in the world seems to have come closer to achieving the Kantian ideal of perpetual peace than modern-day Europe. Given this remarkable state of affairs, it is not strange that Europe is often cited as a as an empirical challenge to traditional realist views on international relations. In 1993, John Gerard Ruggie suggested Europe might be the first "postmodern" international order: as the relations of authority, sovereignty and territory appeared to be undergoing fundamental changes in Europe, Europe seemed to be moving beyond the 'modern' Westphalian epoch toward a 'post'-modern form of configuring political space. This notion of postmodern Europe, seen as a 'new' or 'different' system of interstate politics, has gained great currency in popular commentary as well as Brussels-based policymaking circles, particularly with a view to explaining Europe's clash with Russia. This thesis takes up a recent strand of academic literature questioning the validity Europe's claims to postmodernity. It identifies key dimensions of the supposed postmodern system and tests these against empirical observations in three case studies: Europe's relations with the United States, Europe's relations with Russia, and the development of Common Security and Defence Policy. It finds that, in the popular sense of postmodern Europe as an order that is incompatible with power politics, the sense employed by most pundits and policy makers, postmodernity appears to be illusory. But in the sense of a fundamental alteration of relations between authority, sovereignty and territory – the way Ruggie used the term – the notion of Europe's system as postmodern appears valid. Our findings indicate that the contours of a postmodern order may not follow the wishes of idealists looking to overcome power politics; moreover, they call into question the ease with which a postmodern-modern divide is popularly taken up as an explanation for the friction between Europe and other powers, especially Russia, and serve as a warning that the way we choose to frame such clashes may exacerbate the clashes themselves.