The retreat of the United States (US) from the international order that it helped to build marks a significant turning point in international affairs. The Netherlands, as a European Union (EU) member state, now has to reposition itself in a world defined by great power rivalry and without a guaranteed strong transatlantic partnership.
Facing an increasingly powerful, confident and capable China, and a Russia that – especially in the military realm – is trying to regain and strengthen its great power status, the US has withdrawn from institutions and agreements that have epitomised world trade, arms control and human rights standards for decades. Shifts in the direction, scale and composition of trade flows, the increasing complexity and changing capabilities of 21st century weapon arsenals, and an apparent backsliding of the international human rights agenda call for new approaches to repair or build institutional arrangements that are capable of governing these issues on a multilateral level.
Going forward, the Netherlands and the EU need to deliver on new thinking and action on four parallel tracks: continued engagement with the United States; deepened and renewed engagement with other partners and stakeholders; a broadening of multilateralism to new areas; and, in certain cases, new approaches.