As part of the prize of the TEPSA Student Contest 2023, we are publishing the three best policy papers we received from applicants. To learn more about the TEPSA Student Contest 2023 click here, and to read the other papers, head over to our ‘Student Papers‘ section of the TEPSA website!
‘The return of geopolitics’ has become a commonly used phrase since the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia in February 2014. However, as Walter Russell Mead notes in his essay for Foreign Affairs magazine, this was not the only event that contributed to this trend. Mead states: ‘Whether it is Russian forces seizing Crimea, China making aggressive claims in its coastal waters, Japan responding with an increasingly assertive strategy of its own, or Iran trying to use its alliances with Syria and Hezbollah to dominate the Middle East, old-fashioned power plays are back in international relations’. Since Mead’s essay, as he outlines, geopolitical rivalry has once again taken center stage in world affairs. Established powers, middle powers, and emerging powers all seek to expand their spheres of influence while haphazardly avoiding provocation of their competitors, whether peers or non-peers. However, Russia’s 20th-century-style war in Ukraine in February 2022 has convinced the West that a systemic rivalry is indeed unfolding.
This geopolitical rivalry has given rise to seismic internal and external crises for the European Union (EU) and its Member States. As per the renowned statement by EU founding father Jean Monnet, ‘Europe would be built through crises’, Russia’s brutal aggression war in Ukraine in February 2022 marked the start of what High Representative Josep Borrell has described as ‘the awakening of geopolitical Europe’. The emergence of geopolitical Europe has been long-awaited, and Russia’s attack on Ukraine has acted as a wake-up call for the EU to establish itself as a formidable geopolitical power.