Does anyone in their right mind think that any country would willingly put itself through what Greece has gone through, just to get a free ride from its creditors? If there is a moral hazard, it is on the part of the lenders -- especially in the private sector -- who have been bailed out repeatedly.
The latest reports from Europe indicate that the continent is slipping back into recession. The U.S. is doing only slightly better, with positive economic growth but scant progress on the jobs front, and no growth in the earnings of the vast majority of Americans. Meanwhile, global climate change continues to worsen, producing unprecedented policy conundrums of how to reconcile the very survival of the planet with improved living standards for the world's impoverished billions and for most Americans, whose real incomes have declined since the year 2000. Amid all of these serious challenges, what common strategies are top U.S. and European leaders pursuing? Why, a new trade and investment deal modeled on NAFTA, to make it harder for governments to regulate capitalism.
Germany has the most unequal distribution of wealth in the eurozone. In this sense, Germany faces the same challenge as China: a high-export and saving economy which needs to rebalance through policies that create a greater flow of wealth to households, thus spurring greater consumption. This, in turn, can create demand for imports from Germany's European neighbors.
Around 40 percent of Russia's trade is with Western Europe. Even if Russia fails to retaliate by itself imposing counter-sanctions -- an unrealistic assumption -- its weaker economy would quickly translate into lower sales by Western European companies to the world's eighth largest economy, as well as less certain input supplies from there.
The paradox of this historical moment is that we see across the world -- in Ukraine, Egypt, Thailand, Turkey -- that elections in and of themselves are not the standard of legitimacy. Only strong institutions can sustain democracy. But institutions alone without democratic legitimacy conferred upon them, as we see in the European Union, are also not sustainable.