This article examines how, in a global strategic context presided by the rise of
Asia and the US rebalance towards that region, Europeans are contributing to
transatlantic burden-sharing—whether individually or through the EU/NATO.
As Asian powers reach westward and the US shifts its strategic priorities eastward,
classical geostrategic delimitations become gradually tenuous. Particularly important
are the ‘middle spaces’ of the Indian Ocean, central Asia and the Arctic, in
that they constitute the main avenues of communication between the Asia–
Pacific and the European neighbourhood. The article seeks to understand how
evolving geostrategic dynamics in Europe, the ‘middle spaces’ and the Asia–Pacific
relate to each other, and how they might impinge on discussions on transatlantic
burden-sharing. It is argued that the ability of Europeans to contribute to a more
equitable transatlantic burden-sharing revolves around two main tenets. First, by
engaging in the ‘middle spaces’, Europe’s key powers and institutions are helping
to underpin a balance of power in these regions. Second, by stepping up their
diplomatic and economic role in the Asia–Pacific, strengthening their security
ties to (US) regional allies and maintaining an EU-wide arms embargo on China,
Europeans are broadly complementing US efforts in that key region. There are a
number of factors that stand in the way of a meaningful European engagement
in the ‘middle spaces’ and the Asia–Pacific, including divergent security priorities
among Europeans, the impact of budgetary austerity on European defence
capabilities and a tendency to confine foreign policy to the immediate neighbourhood.
The article discusses the implications of those obstacles and outlines some
ways in which they might be overcome.