A visit from the German chancellor to the White House would once have been considered the pinnacle of Euro-American diplomatic relations. Yet when Germany’s Olaf Scholz arrives in Washington, DC for talks with Joe Biden on March 3rd, it might not even count as the American president’s most important contact with Europe that fortnight. During a trip to Poland last week Mr Biden met leaders of the EU’s eastern fringe, heaping praise on them for their help with the war in Ukraine, from which he had just returned. The sense that the war had rejigged the map of who matters in Europe was palpable.
The countries on the eastern fringe of the EU feel their time has come. In their telling, a tectonic shift to the east is taking place. Power is rapidly seeping from the “old Europe”—delegitimised by having been so wrong for so long about Russia—in favour of countries now on the frontlines of President Vladimir Putin’s aggression. The war is an opportunity for fresh thinking and new leadership. “This is an existential moment for Europe as a whole,” says Pawel Jablonski, a Polish deputy foreign minister. With Ukraine now a candidate to be part of the club one day, some dream that a new axis between Warsaw and Kyiv could provide a counterweight to that between Paris and Berlin.