Another Virus Victim: The U.S. as a Global Leader in a Time of Crisis

Ms. Schaake is most worried “about a breakdown of what holds society together, and the risk is bigger in the U.S. than in Europe,’’ she said. “I would wish there would be more constructive coordination instead of shouting matches and rhetoric like Trump’s, denying the problems, while a country like Germany says that if their vaccine succeeds it will be for everyone.’’

As for the European Union, it is struggling to keep its own internal borders open to free trade, let alone travel, and preserve the principles of the single market that are the heart of the bloc. Some wonder if passport-free travel will ever again be the same.

Tim King, the former editor of “European Voice,” writing in Politico, suggested that the crisis marked a “hasty dismantling of what took decades of painstaking negotiation to construct.”

But it may also be the moment, he wrote, when the European Union begins to become “a more sophisticated and mature political authority,’’ as it moves to relax its rules to deal more effectively with the crisis.

In retrospect, the crisis may also mark a moment of fundamental global shift.

“What will this mean in five years for great-power competition?” asked Ms. Major. “In 10 years will we say, ‘This is the moment that China rose and the U.S. declined,’ or will the U.S. rebound?”

In the past, the United States has rebounded, even if slow out of the starting gate.

That was true in both World Wars, when the country’s efforts to remain separated from the rest of the world by an ocean were replaced by strong commitments from the government and the society to win wars and become, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it, “the arsenal of democracy.’’

Mr. Westmacott, the former British ambassador, sees a new seriousness in Mr. Trump over the last few days.

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