Everyman’s Strategic Survey: Europe

A week ago I offered my notion of an “open source” Everyman’s Strategic Survey. I noted five areas of concern …

  1. The Middle East and West Asia remain in dangerous turmoil;
  2. Russia is, once again, making us, the US led West, NATO especially into an enemy;
  3. Europe is in social and political turmoil over immigration, this time, and a potential Brexit from the EU;
  4. China is preoccupied with its own, internal problems, but it remains a rising, global power; and
  5. America remains, equally, focused on its own, domestic concerns.

… but I only discussed two at any length: the Middle East and Putin/Russia.

Now I can add something.

Nouriel Roubini, who is a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business and Chairman of Roubini Global Economics; who was Senior Economist for International Affairs in the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton Administration; and who has worked for the International Monetary Fund, the US Federal Reserve, and the World Bank; and who is a strategic analyst whose views deserve our attention ~ especially for those of us who believe, as I do, that economics is a key “driver” of any grand strategy, offers a more detailed look at Europe’s potential to be a trouble-spot in 2016.

Prof Roubini says, inter alia, that:

“… it is Europe that may turn out to be the ground zero of geopolitics in 2016. For starters, a Greek exit from the eurozone may have been only postponed, not prevented, as pension and other structural reforms put the country on a collision course with its European creditors. “Grexit,” in turn, could be the beginning of the end of the monetary union, as investors would wonder which member – possibly even a core country (for example, Finland) – will be the next to leave.

If Grexit does occur, the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU may become more likely. Compared to a year ago, the probability of “Brexit” has increased, for several reasons. The recent terrorist attacks in Europe have made the UK even more isolationist, as has the migration crisis. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour is more Euroskeptic. And Prime Minister David Cameron has painted himself into a corner by demanding EU reforms that even the Germans – who are sympathetic to the UK – cannot accept. To many in Britain, the EU looks like a sinking ship.

If Brexit were to occur, other dominos would fall. Scotland might decide to leave the UK, leading to the breakup of Britain. This could inspire other separatist movements – perhaps starting in Catalonia – to push even more forcefully for independence. And the EU’s Nordic members may decide that with the UK gone, they, too, would be better off leaving.

As for terrorism, the sheer number of homegrown jihadists means that the question for Europe is not whether another attack will occur, but when and where. And repeated attacks could sharply reduce business and consumer confidence and stall Europe’s fragile economic recovery.

Those who argue that the migration crisis also poses an existential threat to Europe are right. But the issue is not the million newcomers entering Europe in 2015. It is the 20 million more who are displaced, desperate, and seeking to escape violence, civil war, state failure, desertification, and economic collapse in large parts of the Middle East and Africa. If Europe is unable to find a coordinated solution to this problem and enforce a common external border, the Schengen Agreement will collapse and internal borders between the EU member states will reappear.

Meanwhile, austerity and reform fatigue on the eurozone periphery – and among non-eurozone EU members such as Hungary and Poland – is clashing with bailout fatigue in the core. Populist parties of the left and right – with their shared hostility to free trade, migration, Muslims, and globalization – are becoming more popular throughout Europe.”

That’s quite a laundry list of problem and, as he suggests, many are tied to one another and the “domino effect” may be real in Europe in 2016.

One needn’t agree with Prof Roubini’s diagnosis now with his prescriptions in order to acknowledge that Europe is “sick.” One can argue ~ I would ~ that the Europeans went “a union too far,” maybe two or three “unions.” royal-wedding-cake-design-for-8-tier-wedding-cake-with-topper-559c7d68947daThe notion of a large free trade area doesn’t have to bring, automatically, a standardization bureaucracy, à la Brussels telling the British and Germans what can and cannot be in their sausages; it was, in my opinion, folly to think that Denmark and France could agree on common foreign and defence policies; and I’m sure the Eurozone’s days are numbered. The idea of a “United States of Europe” is, my opinion again, still valid but the European “union” needs to be like a multi-tiered wedding cake: a complete union, perhaps, of a few nations, at the top and a broad, general free trade area at the bottom with various other levels of “integration” in the middle.

Anyway, Europe’s problems are of Europe’s making and they are Europe’s to solve. But we have an interest in helping the Europeans to ensure that their solution don’t exacerbate other problem originating in other places ~ like the Middle East and Russia.

3 thoughts on “Everyman’s Strategic Survey: Europe”

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