European disunion

Jeremy Shapiro, who is Research Director at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) has written an interesting article in Foreign Affairs that explains why Europe huffs and puffs when an American President ignores or even tramples on Europe’s strategic concerns but, time and time and time again, does nothing.

The simple answer,” Mr Shapiro explains, “is that Europeans need the alliance more than the Americans do. For Europe, the transatlantic alliance is its rock of stability in an otherwise ever-changing world and the foundation on which it has constructed European security and European integration. Shared values and interests, much more so than with authoritarian powers such as Russia and China, also drive the bond … [but] … The United States does value the transatlantic alliance. It wants help on international security issues such as Afghanistan or Syria, and U.S. officials certainly enjoy proclaiming that the United States leads the world. But the reality is that the United States doesn’t need the European alliance for its own security. As Trump has implied many times, the United States can simply walk away from the relationship … [thus] … In theory, Europeans could simply band together and provide for their own security.  Combined, they have as much economic weight and military power as the United States and far more than any of their potential rivals, including Russia. In practice, they still prefer relying on the United States for their security rather than relying on one another.”

But, and this gets to the nub of the matter, while “The United States, after all, is a distant power with only a passing interest in the internal affairs of Europe. EU countries, by contrast, are deeply involved in one another’s affairs—they have multiple internal disputes that range from how to deal with their common currency to how to manage immigration. They look to their relationship with the United States not simply for security from external threats such as Russia or terrorism but also for a potential ally in their internal disputes with other EU states. Surveys by the European Council on Foreign Relations show that at least 11 European governments believe they have a “special relationship” with the United States that gives them advantages they can’t get from their European partners … [and, thus] … In Greece, for example, policymakers look to Washington for protection not from Russia or terrorism but from Germany’s stringent economic policies. In Poland, the government’s distrust of the EU and other European nations, especially Germany, is palpable even as Warsaw relies on them for economic support. The Polish government does not want to increase its dependence by relying on its EU partners for protection from Russia as well. Its relationship with the United States is, in part, a diversification strategy … [and] … In short, Europeans, working together, could provide for their own security from external threats. The problem is that they also want political protection from one another. And only the United States can provide that.

So, the Europeans are worried about each other than are about Russia, Iran or China …. or America.

Professor Shapiro doesn’t think that even President Trump’s vocal and public disdain for Europe is enough to unite the Europeans, much less make them fight back. In fact he suggests that both Britain and Poland might be “weak links” in Europe’s temporary resolve. My guess is that Britain will reach out Australia, Canada and New Zealand and to Singapore and, above all, India as it searches for new trading and political partners in thew post-Brexit world. Poland and the other “new,” Eastern European NATO and EU members are unsure of their “place” in Europe. The EU, the whole United Stares of Europe notion was, always, a decidedly Western European notion, rooted in what the 683px-Grossgliederung_Europas-en.svgWestern Europeans thought might be their common, Roman-Christian heritage. The Eastern Europeans have a different history. Notwithstanding the Prussian view of ‘Mitteleuropa‘ (in blue) on the map, it is not clear to me that there ever was a ‘Germania-Slavia‘ in any sensible historical-cultural sense. The German peoples were and still are different from the Slavs and Poland was, for much of the medieval and modern eras, a march between the Lithuanian, Germanic and Russian kingdoms and empires. It is not surprising that the Poles are sometimes uncomfortable in modern Europe.

My suspicion is that the current Brexit negotiations show the deep seated anxieties of the European experiment: some European want a strong, centralized, economic union to compete with the Americans and, soon, the Chinese and Indians, too, while others want a strong social union to “contain” the (historically) aggressive Germans and ambitious French, while others want only a loose customs union to permit free(er) trade … and some members want bits of all three, but at different times. But most agree that if Britain is allowed to leave without paying a stiff price then others, including e.g. Denmark, Sweden, Hungary and Greece, may, for a wide variety of reasons, follow suit. While many in Brussels, Berlin and Paris might not miss the Greeks the same cannot be said of the über-productive Danes and Swedes.

Europe is not as united as people like French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker want to believe … not, at least, if union can be enforced only by levying punitive sanctions against any who wish to leave.

Many, many Canadians want Europe to be some undefined sort of an alternative to the USA … that’s unlikely to happen in the short term and it’s doubtful in the mid term, too.

Faced with rising economic pressures from Asia and open disdain from America, Europe has to “grow up” and be something other than (like Canada) an American protectorate … the question is: what?

 

4 thoughts on “European disunion”

  1. The Western European fault line runs from Aix-la-Chapelle to Aix-en-Provence, as it always has, paralleling the trade route from Milan to Flanders, a route that predates Rome and its legions.

    1. I certainly agree with that, Chris … but I’m not sure it’s the only line. Religious schisms drew a couple, too, as did Muslim influence and, in fact, Scandinavian influence. I think we might give the Norsemen too little credit for the rise and spread of liberalism.

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