Monday, June 22, 2015

Is Europe Imploding or Relocating?

In 1985, soon after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, I wrote a paper that unwittingly echoed the theories of the early twentieth century British historian Halford Mackinder, who realized that the Eurasian continent was the hub of the world. My thesis was that Europe had wrongly linked itself to a country on the other side of the Atlantic, and needed to see itself as one among several giants on the Eurasian continent that counter-balanced the power of the Soviet Union. That paper went unpublished and the book that developed the idea into a plan for European reunification found only a small academic publisher.  It came out on the day the Berlin Wall fell, astonishing most Sovietologists.
Thirty years later that paper still describes Europe’s fate: continued dependence on the United States, even though the Soviet Union with its wicked economic system, is long gone.   That dependence, poorly rationalized during the Cold War because it condemned Europe to being the theatre of a war between the two super-powers, is now bearing its poisoned fruits: economic austerity, an unsustainable influx of refugees from lands devastated by US war-mongering, and the concomitant rise of the anti-immigrant far-neofascist right. Luckily for Europe, Vladimir Putin is acting on Mackinder’s thesis. During the Cold War, the specter of Soviet tanks rolling across the plains of Eastern Europe alternated with warnings of ‘Finlandization’, an insidious Soviet takeover of Europe through soft power. Today, a Europe Finlandized by the US will be emancipated by becoming part of Putin and Mackinder’s Eurasia.
Brzezinski refers to Mackinder in his 1997 ‘The Grand Chessboard’ an elaborate plan for American domination of the world, that was reprised by the Neo-Cons.  The 2014 coup in Kiev is step one in Zbig’s plan to detach Ukraine, George, Armenia, Belo Rus and Moldova from Russia, risking World War III.
Although few people are saying it, the fact that Europe has fallen on extremely hard financial times is partly due to its continuing location as the potential battlefield between the US and Russia. For decades, outsiders complained of “fortress Europe”, the myriad rules and regulations hatched by bureaucrats in Brussels to protect European farmers and entrepreneurs, as well as the tight border controls that until recently have kept most asylum seekers at bay. In reality, fortress Europe was largely built according to American specifications, as an ‘Atlantic partner’ excused from participating in Washington’s military adventures while it perfected ‘the welfare state’. Decades on, although life in the welfare state is largely hidden from rank and file Americans by a complacent press, American workers are beginning to wonder why they only get two weeks vacation and expensive medical care.
By 2008, with Europe becoming the second largest economy in the world, it was time to do something about that. It would not have occured to anyone in Paris or Lisbon that the financial crash was not a temporary economic conjuncture. But, seven years later it has dawned on left-wing millennials that the European house - to use a term coined by Mikhail Gorbachev - is being deliberately undermined at its foundations by the very country that had saved it from two world wars.
Greece, once known for having been ‘the cradle of democracy’ in recent years became the ‘sick man of Europe’ (a favorite American phrase used originally to describe Turkey’s Ottoman Empire), no longer seen as the land of sun, surf and sirtaki, but a nation of slackers whose workers retire early to sip ouzo and play checkers by the sea. In reality, Greece, like Iceland and Cyprus, was targeted by unscrupulous international bankers, who now want the population at large to pay for their irresponsible deals.  They are backed by the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, who are empowered to lay the bill at the feet of the 99% while accusing them of taking high pensions from a government vis a vis whom the 1% evades taxes.
“TINE” - Margaret Thatchers “There is no alternative” to austerity had increasingly been turning the screws on Europe’s workers for half a decade until their anger coagulated into broad-based, determined movements for change, especially across Europe’s southern tier: Greece Italy, Spain and Portugal, the countries that have historically had the strongest communist and socialist parties, and that continue to have vibrant trade unions.  Greece, which had suffered a continuous string of inept so-called left and more often right-wing governments, finally birthed Syriza over several years of patient organizing.  In 2015 Syriza won the parliamentary elections on a detailed platform that promised to roll back the austerity that was driving thousands of Greeks to suicide.
In an unprecedented happening, activists from Spain and Portugal flocked to Greece to help the Syriza election campaign, and now Spain’s Podemos Party stands a good chance of winning elections in September, as workers across Europe continue to demonstrate against austerity, including in Great Britain, where ’Europe’ is blamed, and in Germany, whose workers have been told that they have to support ‘lazy’ Greeks.
As the possibility of a Greek default draws ever closer, Europe’s rulers play it cool, but they are running scared. If their brinkmanship forces Greece to leave the Euro, the other southern countries could follow suit, unraveling a system patiently built up over decades as part of an economic union that touches the lives of every European. Alas, Europe’s principle actors are no longer the politicians who built the ‘European Dream’ with peace in mind, but the global moneymen who want to have their cake while European workers eat crow. 
In the twentieth century, Europe was the theatre of two world wars, but in the twenty-first century the only way it can be taken down is through economic warfare. Modern historians are revealing the fact that the two world wars were more about economics than ideology, and the new way of fighting economic wars is through international Washington-controlled economic policies. And just as the US has been determined to take down Russia in order to access its trove of minerals, it has become equally determined to make sure that the European Union does not continue as a worker’s paradise, inevitably coming to the attention of US workers.
According to Sarah Wagenknecht, vice president of the German Left Party in today’s conversation with Sophie Schevarnadze on RT, Europeans are beginning to realize that while they have not been forced to participate with boots on the ground in Washington’s wars in Africa and the Middle East, they are expected to support the tens of thousands of refugees, many of whom are Black and most of whom are Muslims, fleeing to their shores.
As the Europe of manicured public lands, museums and cradle-to-grave worker security implodes under a three pronged assault: finance, population and religion, the answer to its predicament is the same as it was thirty years ago: independence from the US. And now, a small country whose claim to fame dates back two millennia, is leading the way. toward a twenty-first century democracy. While his finance minister continued to negotiate with the money hawks, Alexis Tsipras was at the Fifteenth St Petersburg Economic Forum, where in a major speech let the world know that his fellow European millennials were not going to line up behind Washington anymore.
Even as the US claims that Russia is isolated on the international scene, comparing its highly popular president to Hitler, businessmen and academics from 120 countries joined Tsipras in repeatedly applauding Putin’s calls for dialogue, cooperation and negotiation. Although war is known to be good for business, today’s international businessmen increasingly see the folly of continually destroying the world in order to rebuild it, especially a world of nuclear weapons. In St. Petersburg they inked $5.4bn worth of deals.
Finlandization was imagined as a gradual takeover of a sleeping Europe by the Soviet Union. As the US continues to press the EU into a treaty that would make corporations all-powerful, Vladimir Putin is basing his policy on the well-known development mantra: “Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he can eat every day.”  He offered Greece a way to ensure its financial future without needing handouts or bailouts, signing a deal for a pipeline to bring Russian gas to Europe via Greece.
If its southern tier can convince the north to leave its Atlantic dependence behind, the Europe we have known since the Second World War will be unrecognizable by its hundredth anniversary: home to perhaps a majority of Muslims, it will be part of the vast Eurasian continent described by Mackinder as the hub of the world, separated from Africa only by a commonly owned sea.  And far from their nations falling one by one to the United States, Eurasia’s multifarious peoples will be riding the Chinese silk road from Vladivostok to Lisbon, as De Gaulle suggested.