Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Atlantic Widens

Since the end of World War II, Europe (its Western half, in any case) has been tied to the US via the Atlantic Alliance, forced to turn its back on the rest of the Eurasian continent of which it is a part. Originally, it was because of Communism, but since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, it’s because Russia has more resources than any other nation, that the US has maintained Europe in a state of readiness to respond to its ‘aggression’!
In my book Une autre Europe, un autre Monde, published in France on the day the Berlin wall fell, I opined that Western Europe could not afford to have two enemies at once: Germany and the Soviet Union.  The former had initiated three wars in one century, while the latter was merely a bogeyman incarnated by Ghengis Khan and Ivan the Terrible. Divided between East and West, Germany had posed no threat for over forty years, and France agonized over the prospect of its reunification as the crucial line of defense against Russia. Perhaps it was that secular fear of Germany that determined President Mitterand’s acquiescence to NATO’s relentless move beyond its eastern border to counter the distant threat.
Europe’s post-war dependency on a country situated an ocean away began with the Marshall Plan, which led to an ‘economic miracle’ and the ability to provide safety nets for everyone: a true worker’s paradise, “protected” by NATO. By the nineties, when France joined a 35 hour work week to six week vacations, and the countries of Eastern Europe lined up to join the European Union, Wall Street began to worry that American workers might demand the same benefits. Accordingly, it enrolled the World Bank and the IMF in a decades-long battle to impose neo-liberalism, which is ’liberal’ only to a chosen few, over social democracy, that guarantees a decent life for the many. Ironically, in ‘Where to Invade Next’ Michael Moore is amazed to discover European workers’ perks, just as they are being being flushed down the drain.
Several decades after Margaret Thatcher’s ‘there is no alternative’ (TINA) to austerity, neo-liberalism reigns triumphant across the European Union, taking down old members Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, France, and preventing the East from ever catching up. Having failed to shake its colonial mindset, the 1% participated in US wars across the Middle East, until it saw Muslim men, women and children traipsing across its fields. Cell phones having made it possible for hundreds of thousands to leave their war-torn or exploited countries for a chance at a better future, Europe’s leaders realized too late that they had been used by Uncle Sam. 

As businessmen realize what sanctions against their neighbor are costing them (but not Washington), they also notice that Russia protects its own in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. In a conclusion that is decades overdue, they realize that their survival requires them to cut the umbilical cord that stretches across the Atlantic. Predictably, the announcement by Jean-Claude Junker, President of the European Commission, that Europe needs its own military system, was poorly received in Washington, whose top brass repeat daily that it would ‘duplicate’ NATO instead of ‘complementing’ it. As with most watershed moment, the idea of a European Army is unlikely to be walked back. Costly sanctions against Russia, not to mention US determination to provoke it into war over Syria or Ukraine, suggests that an independent European defense is intended to gradually turn Europe toward the East, the Atlantic Ocean again separating it from the US.

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