Time to choose sides!
Anyone can realise that our planet is an unstable and dangerous place; it is surprising that so few ponder over the consequences. Rational behaviour should induce people to make choices, sometimes radical, which entail necessarily painful sacrifices in order to preserve our essential values, encapsulated in the triptych “Liberty – Equality – Fraternity”. Their primacy, taken for granted, confer by default the status of priority objectives to fighting unemployment and improving living standards, weakening the foundations of the social contract and strengthening the appeal of national-populism.
Nowhere are the contradictions created more apparent than within European Union. It is tearing itself apart over an increasing number of matters, adopting poorly thought out compromises inducing perverse consequences and inhibiting its capacity to act which puts it very relevance into question. In this globalised multi-polar world, in which information (true or false) travels at the speed of light, Europe is forced to unite in order to exist and to make choices in its alliances in order to count.
It is necessary to determine a precise hierarchy between problems to ensure a global coherence of policies as well as forestall manipulations aiming systematically at weakening the EU, if not leading deliberately to its disintegration. I will attempt to confront diverse positions expressed within the EU with a single criterion: membership of NATO and the primacy of the alliance with the USA. I have deliberately chosen a controversial benchmark which, putting to one side ideological or visceral primary anti Americanism, should be evaluated exclusively on its merits.
Why such a choice? Because there are only two other options: either we form an alternative alliance, with Russia for instance, in the forlorn hope of a more advantageous equilibrium, or we implement autonomously the conditions necessary to fulfil our aspirations.
It is undoubtedly true that the “dependence” of NATO Members on the military might of the USA is resented by a significant minority of citizens; there is, however, no reason to believe – quite to the contrary – that a similar dependence on another power would be more welcome. Ensuring our own “real” independence would, on the other hand, require the mobilisation of a strong unswerving political will, supported by financial, scientific and human resources that are both cruelly lacking.
Is it to say that the ambition of establishing a truly independent Europe is sheer utopia? Yes, but only to the extent that one rejects the idea of an integrated Union, capable of holding its own on the world stage. It implies establishing a “Federal Europe” as a relevant economic power (it posses all the necessary attributes) but equally as a military power leading to painful arbitrages in terms of public expenditures. A significant part of the required resources should be generated by the process itself: thus, integrating military and diplomatic services should release significant savings that could be redeployed more efficiently; furthermore, military self-sufficiency underpinned by strong investment in education at European level is a powerful tool for promoting research and development, capable in turn of fostering innovation and economic growth.
The necessary condition to become, over time, independent from a third party is the relentless pursuit of a strong and integrated EU. Once endowed with the appropriate powers in terms of monetary, economic and military sovereignty, the EU will, at last, be able to offer its citizens the choice of options they long for.
From this vantage point, the (NATO) partnership with the devil you know (the USA) appears infinitely more appealing than any alternative; even if the past is no guarantee for the future, it relies on the long history of the indefectible support by the United States in defence of shared values, each time they were under threat.
Real utopia lies in the belief that re-establishing full sovereignty of the European XXth century Nation-State is a possibility. That is an illusion swallowed only by naïve pacifists or frustrated nationalists refusing to see the reality of the international conflicts, including their terrorist dimension, that are proliferating under our noses, as well as the need for mustering a level of resources, unavailable at national level, to deal with them.
The Ukrainian problem underscores the need to speak with a single voice when confronting the Russian threat; the well publicised differences between France, Germany and the USA on arms supplies is a godsend for President Putin. He can collect on several fronts despite the vulnerability of his weak economic position (oil price).
On the regional front he is likely to secure full recognition of the annexation of Crimea as well as the effective neutralisation of Ukraine through the federalisation of the country that will paralyse future independent action by the national government.
On the international front he has already been assured by France and Germany that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO or – most probably – the EU, even if such accession is not currently on the agenda. One should also fear that Putin will land the burden of bailing out Ukraine as well as the cost of reconstruction in eastern Ukraine into the EU’s lap; like in Palestine where the USA decides and the EU pays, in this case Russia will decide and the EU will also pay!
It is on the European front that he will score the most points: he has considerably weakened the cohesion between EU Members. The Batiks, Poland and other States bordering Russia are supporting the USA within NATO, realising that herein lies the true guarantee of their independence. Through political support of Syriza (Tsipras will attend May 1st celebrations) and financial support of the French National Front (Russian bank loans), Putin is buying cheaply the endorsement of European radical parties: last Sunday’s “triumphal defeat” of the FN in a French by-election was accompanied by an unequivocal plea on television by Marine Le Pen for “appeasement” in Ukraine, worthy of the worst erstwhile Munich concessions, at a moment when, due to an unfortunate coincidence, the concerned parties were convening in the city. Quite a symbol!
Paul N. Goldschmidt
Director, European Commission (ret.); Member of the Steering Committee of the Thomas More Institute.
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