Saturday, June 25, 2022

Europe offers US much more than Russia does to China

For those wondering who is boss in Europe, NATO or the European Union, the war in Ukraine has settled that question, at least for the foreseeable future. 

There was a time when Henry Kissinger complained that there was no single phone number to call Europe, that there were far too many calls to make to get something, that the chain of command needed to be simplified. 

Then, after the end of Franco and Salazar, the southern extension of the EU arrived, with Spain joining NATO in 1982 (Portugal had been a member since 1949), reassuring Kissinger and the States United both against Euro-communism and against a non-NATO military takeover. 

Later, as part of the new world order emerging in the 1990s, the EU absorbed most of the member states of the now defunct Warsaw Pact, which had fast-tracked NATO membership. By stabilizing newcomers to the capitalist bloc economically and politically and guiding their nation building and state formation, the task of the EU, more or less readily accepted, was to enable them to become part of“the West” , led by the United States, and of a now unipolar world.

In the following years, the number of Eastern European countries waiting to be admitted to the EU grew, with the United States pushing for their admission. Over time, Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have obtained official candidate status, while Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Moldova are still pending. 

Meanwhile, the enthusiasm of the early EU member states for enlargement has waned, especially in France, which preferred, and still prefers, ‘ deepening’ to ‘ enlargement’ . This corresponds to the particular French aim of “the ever closer union of the peoples of Europe”. : a relatively homogeneous set of states on the political and social level, capable of collectively playing an independent, self-determined, “sovereign” and above all French-led role in world politics ( “a more independent France in a stronger Europe” , as its president, who has just been re-elected, likes to say).

The economic costs of bringing the new member states up to European standards, as well as the required amount of institution building from outside, had to remain manageable, given that the EU was already struggling with economic disparities. persistent between its Mediterranean and North-West member countries, not to mention the deep attachment of some of the new eastern members to the United States. 

Thus, France blocked the entry into the EU of Turkey, a longtime member of NATO (which it will remain even if it has just sent the activist Osman Kavala to prison, for a life in solitary confinement without the possibility of parole). 

The same applies to several Western Balkan states, such as Albania and North Macedonia, which did not fail to prevent the accession, during the first wave of Osterweiterung in 2004, of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and from Hungary. 

Four years later, Sarkozy and Merkel prevented (for now) the United States of George Bush the Younger from admitting Georgia and Ukraine into European Union, anticipating that this would have to be followed by their inclusion in NATO. ‘

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the situation changed. Mr. Zelensky’s televised address to all the heads of government of the European Union assembled caused a kind of much-desired but rarely experienced excitement in Brussels, and his demand for full membership of the European Union aroused incessant applause. 

In his usual overzealousness, Von der Leyen traveled to kyiv to hand Zelensky the lengthy questionnaire needed to start admissions procedures. While it normally takes months or even years for national governments to gather the complex information requested in the questionnaire, Zelensky, despite the state of siege in Kyiv, promised to complete the job within weeks, which he did. 

It is not yet clear what the answers will be to questions such as the treatment of ethnic and linguistic minorities, especially Russians, or the extent of corruption and the state of democracy, for example the role of national oligarchs in political parties. politicians and parliament.

If Ukraine is admitted as quickly as promised, as its government and that of the United States expect, there will be no longer any reason to deny membership not only to the Western Balkan states, but also to Georgia. and Moldova, which applied at the same time as Ukraine. 

Either way, all of these countries will strengthen the anti-Russian and pro-American wing of the EU, now led by Poland, which, like Ukraine, had enthusiastically participated in the “Coalition of the Willing”brought together by the United States for the purpose of actively building a nation like Iraq. 

As for the EU in general, Ukraine’s membership will turn it even more into a preparatory school or a bullpen for future NATO members. And this, even if, within the framework of a possible settlement of the war, Ukraine may have to be officially declared neutral, which will prevent it from joining NATO directly. (In fact, since 2014 the Ukrainian military has been rebuilt from the ground up under American leadership, to the point that by 2021 it has effectively achieved what is called “interoperability” in military jargon. NATO).

Besides domesticating neophyte members, another task arising from the EU’s new status as a civilian auxiliary to NATO is to design economic sanctions that hurt the Russian enemy while sparing friends and allies, as necessary. 

NATO controlling the guns, the EU is in charge of controlling the ports. 

Von der Leyen, enthusiastic as always, let the world know at the end of February that the sanctions taken by the EU would be the most effective ever and that they would allow “to destroy little by little the industrial base of Russia.”

As a German, she may have had in mind something like a Morgenthau Plan, as proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s advisers, to reduce defeated Germany forever to an agricultural society. This project was quickly abandoned, when the United States realized that it might need (West) Germany as part of its “containment” of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

It is unclear who told von der Leyen not to overdo it, but the metaphor abtragen (wear off)was no longer heard, perhaps because what it involved might have amounted to active participation in the war. 

Be that as it may, it quickly became apparent that the Commission, despite its claims to technocratic glory, failed both in sanctions planning and macroeconomic convergence planning. 

Remarkably Eurocentric, the Commission seemed to have forgotten that some parts of the world see no reason to join a Western-imposed boycott of Russia; for them, military interventions are nothing unusual, including interventions by the West for the West. 

Also, internally, the EU has struggled to tell its member states what not to buy or sell; calls for Germany and Italy to immediately stop importing Russian gas have been ignored, with both governments insisting that national jobs and prosperity be taken into account. Miscalculations abound even in the financial sphere where, despite still sophisticated sanctions against Russian banks, including the central bank in Moscow, the ruble recently rose by around 30% between April 6 and April 30. .

When the kings return, they initiate a purge, to rectify the anomalies that have accumulated during their absence. Reports are presented and collected, disloyalty revealed during the king’s absence is punished, disobedient ideas and improper memories are rooted out, and the nooks and crannies of the body politic are cleansed of the political deviants who have populated them between- weather. 

Token actions like McCarthy are helpful because they spread fear among would-be dissidents. Today, across the West, piano, tennis, or theory of relativity players who are from Russia and want to continue playing what they play are being forced to make public statements that, at best, would make their lives and those of their families difficult. 

Investigative journalists uncover a chasm of philanthropic donations made by Russian oligarchs to music festivals and the like, donations that were welcome in the past but now turn out to be an assault on artistic freedom, unlike of course the philanthropic donations from their Western counterparts. Etc.

In a context of the proliferation of loyalty oaths, public discourse is reduced to the dissemination of the king’s truth, and nothing else. Trying to discover motives and reasons, looking for a clue as to how one might, perhaps, negotiate an end to the bloodbath, is equated with Putin verzeihen , or pardoning Putin; 

According to the current new wisdom, there is only one way to deal with a madman; to think of other means is against one’s own interests and therefore constitutes treason. (I remember teachers in the 1950s letting the younger generation know that “the only language Russian understands is fist language”). 

Memory management is key: never mention the Minsk agreements (2014 and 2015) between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany, don’t ask what happened to them and why, don’t worry step out of the negotiated conflict resolution platform on which Zelensky was elected in 2019 by nearly three-quarters of Ukrainian voters, and forget the US response through bullhorn diplomacy to Russia’s 2022 proposals for a common European security system. 

Above all, never mention the various American “special operations” of the recent past, such as in Iraq, and in Fallujah, Iraq (800 civilian victims in just a few days); by doing so, you commit the crime of ”  whataboutism “, which, in view of the“Pictures of Bucha and Mariupol” , is morally off limits.

Nothing is allowed to deviate

Throughout the West, the policy of imperial reconstruction targets anything that deviates, or has deviated in the past, from the American position on Russia, the Soviet Union and Europe as a whole. This is where the dividing line between Western society and its enemies, between good and evil, is drawn today, a line along which not only the present but also the past must be purged. Special attention is given to Germany, the country that has been the object of American (kissingerian) suspicion since Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik and Germany’s recognition of Poland’s post-war western border. . Since then, Germany has been suspect in the eyes of the Americans.

That three decades later Schröder, like Blair, Obama and so many others, cashed in on his political past after leaving office was never a problem in itself. It was otherwise with Schröder’s historic refusal, along with Chirac, to join the American-led troop to invade Iraq and, in doing so, to violate exactly the same international law that is violated today by Putin. (The fact that Merkel, as leader of the opposition at the time, told the world from Washington DC days before the invasion that Schröder did not represent the true will of the German people is perhaps one of the reasons she is out.)

In so far as the EU has become a subsidiary of NATO, one can assume that its officials know as little as anyone about the ultimate war aims of the United States. With the recent visit of the United States Secretaries of State and Defense to Kyiv, it appears the Americans have shifted the focus from defending Ukraine against Russian invasion to permanently weakening the Russian army. 

The extent of the US takeover was forcefully demonstrated when, on their return trip to the United States, the two Secretaries stopped over at the US Air Force Base in Ramstein, Germany, the latter the same that the United States uses for the war on terrorism and other similar operations. There they met the defense ministers of no less than forty countries, whom they had ordered to appear to pledge their support for Ukraine and, of course, the United States. It is significant that the meeting was not convened at NATO headquarters in Brussels, a multinational location, at least formally, but at a military installation that the United States claims to be under its, and only its, sovereignty, with the occasional disagreement of the German government. 

It was there, under the presidency of the United States and under two huge flags, American and Ukrainian, that the Scholz government finally agreed to deliver to Ukraine the“heavy weapons” demanded for a long time, without apparently having a say in the exact use that would be made of its tanks and howitzers. (The forty nations agreed to meet once a month to determine what other military equipment Ukraine would need). In this context, one cannot but recall the observation of a retired American diplomat, at the beginning of the war, according to which the United States would fight the Russians “to the last Ukrainian” .

As is well known, the attention span not only of the American public but also of the American foreign policy establishment is short. Dramatic events inside or outside the United States can critically diminish the national interest in a country as distant as Ukraine; not to mention the upcoming midterm elections and Donald Trump’s impending campaign to win back the presidency in 2024. States go almost exclusively to locals; see Afghanistan. It is all the more important, one might think, that European countries know exactly what the war aims of the United States are in Ukraine,

After the Ramstein meeting, there was talk not only of a “permanent weakening”of Russian military might, not to mention a peace agreement, but also an outright victory for Ukraine and its allies. This will test the Cold War wisdom that a conventional war against a nuclear power cannot be won. For Europeans, the outcome will be a matter of life and death; which could explain why the German government hesitated for a few weeks to supply Ukraine with weapons that could be used, for example, to penetrate Russian territory, first perhaps to hit Russian supply lines , then to get more. (When the author of these lines read the new American yearning for a “victory”, he was for a brief but unforgettable moment struck by a deep sense of fear). If Germany had the courage to ask for a say in the US-Ukrainian strategy, no such thing seems to have been offered: German tanks, it seems, will be given carte blanche. Rumor has it that the many wargames commissioned in recent years from military think tanks by the US government and involving Ukraine, NATO and Russia have all ended, one way or another, in a Nuclear Armageddon, at least in Europe.

It is certain that a nuclear end is not what is announced publicly. Instead, the US is heard to assume that defeating Russia will take many years, with a protracted stalemate, mired in the mud of a ground war, with neither side capable of move: the Russians because the Ukrainians will constantly receive more money and material, even manpower, from a “West”newly Americanized Ukrainians because they are too weak to enter Russia and threaten its capital. For the United States, this might seem quite comfortable: a proxy war, with a balance of forces adjusted and readjusted by them according to their changing strategic needs. In fact, when Biden asked in the final days of April for $33 billion in new aid to Ukraine for 2022 alone, he hinted that this will only be the start of a commitment to long term, as costly as Afghanistan, but, he said, worth it. Unless, of course, the Russians start firing more of their miracle missiles, unpacking their chemical weapons, and ultimately putting their nuclear arsenal to good use.

Even after Ukraine, prospect of peace is dim

Is there, in spite of all this, a prospect of peace after the war, or less ambitious: a regional security architecture, perhaps after the Americans lose interest in the question, or that Russia considers that it cannot or should not continue the war? A Eurasian settlement, if we want to call it that, will probably presuppose some kind of regime change in Moscow. After what happened, it is hard to imagine Western European leaders publicly expressing their confidence in Putin, or a Putin successor. At the same time, there is no reason to believe that the economic sanctions imposed by the West on Russia will provoke a popular uprising that will overthrow the Putin regime. 

In fact, if we refer to the deindustrialization of Russia, a la von der Leyen, will not be possible anyway, because China will not allow it, in particular because it needs a functioning Russian state for its New Silk Road project. . Popular demands in the West for Putin and his camarilla to be tried by the International Criminal Court in The Hague will, for these reasons alone, remain a dead letter. Note in any case that Russia, like the United States, did not sign the treaty establishing the Court, thus guaranteeing its citizens immunity from prosecution. Like Kissinger, Bush Jr. and others in the United States, Putin will therefore remain free until the end of his life, whatever that end may be. 

However, regime change may be needed in Ukraine. In recent years, the ultra-nationalist end of Ukrainian politics, deeply rooted in Ukraine’s fascist and even pro-Nazi past, seems to have gained strength in a new alliance with the ultra-interventionist forces of the United States. . One consequence, among others, was the disappearance of Minsk from the Ukrainian political agenda. 

Outside of Ukrainian politics, the US proxy war in Ukraine could force Russia into a close dependency relationship with Beijing, securing China a captive Eurasian ally and giving it guaranteed access to Russian resources, at advantageous prices since the West would no longer be in competition to obtain them. Russia, in turn, could benefit from Chinese technology, to the extent that it is made available. 

At first glance, such an alliance might seem contrary to the geostrategic interests of the United States. It would, however, be accompanied by an equally close and equally asymmetrical American-dominated alliance between the United States and Western Europe, an alliance that would keep the“European sovereignty” . 

Most likely, what Europe can offer the United States would exceed what Russia can offer China, so a loss from Russia to China would be more than offset by the gains from reinforcement of American hegemony over Western Europe. 

A proxy war in Ukraine could therefore be attractive to the United States seeking to build a global alliance for its looming battle with China over the next new world order, monopolar or bipolar, in old or new ways, which will play for years to come, after the end of the story is over.

(This is a reprint from lesakerfrancophone.fr )

(Panchmukha is interesting content floating on internet, brought by NewsBred for its readers. They don’t necessarily reflect our views but make our platform diverse.)

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