Europe is at a pivotal point. Or, rather, it is at a point where its structural transformation can no longer be ignored.
Events in Europe have finally led us to the dénouement of the 20th Century. It may presage a new Europe tied more firmly into the Eurasian heartland than old Europe. It is the end — ’though not without economic, social, and political pain — of the 20th Century form of Atlanticism.
Similarly, the United States and much of the West is at a pivotal point, except that — by almost all public reaction — this reality can be, and is being, ignored. Within the morphing of the US, as it sidesteps the question of its own strategic pivot (and the signs of its own strategic mortality), Washington has — like Europe — walked away from the 20th Century form of Atlanticism, in favour of a Pacific orientation (but a Pacific orientation which continues to remain ignorant of the reality that it is the Indian Ocean which is the dynamic).
The Presidential elections in France on May 6, 2012, and Parliamentary elections in Greece on the same day — each overturning the status quo — brought some aspects of the European “crisis” back into international debate.
There is as yet no revolution in Europe, or the US, or elsewhere in the greater West, which will see massive transformation from one day to the next. The process of change is more gradual; more evolutionary than revolutionary. It is nonetheless profound. The election of a doctrinaire socialist, François Holland, to the French Presidency will not appear at first to yield dramatic change. Neither did the election of a doctrinaire socialist to the US Presidency when Barack Obama took office. And Holland knows that, however much he wishes to appease his electorate by offering to extend the benefits of government employment, he has little room for manoeuvre within the German-dominated eurozone. If anything, the removal of Nicolas Sarkozy as French President places Germany even more at the centre, and in control, of European continental power.
Arguably, now, more than ever, the European Union is Germany. And Germany, which wishes this outcome above all else because it sees it as an alternative to a fratricidal, war-torn Europe, then has to accept that a high level of structural inefficiencies in most eurozone member states degrades the average economic performance of the whole. Even so, it gives Germany, essentially, a massive market and manpower base.
So now, whatever Holland might do to cause France to retreat somewhat from eurozone diktat, Europe has become Germany. How long it remains thus is still open to question.
This structural shift, with Continental Europe turning eastward and the US turning Westward (with both actually gazing across the world to East Asia), has some interesting ramifications for the continued viability of 20th Century alliances and even terms such as “Westernism” and “Eastern- ism”. North Atlantic states, such as the United Kingdom and, to a degree, Canada, and some of those European littoral states clinging to “Westernism”, will need to look to their futures and decide how to ensure them. The UK, already facing a breakdown in internal sovereignty or cohesion as a unitary state, will have to consider whether it wishes to once again become a major state in its own right (and therefore resist the fissiparous tendencies of the Celts), or whether it will be content to be essentially a city-state built around the markets of London. [The Scottish local council elections, giving great impetus to the secessionist Scottish National Party, on May 3, 2012, were a significant indicator of the UK’s coming difficulties.]
What is clear is that the present Government of the US has walked away from Western Europe, and the German-led eurozone now turns its attentions toward its major trading partners across the continent: the Russian Federation, with its control of oil and gas; and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), with its markets. Clearly, if history is any guide, Russia and the PRC will ultimately come to compete with Germany’s manufacturing. Eventually, restiveness within Europe — by such as the Greeks, Italians, and other “Mediterranee” — may stir rebellion against Berlin. But for the time being German-led Europe is looking East, and Russia and the PRC are happy to oblige.
Washington, meanwhile, plays with new clothes for what it still supposes to be its quiescent pet, Turkey, failing to recognize that Turkey is neither stable nor obedient to the US. Nor will it, or can it, give Washington what it desires in the Middle East or the Muslim world. When the Balfour Declaration was announced in 1919, one European Jew was heard to remark to another: “If Britain wanted to give us a land it did not own, why didn’t it give us Switzerland?” Similarly, Ankara cannot give Washington — even if it wished — something it doesn’t own: the Arab world, the Maghreb, or Central Asia. So Washington toys with Ankara, and fawns to the radical Islamist Muslim Brothers (the Ikhwan), deceiving itself into believing itself still to be a player, if it ever was, in “the Great Game”.
In all of this, Russia, once again with Vladimir Putin in the Presidency as of May 6, 2012, has some advantages. As outlined elsewhere in this edition [see “Logistics Strategy on the New Battlefields of Global Politics and Conflict” in Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, May 5, 2012.], Russia was able to begin building a new state when the USSR collapsed to rubble in 1990. It could reinvent itself, and is now pushing to reinvigorate its manufacturing sector, so that it is not merely a font of oil and gas for Western Europe. Germany’s success post-World War II was also that it could rise from the ashes, unencumbered by the bureaucratic sclerosis of the past. Why should Australia, once a great manufacturing nation, not resume such a direction, instead of descending to become a Third World source of raw materials for the PRC? Because, as with much of Europe and the US, Australia lacked the great blessing of a traumatic collapse. And government spending, rather than the stimulation of private investment, remains the focus.
But the frustrations of societies mount in Europe and the US, over bureaucracies which rule undemocratically, and which extort “electorates” to pay for governmental gluttony. In Italy, indeed, they wonder why the world has ignored the coup which replaced their elected government, and which threatens to drive away all investment and prosperity.
This is a new world.
By. Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs.