Europe's narrative bubble

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By ALASTAIR CROOKE*

Europe has buried itself in a deep hole, because now its opponents deplore its moral discourse.

Something strange is happening in Europe. Britain has recently “got back on track”, with a strongly pro-EU Chancellor of the Exchequer (Jeremy Hunt) paving the way for the non-election rise of globalist Rishi Sunak to the post of Prime Minister. For what? Well, to impose drastic cuts in public services, to normalize immigration by 500.000 a year and raise taxes to the highest levels since the 1940s, as well as opening the channels for a new deal with Brussels.

a party Tory British would be happy to do that? Bring down your social ballast and raise taxes in an already consummated world recession? It just doesn't seem to make sense. Specters of Greece 2008? Greek austerity in British version? Are we missing something? Would all this be setting the stage for the residues of the establishment throw open an economy in crisis (due to the failure of the Brexit) and say there is no alternative ("there is no alternatives”) other than an eventual British return, head down and hat in hand, to the European Union?

Simply put: forces behind the scenes seem to want the UK to resume its former role as US plenipotentiary to Brussels, to push the US primacy agenda while Europe sinks into doubt.

Equally strange – and significant – was that, on September 15, the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder walked unannounced into the office of the current Chancellor, Olaf Scholtz, when only the latter and his Vice Chancellor, Robert Habeck, were present to place on the table, right before Olaf Scholtz's eyes, a proposal by Russian Gazprom for a long-term gas supply. The current chancellor and his predecessor reportedly looked at each other for a minute without exchanging a word. And then Gerhard Schröder reached out, took back the unread document, turned his back and left the office. Nothing was said. On September 26 (11 days later), the Nordstream pipeline was sabotaged. Surprise (yes or no)?

Many unanswered questions. The result: no more gas for Germany. One pipeline on the Nordstream network (the 2B), however, survived the sabotage and remains pressurized and functional. However, gas still does not arrive in Germany, except for very expensive liquefied gas (delivered by other suppliers). There are currently no European Union sanctions on Russian gas. Landing that gas through Nordstream would only require regulatory approval.

So: Europe will embrace austerity, the loss of competitiveness, the increase in prices and taxes?

Yes. And Scholtz hasn't even glanced at the Russian offer. The Green Party of Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock (as well as the European Commission) is in close alignment with Joe Biden's team, insisting on sustaining US hegemony at all costs. This Eurocoalition is explicitly and viscerally malevolent towards Russia, and, by contrast, viscerally lenient towards Ukraine.

The big painting? German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in a speech in New York on August 2, 2022, sketched the vision of a world dominated by the United States and Germany. In 1989, George Bush resolutely offered Germany a “partnership in leadership,” Annalena Baerbock asserted. "Now the time has come when we must create it, a joint partnership in leadership." In other words, a German proposal in favor of its explicit primacy in the European Union, capturing North American support for this. The British must not be enjoying this story.

Ensuring that there is no rollback in sanctions against Russia and sustaining the European Union's financial support for Ukraine is a clear red line, precisely for Joe Biden's team, which is certainly attentive to Annalena Baerbock's Atlanticist offer. For all of them, Ukraine is the spider at the center of a web. The Greens explicitly play that game.

Why? Why Ukraine is still the global pivot: geopolitics, geoeconomics, food supply chains commodities and energy ― all revolve around this Ukrainian pivot. A Russian victory in Ukraine would usher in a new political bloc and monetary system, through its allies in BRICS+, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union.

Is this European devotion to austerity just about how the German Green Party closes in on the Russophobia of the European Union? Or are Washington and its Atlanticist allies now preparing for something else? Preparing, for example, to give China the treatment that Russia is getting from Europe?

Earlier this week at Mansion House (London's Town Hall), British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak changed gears. He has offered Washington a promise to support Ukraine "as long as it takes", but his central foreign policy focus is firmly on China. The old “golden age” of Sino-British relations would be over: “[China’s] authoritarian regime poses a systemic challenge to our values ​​and interests,” he said – citing the crackdown on anti-covid-zero protests and the arrest and beating of a BBC journalist on Sunday.

In the European Union – in belated panic over the unfolding of widespread deindustrialization –, President Emmanuel Macron has signaled that the bloc can adopt a tougher stance with China only if the United States withdraws from the subsidies of the inflation reduction law, which stimulate European companies and raise anchor and sail towards the United States.

However, Emmanuel Macron's move will likely end in a dead end or, at best, a cosmetic gesture, since the new law has already been passed in the United States. And Brussels' political class, unsurprisingly, is already waving the white flag. Europe has lost Russian energy and is now on the verge of losing China's technology, finance and market. It's a triple whammy when taken in conjunction with European deindustrialization.

Here it is. Austerity is always the first tool in the US toolbox for exerting political pressure on US intermediaries: Washington is preparing the European Union's ruling elites to wean themselves from China, as it has already done from Russia. Europe's biggest economies are already taking a tougher stance on Beijing. Washington will squeeze the UK and the EU to the max until it gets full compliance with decoupling with China.

Protests in China over Covid isolation rules could not have come at a more opportune time, from the perspective of US foreign policy hawks. Washington had already put the European Union in full propaganda mode regarding the Iranian “demonstrations”. Now, the protests in China offer the opportunity for Washington to take the stage in demonizing the latter.

The narrative mobilized against Russia (“Vladimir Putin makes mistake after mistake; the system fails; the Russian economy is precariously on a knife edge and popular discontent is rising”) – will get a “copy and paste” for Xi Jinping and China.

But the inevitable moral sermon the European Union will antagonize with China contains even more: hopes of maintaining a commercial position with the latter country will disappear and, in fact, it will be China that will “wash its hands” of Europe, and Not the other way around. This is the blind spot for European leaders: many Chinese may deplore the domestic policy of coping with Covid, but they will still remain deeply Chinese and nationalists at heart. They will hate the sermons of the European Union: “European values ​​speak only for themselves; we have ours”.

Obviously, Europe has buried itself in a deep hole, because now its opponents deplore its moral discourse. But what exactly is going on?

Well, first of all, the European Union is overinvesting in its Ukraine narrative. She seems unable to read the direction events are taking on the military terrain. Or, if they read them correctly – something of which there are few signs – it seems incapable of carrying out a course correction.

It must be remembered that the war, at first, was never seen by Washington as decisive. The military aspect was seen as a complement – ​​a pressure multiplier – to the political crisis that economic sanctions were supposed to trigger in Moscow. Now it seems clear that the initial idea was that the financial war would be the front line, and the military conflict, the secondary front of attack.

It was only with the unexpected shock, produced by the fact that the sanctions did not produce “shock and awe” in Moscow that the priority shifted from the financial to the military arena. The reason why the military vector was not initially seen as a front line was the prognosis, now largely confirmed, that Russia, in this field, had full potential for the growing role of initiatives.

And so, here we are: the West has been humiliated in the financial war, and unless something changes (i.e., there is a dramatic US military escalation), it will also lose out on the military front, including with the specific possibility that Ukraine will, at some point, simply implode as a state.

The real situation on the battlefield today is almost completely at odds with the western narrative. However, the European Union has invested so much in it that it does nothing but double down on it, rather than stepping back to reassess the true situation.

And in doing so, through this narrative overinvestment – ​​namely, standing by Ukraine “for as long as it takes” – the strategic content of the “Ukraine pivot” turns 180 degrees: Ukraine’s trail will not be enshrined as the Afghan quagmire. from Russia; instead, its wake is looming as Europe's own long-term financial and military quagmire.

“As long as it takes” gives the conflict an indeterminate horizon. But it leaves Russia in control of the schedule. Likewise, “as long as it takes” increasingly implies exposing NATO's blind spots. The rest of the world's intelligence services will be able to observe the gaps not only in NATO's air defense but also in industrial ones. That pivot will end up showing who the real paper tiger is.

“As long as it takes”… Has Europe really thought about this?

If Brussels also imagines that such dogged adherence to the narrative will impress the rest of the world and bring other states closer to its “ideal”, it is quite wrong. There is already considerable hostility to the notion that Europe's 'values' and struggles have some broader relevance beyond Europe's borders. Others will see European inflexibility as a bizarre compulsion to commit suicide… and this at the very moment when the bursting of the “everything bubble” already hints at a major recession.

Why would Europe double down on its “Ukraine project” at the expense of losing its positions in the rest of the world? Perhaps because Europe's political class fears, more than anything, losing its domestic narrative. She needs to distract attention. This is a tactic called “survival”. The European Union, like NATO, has always been a political project of the United States for the subjugation of Europe. And that's still it.

However, the metanarrative of the European Union, for the bloc's internal purposes, postulates something diametrically different: that Europe is a strategic actor; a political power in its own right; a market colossus, a monopsony with the power to impose its will on whoever trades with it.

Simply put, the narrative of Europe rests on the argument that it is endowed with significant political agency. But Washington has just demonstrated that it has none. That narrative has been destroyed. So Europe is destined to become an economic laggard. She “lost” Russia, and will soon “lose” China. And he is finding that he too has lost his place in the world.

Once again, the real situation on the geopolitical battleground is almost completely at odds with the European narrative about itself as a geostrategic actor. Your “friend”, the Joe Biden administration, is gone, while powerful enemies grow everywhere. The European Union's political class has never been aware of its limitations. He considered it "heresy" even to suggest that there were limitations to Europe's power. Consequently, she ended up overinvesting in the narrative about her own agency.

Hanging EU flags from all official buildings will not cast a grape leaf over nudity, nor will it hide the disconnect between the Brussels bubble and its despised continental proletariat. French politicians now openly ask what can save Europe from total vassalage. Good question. What to do when a hyperinflated narrative of power explodes at the same time as its financialized version?

*Alastair Crooke, former British diplomat, founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.

Translation: Ricardo Cavalcanti-Schiel.

Originally published on Strategic Culture Foundation.

 

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