The drums of war are beating in Europe

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By MIGUEL URBAN, ERIC TOUSSAINT e PAUL MURPHY*

European elites are taking advantage of the current situation to launch a new phase of the European project, with the aim of establishing oligarchic and technocratic federalism

This week sees the end of the mandate of an ineffective European legislature that served during the worst pandemic of this century, as well as during Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. We thus see the continuation of a war on European soil that evokes the worst memories of the world wars of the last century. And as we watch the televised genocide of the Palestinian people, it appears that the international system of liberal governance is collapsing like a house of cards.

It is unlikely that the next legislature will improve the continent and the world; on the contrary, it perhaps accelerates the most damaging processes: the rise of the extreme right, remilitarization, the return of austerity, racism, xenophobia, neocolonialism and a global disorder marked by inter-imperialist conflicts.

The beginning of the last legislature did not seem to foreshadow this situation. In fact, it started with a “historic” declaration of climate emergency[I] of the European Parliament, which demanded that the European Commission align all its proposals with the objective of limiting global warming to 1,5°C. It was necessary to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030 to achieve so-called carbon neutrality by 2050. In addition, a political and democratic justification for the European Ecological Pact emerged. However, it is crucial to remember that this proclamation would not have been possible without the massive youth-led climate justice mobilizations in several European countries and elsewhere in the months leading up to the 2019 European elections.

Above all, since the 2008 crisis, the lack of a European political project beyond the search for maximum profit for private companies, the constitutionalization of neoliberalism and the establishment of a model of bureaucratic authority immune to popular will, have eroded support popular support to the EU, threatening its legitimacy and even its integrity. In this sense, the European Ecological Pact seemed to be justified by the urgency of infusing renewed political and social legitimacy into the neoliberal European project, painting it green.

However, the relative post-austerity hiatus during the Covid pandemic has not resulted in a move away from the EU's neoliberal policies. Faced with the health emergency and the effects of the pandemic, the EU was unable to develop a common health response. Only one vaccine purchasing center emerged, while the world's poor were denied vaccines because German, Norwegian, Swiss and British leaders would not renounce intellectual property rights when requested by more than 100 countries between 2020 and 2022. The EU did not take advantage of the situation to strengthen member states' health systems or to create a European public pharmaceutical company to deal with potential future epidemics.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, major governments, the European Commission and the European Central Bank have increased public debt rather than financing a large share of financial spending with tax revenues that should have come from the windfall profits of Big Pharma, GAFAM and banks, which were the main beneficiaries of expansionary economic policies during the crisis. Once again, we see how the EU has become a billion-dollar project at the expense of millions of poor people.

And, in this sense, the pandemic was the prelude to the reassessment of the policies that would accompany the declaration of climate emergency approved by Parliament. It served as a catalyst for a (new) gigantic transfer of public money to the private sector, with stimulus funds being used to support the interests of big business.

All the while, astute politicians sold the Euro-reformist idea that it would be unfeasible to pursue a policy of non-austerity without definitively rejecting the European treaties and fundamental principles that have governed the European economy for the past three decades. However, this merely represented an optical illusion of “another way out of the crisis” which, in practice, excessively deepened the productive specialization of each country within the EU and, in the process, solidified hierarchical relations between the central capitalist countries around from Germany, France, the Benelux countries and the peripheral countries.

However, if the management of the pandemic served as a cover for the subsequent “shock doctrine”, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine became the perfect pretext for both total austerity and the remilitarization of Europe. Not only is the EU arming itself with expensive weaponry because it aims to speak the “harsh language of power” in a world plagued by increasingly intense conflicts due to scarce resources.

Furthermore, the more aggressive European capitalist agenda is also being amplified under the guise of war. Everything goes when we are at war – they say. An excellent illustration is how quickly and easily the EU's green makeup was thrown out the window when, in 2022, the European Commission's “taxonomy” included methane gas and nuclear energy as supposedly “green” energy under the pretext of breaking Russia's energy dependence.

Equally dubious is placing Europe's carbon and methane reduction responsibilities in the hands of financial markets – the EU Emissions Trading Scheme – whose understanding of the threat of planetary arson is so frivolous that, immediately after Putin's invasion, the The price charged for emitting a ton of CO2-equivalent fell by 30% and then between February 2023 and 2024, the price fell by half.

The environmental policies approved midway through the legislature also included the “farm to table” strategy, [ii]one of the pillars of the European Green Deal, which promised to triple the area dedicated to organic farming, halve pesticides and reduce chemical fertilizers by 20% by 2030. But this also became another casualty of the war in Ukraine. Everything is fair when there is war – it is said.

Likewise, the European Commission declared that it will allow the use of areas of “ecological interest” and land set aside from production to increase European agricultural production. Once again, the argument is that food security must prevail over the advancement of organic agriculture. War is again used as justification.

In the absence of traditional military threats justifying increased defense spending, the EU's external border security policy has turned into a gold mine for the European defense industry[iii]. These are the same military and security companies that profit from selling weapons to the Middle East and Africa, fueling the conflicts that force so many people to flee to Europe in search of refuge.

These same companies provide border guards with the necessary equipment, border surveillance technology, and technological infrastructure to track population movements. In the words of French researcher Claire Rodier, a “business of xenophobia” has emerged.[iv] which, given its opacity and unclear margins, increasingly depends on EU budget lines disguised as development aid or “good neighborliness”. In fact, it could be said that the closest thing to a European army to date was Frontex, the agency responsible for managing the European external border surveillance system as if it were a military front.

This dynamic is, as Tomasz Konicz argues, inseparable from the imperialism in crisis of the 21st century, which is no longer simply a phenomenon of plundering resources, but also strives to hermetically block the outbreak of superfluous humanity that, supposedly, the system produces in their rales. Thus, the protection of the last relative islands of well-being is central to imperialist strategies, reinforcing the security and control measures that fuel growing authoritarianism.[v]

The tightening of EU migration laws in recent decades is a prime example; it culminated in the ratification of the European Pact on Migration and Asylum in April 2024. This scarcity authoritarianism is perfectly in tune with another brutal process: the shrinking of economic well-being which, after decades of neoliberal policies, in turn creates misery for broad sections of the population. This sense of scarcity is at the heart of the xenophobia of chauvinism, which fits perfectly with the rise of a neoliberal authoritarianism whose slogan is, in essence, “every man for himself!”, even in the war of the last against the penultimate.

Beyond imaginary barbarian invasions[vi] From Fortress Europe and its authoritarian drift, there is now the danger of the new Russian imperialism. Nothing is more cohesive and legitimizing than a foreign enemy, when it comes to building the European neomilitarist project; This is not really about defending Ukraine, but about supporting the authoritarian neoliberalism of European leaders. The new mantra in Brussels is that “Europe is more united today than ever before”, a phrase repeated to dispel the ghosts of recent crises and demonstrate to the outside world that Europe now has a common political objective.

The remilitarization of Europe is an aspiration that European elites have long hidden behind euphemisms such as the “strategic compass”[vii] or the search for greater strategic autonomy for the EU. Until now, there seemed to be many obstacles to this being achieved. The President of the European Commission herself, Ursula von der Leyen, rhetorically asked in her 2021 State of the Union address why no progress has been made so far on common defense: “what has prevented us from making progress so far? No, it’s not a lack of resources, but rather a lack of political will.”

It is precisely this political will that now seems to prevail since the invasion of Ukraine. This war has become the perfect pretext to accelerate the agenda of Europe's neoliberal elites, who no longer see the remilitarization of the EU as just a lifeline to deter invasion. This is, more openly now, the new strategic project of European integration to complement the market constitutionalism that has prevailed until now. What is now wanted is a Europe of markets and “security”.

Thus, the global polycrisis – which is further undermining the EU's geoeconomic and geopolitical weight – is causing new leaps in its financial and, in turn, military integration, in the name of competitiveness and in response to the invasion of Ukraine. A few weeks after the invasion of that country, Von der Leyen told the European Parliament that the EU was more united than ever and that more progress had been made on common security and defense “in six days than in the last two decades”, noting the release of 500 million euros in community funds for Ukraine's military equipment.

It cannot be denied that European elites are using the war in Ukraine to accelerate the agenda of neoliberalism, including a closer financial and commercial alliance between them and, in turn, a remilitarization of the EU as a useful instrument for their project. of a “Europe of power”. Military and security integration obviously aims to transform the European economy towards war.

We are facing a true paradigm shift. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, argues that the EU “must quickly learn to speak the language of power” and “not rely solely on soft power as we used to do”.[viii] In this sense, in March 2022, member states approved the famous Strategic Compass, an action plan to reinforce the EU's security and defense policy until 2030.

Although the Strategic Compass took two years to prepare, its content was quickly adapted to the new context opened by the Russian invasion of Ukraine: “The more hostile security environment requires us to make a quantum leap forward and increase our capacity and willingness to act, strengthening our resilience and ensuring solidarity and mutual assistance”. The new strategy foresees that European defense will no longer be based on maintaining peace, but on national-European security and the protection of “main trade routes”. In other words, the objective is to protect European interests by ensuring the EU’s “strategic autonomy”.

The interest of European elites in speaking the harsh language of power is closely linked to the EU's neocolonial and “green” extractivism, which aims to ensure the supply of scarce raw materials essential for the European economy and its so-called green transition, in a context of growing struggles between old and new empires. As Mario Draghi says: “In a world where our rivals control many of the resources we need, this agenda has to be combined with a plan to protect our supply chain – from critical minerals to batteries and charging infrastructure.”[ix] The remilitarization of Europe is just the necessary step to be able to speak the tough language of the power that secures the raw materials and resources that European companies need.

The Strategic Compass repeatedly states that “Russia’s war of aggression constitutes a tectonic shift in European history” to which the EU must respond. And what is the main recommendation of this strategic compass? Increased spending, as well as military coordination. Precisely in a context in which the military budgets of EU Member States are more than four times higher than those of Russia and in which European military expenditure has tripled since 2007.[X]

This increase in defense spending was confirmed at the Versailles European Council in March 2022, when Member States agreed to invest 2% of their GDP in defense.[xi] This is the largest defense investment in Europe since the Second World War. For the same reason, at the summit, Council President Charles Michel stated bluntly that the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the EU's budgetary response had “confirmed the rebirth of European defense”.

Just two months ago, the European Commission presented the first Defense Industrial Strategy,[xii] an ambitious set of new actions to support the competitiveness and readiness of the defense industry across the Union. The main objective is to improve the Union's defense capabilities by promoting the integration of Member States' industries and reducing dependence on the acquisition of armament outside the continent. In short, it is about preparing European industry for war. As Von der Leyen said in the plenary session of the European Parliament, although “the threat of war may not be imminent, it is not impossible”, so “Europe must wake up”.[xiii]

Although the Strategic Compass increases European strategic autonomy, the document admits “how essential NATO is for the collective defense of its members”. Since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO has sought to redefine itself and adapt to a new geopolitical environment in which the transatlantic connection appears to have been outdated.

French President Emmanuel Macron himself argued in 2019 that the absence of American leadership was leading to the “brain death” of the Atlantic Alliance and that Europe had to start acting like a global strategic power. Today, as Russian soldiers invade Ukraine and Moscow tacitly threatens to use nuclear weapons, NATO is experiencing a resurgence, a return to its raison d'être and a new sense of its existential purpose.

In fact, Macron himself left the door open to sending NATO ground troops to fight in Ukraine: “We will do everything possible to prevent Russia from winning this war.”[xiv] In addition to providing Kiev with “long-range missiles and bombs”, which had not been done previously for fear of escalating the conflict, Joe Biden and his European partners recently authorized the use of their military equipment against targets on Russian territory in an attempt to mitigate Moscow's offensive against Kharkiv. As the months pass, all the red lines and safeguards of the United States and the European Union are blurred, pushing us progressively closer to an armed confrontation with NATO soldiers on Ukrainian soil, which could lead to a Third World War with completely unknown and dangerous scenarios.

Putin's invasion of Ukraine not only allowed European public opinion to unite around a strong sense of insecurity about external threats. In response to the EU's call for rearmament, Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles stated that society is “not aware” of the “total and absolute threat” of war, legitimizing the biggest increase in military spending since the Second World War. However, it has also allowed NATO and US imperialism to erode any semblance of political independence from the EU, restoring long-lost legitimacy and unity, especially after the failed occupation of Afghanistan.

If Putin's invasion of Ukraine quickly became an obstacle to hiding the insecurities and pain arising from neoliberal social fragmentation - exponentially increasing defense budgets and promoting European integration based on remilitarization -, so too does support for the State of Israel in its genocidal and collective punishment of the Palestinian people, which now acts as an accelerator of the EU's militaristic and warmongering drift.

The EU's most powerful leaders not only approve of the Zionist state's policy of war crimes against the civilian population of Gaza, but also cite a non-existent “right to defense” on the part of an occupying power. They also repress and attempt to ban any internal voices that oppose the EU's unconditional support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the genocide of Gazans. The McCarthyist drift has a true objective: not simply to eliminate solidarity with the Palestinian cause, but to discipline the European population around the geostrategic interests of its elites, namely the remilitarization of Europe around the war in Ukraine and unconditional support for Israel.

Perhaps the only positive outcome of all this is that we can finally put in the dustbin all the so-called “European values” and “founding myths of peace” that the EU liberal propaganda machine continues to hammer out.

In this sense, the construction of domestic enemies as scapegoats to justify and support increasingly repressive models that restrict general freedoms, which particularly affect minorities considered dangerous, plays a fundamental role. And here, a dangerous minority is anyone who does not fit into the identity framework of European Christian whiteness.[xv] This identity framework has limited flexibility, since membership in the community no longer depends on a question of birth, but rather on an ideological commitment to the values ​​that elites stipulate as authentically European.[xvi]

Thus, a French person is not someone who was born and raised in France, but rather someone who identifies with a pre-determined French identity. Anyone who rejects these French ideals loses their French identity, regardless of where they were born, what is written on their passport or whether they wear the national team shirt. Today, belonging to a national community is linked to a supposed identity and is increasingly thought of in ethnocultural and ideological terms.

In this context, the extreme right sets the agenda and the so-called center fulfills it, executes it and normalizes it. And this is not just out of simple ideological conviction, but also out of pure strategic interest: in capitalist societies experiencing multiple and growing crises and instabilities, reinforcing repression and security becomes a necessary form of economic life insurance. Exploring and exploiting fears and insecurities to construct an ideology of security gives coherence and identity to the authoritarian neoliberal project. Societies are rebuilt and tensions are contained by the exclusion and expulsion of the most vulnerable or dissident sectors.

The far right is gaining an increasing share of power within the EU, to the point of becoming a fundamental factor in determining parliamentary majorities in the next parliament. In fact, the Eurocratic bureaucracy in Brussels, aware that it will need the support of part of this political family to ensure the governance of the EU, has started a campaign to differentiate between the “good extreme right” and the “bad extreme right”, or that is, between the extreme right that unequivocally adheres to neoliberal economic policy, remilitarization and geostrategic subordination to European elites, and the extreme right that still questions them, albeit in an increasingly timid way.

European Eurocracy is planning to give the far right a specific role in European government, thus burying all the taboos and precautions that Western democracies have taken against these political movements since the end of the Second World War. All this in a context in which the drums of war are beating in chancelleries, bringing us dangerously close to a new global military confrontation, in a context of climate emergency and ineptitude in multilateral governance and international legal systems that have governed neoliberal globalization in recent decades. .

European elites take advantage of the situation to launch a new phase of the European project, with the aim of establishing oligarchic and technocratic federalism. This is what Mario Draghi, former managing director of Goldman Sachs in Europe, openly proposed in his recent report commissioned by von der Leyen: accelerate the introduction of joint decision-making mechanisms for European institutions, promote the union of capital markets of the EU and be able to act in better conditions in the race for increasingly intense competitiveness with the other great powers; whether in decline or expansion, after the end of happy globalization.

This dangerous cocktail promises new conflicts, a recomposition of actors, an expansion of the battlefield and, above all, an acceleration of inter-imperialist conflicts. Beyond assessments of military tactics, what is beyond doubt is that the winners so far of the Russian invasion of Ukraine are: Russian imperialism itself, which managed to annex and occupy part of the resource-rich territories that Putin has long coveted; NATO, which went from a state of “brain death” to the most aggressive geopolitical agenda in its history; the long-standing desire of European elites to use militarism as an integration mechanism; and the corporations that manufacture death, which have never profited so much.[xvii] And the main losers, as always, are the citizens, in this case the Ukrainian people who, however, continue to resist the invasion and who deserve our support, as do the Russian activists who are fighting Putin's war.

Although the European Parliament began the 2019 legislature by declaring a climate emergency, it ended by sounding the drums of war in European chancelleries, promoting a remilitarization incompatible with any ecosocial transition process. It appears that the next legislature will see the return of austerity revenues, but this time under the straitjacket of an expansive defense budget that will guarantee the remilitarization of Europe and the reconversion of the European armaments industry. It is therefore more necessary than ever to work to build a broad transnational anti-militarist movement to challenge the elites' plan for a combination of austerity, internal repression and remilitarization of Europe, governed jointly by the deep center and the reactionary wave of extreme parties. right.

To this end, it is essential to call into question the concept of security based on expenditure on weapons, defense and military infrastructure. As an alternative, we need to propose an anti-militarist security model that guarantees access to a functional public health system, education, employment, housing, energy, improved access to social services that guarantee a dignified life and a response to climate change based on a ecosocialist horizon.

As the ReCommons Europe manifesto states, “forces on the political and social left that wish to embody a force for change in Europe, with the aim of laying the foundations for an egalitarian society based on solidarity, must imperatively adopt anti-militarist policies. This means fighting not only in the wars of European imperialist forces, but also in selling weapons and supporting repressive and warlike regimes.”[xviii]

Condemnation of the Russian invasion and solidarity with the Ukrainian people must intrinsically integrate the rejection of Russian imperialism and the rejection of the remilitarization of the EU and the strengthening of the Atlantic Alliance. Under no circumstances can our support for the Ukrainian people and the fight against Russian imperialism appear subordinate to our own imperialism. We must avoid the binary trap of having to support one imperialism against another, accepting the logic of Sacred Union at the dawn of the First World War with new war credits.

As anti-capitalists, our task should be precisely to break this dichotomy and adopt an active and clear anti-militarist stance in support of the Ukrainian and Russian people, creating our own field independently of conflicting imperialisms and defending: the right to conscientious objection and active desertion of all soldiers and being welcomed as political refugees; non-payment of Ukrainian debt; the end of neoliberal dictates (for example, the IMF) that impoverish Ukraine; peace without annexations; the unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine; and guarantee the right of people, without exception, to freely decide their future.

Without successful resistance, EU elites will continue to undermine the social model in the coming decades. In this burning world, the underlying conflict is between capital and life, private interests and commons, property and rights. We will never be able to undertake an ecological and social transition without combating the capitalist disease of militarism. Today, more than ever, it is essential to open a new cycle of mobilizations capable of moving from the national to the European level. We need to break the EU's Euro-reformist illusion to force the passage of a democratic, anti-neoliberal, anti-militarist, feminist, environmentalist-socialist and anti-colonial system that opens the door to a new European integration project. Only then and there will there be, as Rosa Luxemburg insisted: socially equal, humanly different and totally free.

*Miguel Urban Member of the European Parliament, member of the Anticapitalists,

*Paul Murphy Founding member of the CADTM international network.

*Eric Toussaint He is a professor at the University of Liège. He is the international spokesperson for the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debts (CADTM) and a member of the Irish parliament.

Translation: Eleutério FS Prado.

Originally published on the portal counter punch.

Notes


[I]https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20191121IPR67110/the-european-parliament-declares-climate-emergency

[ii] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/from-farm-to-fork/.

[iii] To learn more about European border security policies, read the work of the Transnational Institute, Border Wars Arms traffickers who profit from the refugee tragedy in Europe.

[iv]Claire Rodier, Xénophobia business, Éditions La Découverte, Paris, 2012, https://www.editionsladecouverte.fr/xenophobie_business-9782707174338

[v] Konicz, Thomas (2017).Crisis ideologies . Madrid: Enclave of books

[vi] The Romans used this term to describe people who lived outside their borders.

[vii] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/infographics/strategic-compass/

[viii] Various means of communication – Europe must quickly learn to speak the language of power

[ix] https://geopolitique.eu/en/2024/04/16/radical-change-is-what-is-needed/

[X] http://centredelas.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/A-militarised-Union-2.pdf

[xi] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/54773/20220311-versailles-declaration-en.pdf

[xii] First defense industrial strategy and a new defense industry program to bolster Europe's readiness and security

[xiii] Speech by President von der Leyen in the Plenary of the European Parliament on strengthening European defense in a volatile geopolitical scenario

[xiv] Macron says “nothing is ruled out”, including the use of Western troops, to prevent Russia from winning the war in Ukraine

[xv] Hans Kundnani, Eurowhiteness, Culture, Empire and Race in the European Project, C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd, London, 2023.

[xvi] Daniel Bensaid, Fragments mécréants: sur les mythes identitaires et la république imaginaire, Lignes, Essais, 2005, reprinted in 2018.

[xvii] To give an example of the lucrative war deals in Ukraine for European arms companies. Among them, German multinational Rheinmetall, maker of the Leopard tank, whose market value has more than quadrupled since the war in Ukraine, while it has seen a sharp increase in orders from Western governments seeking to replenish their stocks after supplying large quantities of weapons to Kiev.

[xviii]ReCommonsEurope: Manifesto for a New Popular Internationalism in Europe, 2019, https://www.cadtm.org/ReCommonsEurope-Manifesto-for-a-New-Popular-Internationalism-in-Europe


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