The road to lasting peace between Washington and Moscow, passes through Brussels.
The concrete steps, proposals, and concessions, which Washington and Moscow must make in order to secure either a de facto, or a de jure alliance with one another, are Euro-centric.
They begin in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, and are marooned on Spitzbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago. They stretch from Catalonia to the Black Sea and from the Urals to the Orkneys. Europe is at the epicenter of Russian-American rivalry, and provided it boasted competent leadership, Europe could bring the rivalry to an end.
Rather than the antiquated opposition between a Continental (Paris-Berlin-Moscow) axis vs. an Atlantic (Washington-London-Berlin) one, an alignment between Washington-Brussels-Moscow is more responsive to a contemporary world embroiled in a crisis of governance. The imperative of salvaging what remains of international order, and reasserting it over the entire globe, is far more urgent than the inconsequential territorial disputes of Europe which fuel the ongoing confrontation between America and Russia.
The Europe of 2017 is not the Europe of 1917, nor 1719. Once a source of cultural dynamism, global economic growth, empire, and admiration, two internecine wars ceded America and Russia the power to arbitrate Europe’s destiny and borders.
In retrospect, the willingness of English, French, German, Austrian, and Russians soldiers to butcher one another in the trenches of WWI, makes little sense. Such murderous patriotism, doesn’t resonate with any European, Russian, or American of today. By the same token, the genocides of WWII, are even less comprehensible. Why exterminate the flower of your continent, and render future generations bare and void of their contributions? In the name of what cause are nearly thirty million civilians butchered in their homes, in concentration camps, by carpet bombing, or by starvation?
What in hindsight is incomprehensible to people living today, was the result of the same brainless hysteria, and reflective vilification, centered on the same petty disputes and brain-dead rhetoric that we are witnessing in the world of today. Both the latest paranoia gripping Washington and Brussels about the evil designs of Moscow, and a Russia incapable of managing the relationship with even its closest historical and cultural neighbors without resorting to the support of separatists or territorial annexation are symptoms of what lies ahead. The trends must change, and change quickly, if they aren’t to degenerate into another mindless, hopeless, and purposeless rerun of the bloodbaths of the past. The only possible change, is for Europe to join with Russia and America, in building a permanent military union for the Northern Hemisphere and ending the farce of post-war national sovereignty.
Beginning in 1943 Allied negotiations in Tehran, started to hammer out a Post-War peace settlement in which Europe forfeited all military and foreign policy independence, to the United States and the USSR. The victors of the Second World War agreed to a division of the continent, and its full import has yet to be accurately communicated to Europeans alive today. For logical, but arguably unsound reasons, Italians, Germans, Poles, and the Dutch are still led to believe that their national sovereignty is unconditional, and iron-clad, but in the minds of decision makers in America and Russia, this “sovereignty” is known as “pixie dust.” Both Russian and American neocons appeal to European national “sovereignty” as a diplomatic tactic. Since 1945 the sovereignty of European states is underwritten by America, and Russia, and the expectation by Hungarians, Romanians, Ukrainians, but even Italians and Spaniards, that their borders are inviolate, are only as good as the willingness of America and Russia to make them so.
By 1948, Europe was physically and militarily split between Moscow and Washington per their agreements, and this split was not one of mere “influence” and “sentiment” and didn’t come down to the number of tanks or air force landing strips, but to political, economic, and cultural dynamics over which America and the USSR would now exercise authority and discretion. Europe was castrated, the rhetoric of consequential nationalism banned, and any political organization which could challenge FDR’s and Stalin’s agreement would be neutralized.
With the drawing of the Iron Curtain, neither a “satellite” nor an “ally” were allowed to enjoy any significant divergence from what was expected in Washington or Moscow on a range of crucial issues. In military matters, neither were expected to boast independent expeditionary capabilities, their military industries being subsumed by those of America and the USSR. All European states were compromised in their intelligence gathering, strategic orientation, and military postures. Ostensibly “allies” or “satellites” were free and independent of either super-power, but for Moscow and Washington sovereignty was a mere illusions to keep them in line.
The open secret which Europeans never grasped, is that their national identity and borders were determined by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Stalin, with the term “independence” being a mere palliative for their dejected souls.
Europeans never fully grasped the loss of political power, prestige, and centrality inherent to the deals made in Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam. Following the war, neither superpower wished to antagonize their “allies/satellites” with feelings of inadequacy, defeat, and subservience. Cooperation was diplomatically preferable to overt coercion, and it could be elicited by language of collaboration and consent.
The continent’s economy was aided and abetted by the superpowers in pursuit of Cold War rivalry in a manner so as not to present any threat to their own geopolitical ambitions. Had Moscow and Washington been able to reduce either the FRG (West Germany) or the GDR (East Germany) to a depopulated pastoral Arcadia, neither would have hesitated. Faced with one anothers’ bayonets, both opted for rei-ndustrialisation. German production benefited Moscow and Washington. Detroit and Donbass were burgeoned by the reconstructed assembly liens of Mitteleuropa.
At no point were the superpowers rebuilding an independent industry, nor a free and sovereign Germany. The German elites of either camp would remain firmly under their new overlords’ thumbs, and this applied to England, Italy, and all of Europe with a few inconsequential exceptions, such as France. Henceforth no European sovereign could freely choose their allies, settle their borders, develop their own ballistic missiles or nuclear programs, or pursue a diplomatic path without the explicit approval of Russian or American neocons, and two world wars and the sheer preponderance of US and Soviet arms, anesthetized them to taking up the matter.
Provided Uncles Sam and Boris footed the bill for international security, sacrificing the Johns and Ivans for the sake of a constant supply of oil needed to churn out the Lego bricks, the cocoa beans for Belgian chocolates, and the tobacco for Marboroughs which Hans and Juan enjoyed, Europeans could protest international socialism or capitalism to their heart’s delight as it amounted to no more than orgies of virtue signaling by spoiled brats.
The European society which emerged, was unconcerned with the source of the global order which facilitated its peace and hedonism. As long as Western Europeans could travel to exotic locations, experiment with drugs in Goa, and pay Thais boys for sex, what did it matter that it was American GIs that assured them this privilege? In an equally egregious manner it was easy to forget that it was the Communist soldiers of the evil USSR who died in the millions so Europe could bask in the glory of its superior progressive anti-Fascist values, be they “democratic” and “humanist” or “socialist” and “progressive.” America and Russia had earned their place in the sun, but Europeans didn’t have to worry about it except in symbolic, moralistic terms. As a result of their newly found peace loving ways, they became world leaders in luxury car production, confectionery, designer dresses, high-brow cinema, and erotic libertinage.
Uncles Sam and Boris gave European men and women of the 70s and 80s the exorbitant privilege of not being skinned alive upon setting foot in destinations where locals couldn’t afford a decent meal, let alone enjoy access to flushing toilets. A population of fun loving, albeit creative and well to the advantage of an American sanctioned political union. puerility emerged across the continent, disconnected from the practical concerns of security, conflict, and rivalry which underpinned their care-free life. Precisely such a population could on the one hand, demand an end to all wars, and on the other, reap the benefits their wars of the past had secured now that they didn’t have to partake in the securing any longer. Even mandatory military service failed to put a dent in this tendency towards extravagance, utopianism, and growing virtue signaling. Parading about in uniforms reinforced an illusory sovereignty in which patriotism was demoted to mere flag waving, while national identity was subsumed by the cultural industry of history tourism or the critique of history. Mindsets which modern Europeans vaunt as evidence of their success, are essentially evidence of European effeteness as a result of Europe’s occupation since 1945 by the Soviets and Americans.
Not that either superpower discouraged such trends. A defeated population, whose callowness rendered them subservient, were granted the fig-leaf notion of “neutrality” and were allowed to run wild like kids on a playground. Neither the USA nor the USSR needed the infants to interfere with their hard-earned dominance. Locked in an endless exchange of bellicose insults, there was no room for a third party to join them, and none was invited. Keeping Europeans docile, by paying token tribute to their exaggerated pride in sexual liberty and unearned social harmony, amounted to necessary flattery.
In a world in which legitimacy was at the heart of winning the hearts and minds of the masses, the ability to dispense with worldly concerns, to stitch together a vision of utopia for intellectuals, was all about erecting a firewall between the geopolitical exigencies of the East-West rivalry, and the farce of the ideological claims which were used to justify it. When Europeans viewed themselves as non-combatants, neutrals, and socially progressive types who with limited amounts of weekly work could assure an irenic coexistence of everything and its opposite, such Europeans could be counted on not interfering with Moscow’s and Washington’s ability to dominate them. European categorical reasoning was reduced to Ferrero-Rocher and Veuve-Clicquot, while Americans and Russians carried on fighting.
During the Cold War, the superpowers sought legitimacy by convincing target audiences that either communism or capitalism were inherently peace loving, and truculence stemmed uniquely from their ideological opposite. In this narrative, Europeans were said to have found their own way, and this way was in no way partisan, nor indebted to the strength of arms, to ICBMs, military bases, and military drills of either the Americans or Russians. The average Europeans believed that NATO and the Warsaw Pact were dinosaurs on their way to extinction, toys of jingoistic generals and political chauvinists. There was, so to speak, no third possibility of mature realism, which admitted that rivalry went beyond ideology, and that even the charming fantasies of Europe’s utopians were the result of hard-nosed geopolitical brownie points earned by the Uncles on their behalf.
Europeans were encouraged by their own elites, to believe that the suffering of two world wars had become an automatic argument for the futility of conflict. Carefree travel and romantic dinning created the impression that the absence war from the streets of Munich, Prague, or London, was the result of their newly discovered progressive values. It was the civilized ways of the Germans, Czechs, and Italians that accounted for Europe’s peace, nothing remotely related to any commitment to deterrence or geopolitical posture on the part of Americans and Russians.
Again, one cannot blame defeated peoples for harboring illusions which their new overlords, no matter how sensitive to local feelings and custom, encourage them to entertain. To the common man, the idea that Washington or Moscow could induce or bring about specific sentiment in an entire people, comes across as insufferably conspiratorial. Especially to the man strongly rendered docile by their propaganda.
What else can account for the absence of Europe’s active or relevant participation in the Cold War if not the active management of Europe’s elites by Moscow and Washington? Cold War influence over historical narratives, and cultural trends assured the emergence of a Divided Europe, a division whose existence even the Flat Earthers, cannot deny.
Following the Berlin crisis, Europeans were divided as they had never been before, and this division was the result of the control of Europe’s destiny by Moscow and Washington. Neutrality itself, was a farce. Aside from a few monuments in Austria to both Soviet and American forces, no country in Europe consumed both Western and Eastern entertainment and goods. No European could freely travel between East and West. No European could experience both a Lada and a Fiat, although both were drawn up by engineers working for the Agnelli family. There was no “conspiracy” to divide Europe, it was simply a result of the balance of power of Soviet and American arms. Arms manufactured and deployed by Moscow and Washington throughout Europe itself.
The East-West rivalry was anything but low-key for Russians and Americans practicing bomb drills all the way up to 1992. NATO was an organization from which only the French abstained. The resulting impact on France, in the critical thinking of its society, with its appreciation for military commitment at the elite level, was markedly different from the attitudes of other Europeans. There was, and remains on the continent, a genuine naivety with which its inhabitants view the world. A sincere belief that good manners, kindness, and generosity are the solution to every problem. From child rearing, to anti-gun attitudes, all the way to an excessive goodness commonplace to all Europeans, at the core of the EU project is what psychologists call an attitude of “pathological altruism.” An overwrought altruism of the defeated towards the victors, whose intensity belies the powerlessness of the former towards the latter.
This psychological problem can be laid at the feet of the security commitment of American and Russian soldiers. Europeans were never asked to sacrifice a single life except where professional volunteers were concerned. Compulsory service was abolished in the 90s, but it goes without saying that throughout the second half of the 20th century, the average American knew far more fellow countrymen who had lost their lives or limb fighting in Vietnam and Korea, than the average European whose only memory of war ended with the Armistice of 1918. For men born in the USSR or the USA, war remained a permanent pillar of life throughout the 20th century, and a part of the daily political calculations. The Americans and Russians were doing the dying, the Europeans the scolding, posturing, and reprimanding. Europe’s privileged pacifist attitude reached its apogee with the observation that war and conflict was the fault of those who waged it. From Baden-Baden to Courchevel, escapism just doesn’t get better.
For in making a bargain as strange as that made in Post-War Europe, at least part of it was imposed on the victors, by the losers themselves. No one invited Soviet tanks to roll into Brandenburg, nor American planes to strafe the streets of Cologne. The muzhiks and grunts did not come of their own designs or enthusiasm, and were indeed, quite reluctant to visit the Rhineland or Elbe. It was Europe, which in Versailles broke with the tradition of inviting the defeated to the Peace Conference, while the Bolshevik Revolution raged in the East, and it was Europeans who murdered one another in the frantic street brawls instigated by Red vs. Black fanatics in the 1930s. It was Europeans who defeated themselves and then invited the superpowers to the feast of the defeated, and it was Europe’s disputes which cost the lives of millions of the non-Europeans as they engulfed the planet.
It was Europe’s ungovernable, uncontrollable nation states which had staked out non-negotiable terms of sovereignty, which in the garb of independence movements and irredentism pushed one another into war over unresolvable territorial claims. Beliefs in cultural supremacy, nationalist callings, and utopian destinies had precipitated the continent from darkness into abyss, and it is little wonder that America and Russia, filled in the void when order was called for.
The make-believe history of Europe, of a concert of nations which by way of enlightened treaties had found its way towards peace from within a labyrinths of factional 17th century warfare, to later be disrupted by mere Nazism and Fascism belies the continued foolishness of the Lindt, Cadburrys, and Milka Europeans. Gone are the marshals giving orders right up till the Waterloo. Gone are the massive losses of the Crimean War, the Spanish uprisings, the Bismarcks and Garibaldis claiming land from the Austrians and French. Born is the chocolate bar baker and lingerie maker, and it is they, and not border disputes and separatism which are the continents future. A sophisticated computer algorithm isn’t needed to predict where Europe is headed with this kind of attitude.
Russia and America, are both complimentary and competing nations. A possible union can be seen in countries where relations with both countries are good, and contribute to stability and development. Europe, with its farcical political institutions and disconnected youth incapable of producing relevant leadership, remains mired in Cold War divisions pitting America against Russia as skilfully as boxing match promoters hype their pugilist for a prize fight. Washington and Moscow are better served avoiding these self-serving impresarios, by revising the commitments made to the princes and dukes of Babel by subjecting them to the imperatives of a Russo-American alliance.
What are America and Russia to do, with countries that boast massive diplomatic corpses, but lack the ability to assure the logistics of even the simplest overseas military deployments? Europeans who are quick to preach international law, but cannot assure the security of the children within their own borders because domestic laws are either weak, or unenforceable?
Catalonia, the Veneto and Tyrol, Scotland, Corsica, Northern Ireland, and Basques actively seek succession from their respective nation states. EU devolution has meant that Wales and Brittany get road signs in Gaelic and Bretton. The same devolution aimed at weakening Europe’s nation states, has seduced what were previously mere regions, with the possibility of joining the EU as full-fledged members. The European Union resembles more and more the tower of Babel, with a cacophony of 24 languages! English, not as spoken on the coast of Dover, but as the tongue of American suzerainty, is the default, and it is America, through the proxy of NATO, that makes this farce even possible.
With ashes still simmering in Berlin, Washington upheld a French Alsace-Lorraine, just as in the early 90s it signed off on to the expansion of the EU into Central Europe. The sovereignty which Europeans were made to believe they enjoyed, was altered by their own votes, under the watchful eyes of NATO, in a wistful story of popular referendums which disregards what these were actually held for and how they were managed. It remains beyond the grasp of most Europeans, that if you remove America from the EU equation, what appear to be mere stories of conflict from the past, will resurrect like a Phoenix, exposing Europe for the pretentious continent of bumblers and pedants that it has become.
Without NATO, whose logistics, infrastructure, command and control, but more importantly political alignment is decided uniquely in Washington, with a Brussel’s HQ as PR for the European ingenues, the Scotlands and Catalonias would have no EU to aspire to, and Germany and France would still argue over Strasbourg. As long as Uncle Sam is there, few Europeans can appreciate the seriousness of such scenarios, preferring to remain blissfully ignorant of their status as subjects, their political incompetence, and the debt they owe to America, for the benefits of enjoying these!
In Eastern Europe, living standards declined throughout the 90s and forms of social delinquency reached heights unseen for a century. In this periphery of the European dream, crime and corruption are the norm, and territorial claims and historical narratives have lost the buttress of the Soviets. Here, the borders are as fictive as in the West, except that Moscow, having seen the Warsaw Pact and Comintern crumble, is in a retreat not seen since the 17th century, and men at the helm of Eastern European states are weary of the threat this poses to the durability of their “sovereignty.” It is in this retreat, in what one pseudo-historian refers to as the “bloodlands” that small sparks tend to set off big conflicts, and that America’s own neocons are deeply embroidered to the detriment of America’s national interest.
As in the West, the average European in the East is unaware of the fragility with which his independence comes. He or she takes it for granted that his country’s sovereignty, is permanent. If history is to judge, it is a laughable illusion.
Russia cannot continue to withdraw forever, anymore than an America can be forever present. Brussels cannot resolve historical claims between Romania, Hungary, and Moldavia, anymore than it can set the minds of Poles and Ukrainians at ease about massacres carried out against one another during the Second World War.
Be it in the West or East, Europeans are the weak link between America and Russia, and the weakness is all the more problematic in that it was encouraged by both superpowers, who signed off on the divisions of a smoldering Europe in 1945, and became the guarantors of its borders thereafter.
At decision making levels within the American and Russian military establishments, European sovereignty is not treated with the awe and sanctity it is accorded in universities and by pundits. It is about time that subjects of Empire are told, that their independence is only as good as the strength of arms of those who guarantee it. Without a formal Russian-American agreement or alliance, it is only a matter of time, before European states see their borders crushed by the march of history and the continent is subject to a massive political, cultural, and demographic upheaval, the likes of which, it has never fathomed. Europeans may believe that American and Russian are imperial monsters, but it’s actually Europeans who are the spoiled brats refusing to grow up. Europeans are the ones being unrealistic about their living standard and work loads, just as they are deluded about the source of the actual conflicts which surround them. Without realistic men and women prepared to engage Russia and America in a multilateral dialogue, Europe will remain the source of tension between them, with all the responsibility that this entails.