Welcoming the rapprochement provoked by Russian aggression should not hide the disagreements between EU Member States and within NATO.
Yes, the multiple crises that are unfolding have created an awareness of the geopolitical, economic, financial, ecological, health, energy and social dangers that threaten us. As was the case in the past, such circumstances have been conducive to advances in the process of European integration, which would otherwise have been impossible to achieve. One example is the “Recovery Plan” which, following the economic damage of the pandemic, overcame deep-seated objections to the use of mu-utilized debt; more recently, the war in Ukraine has re-launched the debate on European defense.
This being said, it must be recognized that the intensity of the current crises and their interpenetration present a challenge of a magnitude not seen since the 1914 – 1945 conflict. In addition to the classic problems, there are the consequences of technical, scientific, communication, media and digital progress, which have made any historical comparison problematic, especially since man has acquired since the ability to destroy his habitat permanently.
The difficulty for anyone to unravel this complexity, to offer public opinion a rational explanation and to propose applicable solutions, has led to an abdication of responsibility on the part of those in power and a growing lack of interest in politics on the part of the governed. The lack of substantive debate in both the presidential and legislative campaigns in France has resulted in massive abstention, reflecting the lack of credibility of “national” solutions in a globalized, hyper-connected and interdependent world. This development puts democracy at serious risk: a growing number of citizens are becoming seduced or indifferent to the emergence of authoritarian regimes, to the use of violence, civil disobedience or other unconventional means of assuming power.
Faced with their inability to act, the political authorities fall back on issues that directly affect the daily lives of their constituents. They are concerned with “purchasing power”, without any concern for the coherence of their proposals with the problems of inflation, public debt levels, budgetary priorities, Single Market rules, etc., and the need to address these problems in the framework of international cooperation. Thus, the catalogue of immediate measures to be implemented, in the event of an (unlikely) victory for J.L. Melenchon, are not only dangerous, but also fall within the realm of total fiction.
Moreover, the war in Ukraine deserves a special mention. This concern is a source of deep disagreement between EU Member States, creating a divide between western European countries and those further east, which have only recently escaped the Soviet yoke. The recommendations are often formulated according to the fears of a population that is largely unaware of the realities of military conflict and is obsessed with preserving its own selfish interests, notably those offered by the welfare State and their tax status; these achievements have been financed, in part, by the ‘peace dividend’ at the expense of defense capabilities, which have been neglected for decades.
The purpose of this overview is to demonstrate that solutions to the multiple overlapping crises cannot be effectively addressed at the level of the “Nation”. It is this fact, which is well understood by the citizen that could explain his or her lack of interest in politics and lack of confidence in their Representatives; the latter are today structurally incapable of implementing their programs. It is therefore time to propose a more honest approach, based on objective realities, and to provide concrete solutions to the legitimate aspirations of citizens. This is what we will attempt hereinafter.
A bipolar world order seems to be taking shape, dominated by two undisputed powers: the United States and China. The question then arises: can this duo be extended to third parties, in particular to the EU and Russia?
As far as the EU is concerned, the option of projecting itself as an independent great power seems utopian, at least as long as it does not constitute a federation enjoying full sovereign powers comparable to those of its rivals. On the other hand, the choice of a partnership with the United States seems to impose itself, as much by choice as by necessity:
By choice first: because it is only united that the West (extended to include the democratic developed countries) can hope, in spite of its population being in the minority, to preserve its achievements and propagate – without imposing them – its values; it is by sharing the benefits of its economic, cultural and technological wealth, etc., that the EU can aspire, together with the United States, to the leadership of the Western world.
Secondly by necessity: because the EU and its Member States are dependent on the United States to exercise their own sovereignty in two crucial areas:
– Their defense, where the difficulties in supplying Ukraine have highlighted the glaring inadequacy of its members in terms of personnel and equipment and, consequently, their ability to sustain a prolonged conventional conflict. The fragmentation of responsibilities at the national level (financing and command) ensures the perpetuation of the domination of the United States in this area exercised through NATO.
– Their currency, the architecture of which remains incomplete both structurally within the EMU and geographically, with the Eurozone covering only 19 of the 27 MPs. Moreover, the current crises tend to reinforce the uncontested supremacy of the dollar as the only universal currency, making the Eurozone economy wholly dependent on an unfettered access to US financial markets.
Solidarity between the US and the EU is therefore a necessity. It implies the “federalization” of the EU so as to present a sufficiently coherent whole to balance the partnership over time. This integration must put an end to the fragmentation (and opposition) between Members, which has been particularly damaging in areas requiring unanimity. As long as the question of the absolute primacy of European sovereignty over that of its Member States is not resolved (within the framework of devolution to the different levels of exercise of powers in accordance with to the principles of subsidiarity), the partnership with the United States will retain a whiff of “vassalization”, which makes it unbearable to a significant part of public opinion.
As for Russia’s claims to the status of an autonomous great power, they are based mainly on three elements: its nuclear arsenal, its natural resources and the size of its territory. Unless it exercises permanent suicidal nuclear blackmail, Russia does not have the means to impose its will, given its small population and underdeveloped economy based mainly on the exploitation of its natural resources. For Russia, a partnership with China therefore presents advantages that are imposed – as is the case for the EU – both by choice and by necessity.
Firstly, by choice: Russia shares with China an ideology promoting an authoritarian regime; they also both have expansionist ambitions in their neighborhood and seek influence further afar. In contrast to the painful memories associated with Western-imposed colonization, these regimes enjoy favorable prejudices from the – often authoritarian – leaders of many developing countries, as reflected in their opposition to – or abstention from – the vote condemning Russia at the UN.
Secondly, by necessity: Russia needs to diversify its customers for its natural resources and its suppliers of imported goods, whose access has been impaired by the sanctions imposed by the West following its aggression in Ukraine. However, there is little doubt that the balance of power between the partners – concept which is deeply ingrained in their DNA – will be very much in China’s favor.
A final scenario in which a third world power would be constituted by Russia’s accession to the EU is currently in the realm of fantasy. In theory, however, this construction would establish a more stable tri-polar equilibrium than the bipolar world we are heading towards.
The current geopolitical situation and its series of developping crises require a truthful discourse to inform the European citizen. He is faced with a historic choice: either to pursue his ambitions within the narrow framework of his own country, defending his selfish interests to the best of his abilities, or, alternatively, to support further integration of the European Union in order to give it the means to preserve – if not to develop – its economic and cultural resources for the benefit of all within a democratized West.
Even a consensus at this level no longer seems sufficient in the current context; maintaining the alliance with the United States appears, indeed, by far the best guarantee of a prosperous and free life. To convince oneself of this, everyone should ask himself the following question: “What would be my reaction if tomorrow the United States decided to leave NATO?” Except for those who hope to live in a Russified paradise, the image of which is currently being displayed on our TV screens, no one can calmly envisage such a scenario or pretend, given the tremendous economic expansion after the war, that Europe has not benefited greatly from the Transatlantic Alliance.
Let those who so passionately criticize the European Union which, despite its flaws, attracts neighboring countries like a magnet, join in a collective effort to overcome the inevitable difficulties that lie ahead and that will entail painful sacrifices. It is time to recognize that our generation has lived far beyond its means, not only through reckless spending (including social spending) but also through under-investment in the military, energy, ecology, health, education, etc. Is this what President Macron was referring to when he said yesterday “we have to enter a war economy”? By favoring the immediate satisfaction of our desires, we have come to the point of seriously jeopardizing our independence.
The reform of the European treaties, the enlargement of the EU and NATO are urgent if we are not to be humiliated by our inability to come to the aid of the Ukrainians, who are now risking their lives so that we can enjoy the benefits of freedom. In an interconnected world, the concept of “national sovereignty” must be fundamentally re-evaluated, or risk the demise of our civilization if not of all humanity.