By ANIS H. BAJREKTAREVIC
A look at the freshly released IMF’s World Economic Outlook brings no comforting picture to anyone within the G-7, especially in the United States and European Union: The World Trade Organization (WTO) Round is dead, trade wars are alive, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is rapidly Pakistan-izing while Asia’s core and its Far East are slowing down.
No comfort either comes from the newest Oxfam Report, “Are 26 Billionaires Worth More than Half the Planet?,” which the ongoing Davos Vanity Fair known as the World Economic Forum tries to ignore (as much as this gathering of capital sustains in ignoring labor). The Brexit aftershock is yet to reverberate.
In one other exit, Jean-Paul Sartre’s Garcin famously says: “Hell is other people.” Indeed, the business of othering remains lucrative: The NATO 70 summit will desperately look for enemies. Escalation is the best way to preserve eroded unity and requires the confrontational nostalgia dictum. Will the passionately U.S.-pushed cross-Atlantic Free Trade Area (substituting for the now-abandoned Trans-Pacific Partnership and compensating for the Sino-U.S. trade war) save the day? Or, would that pact-push drag things over the edge of reinvigorating nationalisms and mark an end to a unionistic Europe?
Is the extended EU conflict with Russia actually a beginning of the Atlantic-Central Europe’s conflict over Russia, an internalization of a mega geopolitical and geo-economic dilemma? Who accommodates with whom, in and out of the post-Brexit Union? Finally, does more Ukrainian (Eastern Europe’s or the Middle East and North Africa’s) calamities pave the way for a new cross-continental grand accommodation – of either austerity-tired France or über-performing Germany – with Russia, hence leading to the end of the EU?
The southeast flank is already suffering enormously. A hasty castling of foes and friends caused colossal geopolitical vertigo in Turkey, whose accelerated spin produces more and more victims.
For whose sake has Eastern Europe been barred from all important debates, such as that of Slavism, identity, social cohesion (disintegrated by the plunder called “privatization”), secularism and antifascism? Why do we suddenly wonder why all around Germany-led Central Europe, neo-Nazism is gaining ground while only Russia insists on antifascism and (pan-) Slavism?
Before answering that, let us examine what is (the meaning and size of) our current Europe? Where, how and – very importantly – when is our Europe?
The Letzte Mensch, or Übermensch
Is the European Union an authentic post-Westphalian conglomerate and the only logical post-Metternich concert of different Europes? Is it the world’s last cosmopolitan enjoying its postmodern holiday from history? Is it possibly the lost Atlántida or mythical Arcadia, a Hegelian end to world history? Thus, should this Oz be a mix of the endemically domesticated Marx-Engels grand utopia and John F. Kennedy’s dream world, “where the weak are safe and the strong are just?”
Or, is it perhaps, as Charles Kupchan has said, a “postmodern imperium?,” something that exhorts its well-off status quo by notoriously exporting its transformative powers of free-trade dogma and human rights stigma – a modified continuation of a colonial legacy, when the European conquerors, with fire and sword, spread commerce, Christianity and civilization overseas – a kind of “new Byzantium?” Or is it more of a Richard Young’s declining, unreformed and rigid Rome? Hence, is this a post-Hobbesian (yet, not quite a Kantian) world, in which the letzte Mensch expelled Übermensch?
Could it be as one old graffiti in Prague implies: EU=SU²? Does the EU-ization of Europe equal a restoration of the universalistic world of Rome’s Papacy, to a restaging of the Roman-Catholic Caliphate? Is this Union a Leonard’s runner of the 21st century, or is it perhaps Kagan’s “Venus,” a gloomy and opaque world, warmer but equally distant and unforeseen like Mars?
Is this a supersized Switzerland (ruled by the cacophony of many languages and enveloped in economic egotism of its self-centered people), with the cantons (MS, Council of EU) still far more powerful than the central government (the EU Parliament, Brussels’ Commission, ECJ), while the Swiss themselves –although in the geographic heart of that union – stubbornly continue to defy any membership? Does it really matter (and if so, to what extent) that Niall Ferguson quips: “The EU lacks a common language, a common postal system, a common soccer team (Britain as well) even a standard electric socket?”
Kissinger himself was allegedly looking for a phone number of Europe, too. Baron Ridley portrayed the EU as a Fourth Reich, not only dominated by Germany, but also institutionally Germanized. Another conservative Briton, Larry Siedentop, remarked in his “Democracy in Europe” that it was actually France that is running the EU “show,” in the typical French way – less than accountable bureaucracy that prevents any evolution of the European Union into an American-style United States. Thus, Siedentop’s EU is more of a Third Bonapartistic Empire than possibly a Fourth German Reich. The Heartland or Rimland?
D/evolutionary Biology and Geopolitics
Regardless of the different names and categorizations attached, historical analogies and descriptions used, most scholars would agree upon the very geopolitical definition of the EU: A grand re-rapprochement of France and Germany after WWII, culminating in the Elysée Accords of 1961. An interpretation of this instrument is rather simple: A bilateral peace treaty through achieved consensus by which Germany accepted a predominant French say in political affairs of EU/Europe, and France and – in return – accepted a more dominant German say in economic matters of EU/Europe. All that was tacitly blessed by a perfect balancer, Britain, attempting to conveniently return to its splendid isolation from the Continent in the post-WWII years. Hence, living its Brexit distance from continental Europe for most of its history.
Consequently, nearly all scholars would agree that the Franco-German alliance actually represents a geopolitical axis, the very backbone of the union.
Notwithstanding, the inner unionistic equilibrium will be maintained only if the Atlantic-Central Europe skillfully calibrates and balances its own equidistance from both assertive Russia and the omnipresent United States. Any alternative to the current union represents a grand accommodation of either France or Germany with Russia. This means a return to Europe of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries – namely, direct confrontations over the continent’s core sectors, perpetual animosities, wars and destructions.
Both Russia and the United States have demonstrated an ability for a skillful and persistent conduct of international affairs, with passions and vigorous visions to fight for their agendas. Despite the shifts in political affiliations and drives triggered by Brexit, migrants, economic performance or generational compassions, it is a high time for Brussels to live up to its very idea, and to show the same.
Biology and geopolitics share one basic rule: Comply or die.
Anis H. Bajrektarevic is a chairperson and professor in international law and global political studies in Vienna, Austria. He has authored seven books on geopolitics energy and technology, including “From WWI to www. 1918-2018,” which was recently published by New York’s Addleton Academic Publishers.