There is a human tendency to cling on to cherished beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. There was a time, during the heady days of Jacques Delors and the Social Chapter, when the EU appeared to represent a social-democratic and neutral geopolitical bloc; a third force between the USSR as it then was and the US/NATO – this, however, is no longer the case. The EU has long since transmuted into part of an aggressive neo-liberal and neo-conservative imperial alliance under US command. The liberal, centre-left remainers such as Yanis Varoufakis seem to think that it is possible reverse this development and get the EU back to its original prototype, presumably by dint of political will. In view of historical developments this view seems increasingly difficult to sustain.
In particular since the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty of 2005 the EU Defence and Security Policy has been aligned with NATO. Indeed, EU membership has become a stalking horse for NATO membership and vice versa. NATO’s geopolitical drive to Russia’s western borders has been concurrent with the EU’s economic expansion – a strategic partnership between a military push and an economic push.
Not surprisingly perhaps the Russians see the siting of US Anti-ballistic missile systems on their western borders in Romania and Poland, together with ongoing NATO military exercises involving tens of thousands of alliance troops, the most recent being Operation Anaconda, as something of a provocation. Hardly surprising we now have a second cold war.
In geopolitical terms the position of the EU is completely subordinated to US interests. If there is a Russian-NATO conflict it will be fought on Europe’s turf not on America’s; ultimately Europe is expendable. This much can be inferred from facts on the ground, though this must be assiduously kept from the electorates of western Europe. This in sharp contrast to Eastern Europe who seem only too willing to serve as the cannon-fodder for the US imperial designs; witness the incessant baying for war on the part of Russophobic states such as Poland and the Baltics, as well as NATO-EU wannabees like Ukraine and Georgia. It was precisely this expansion to the East (or new Europe as it was called by Donald Rumsfeld) which served as the essential prerequisite for the NATO takeover of the whole of Europe. The change has been noted:
The destructive Russophobia of the new Europe undermined the credibility and cohesion of Europe as a whole. It had been anticipated that the new members’’ – Poland, the Baltics. etc. – would be ‘socialised’ into the ways of the EU, but, instead, the EU was in danger of reverse socialization incorporating the axiological dynamics and virulent neo-liberalism of some of the newer members, accompanied by their prioritisation of Atlantic Security over EU social solidarity.” Richard Sakwa – Frontline Ukraine
In its original quasi-Gaullist form the EU might have played a constructive part in the Ukrainian crisis as a third party and disinterested broker between Russian and American interests, but by 2014 the EU had been transformed into something very different from its original configuration: it had become joined at the hip to the US imperial juggernaut. Moreover, the EU’s status in this relationship was subaltern rather than equal. It should be understood that the United States does not do ‘partnerships’ except of the ‘me Tarzan, you Jane’ variety. It is commented that:
Instead of a vision embracing the whole continent it (the EU) it has become little more than the civilian wing of the Atlantic security alliance … The drift toward a merger with the Atlantic Security system left it bereft of autonomy and policy instruments when it really mattered – maintaining peace on the European continent.’’ Richard Sakwa, Ibid. pp.227/228
The terrorism and refugee crisis in Europe – the blowback – was unquestionably traceable to the US bull-in-a-china-shop foreign policy in the middle east, this much is obvious to even an impartial observer; but answering the call of duty the western media has strained every nerve and muscle in an attempt to deny what was a blatant fact. Terrorism and refugee flows sweeping across Europe were ripped out of the wider context in an attempt to obfuscate any causal connexions with these phenomena and US/EU/NATO foreign policy. The media propaganda tsunami notwithstanding the electorates of Europe were able to put 2 and 2 together, and this resulting in an ongoing political crisis in Europe which shows no signs of stabilization and, if anything, seems to be intensifying (see the Brexit vote and the Jeremy Corbyn ongoing brouhaha).
Propaganda seems to have its limits; like Abe Lincoln said: ‘You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.’
So much for the geopolitics.
Perhaps as significant is the shift in economic policies and development which has taken place within the EU. Without doubt there has taken a sharp right turn since the 1980s: namely, the imbibing of a ruthless, winner takes all neo-liberal orthodoxy and its equally brutal imposition; Greece is perhaps the most egregious victim of this frugal economic diet, followed by Latvia, Estonia, Ireland and Portugal, all of which are being forced into penury and debt-peonage courtesy of the Troika’s relentless austerity programme. Piling on the agony these policies are soon to be augmented by Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
In both economic and foreign policy, therefore, the European political and financial elites have acted as overseas branch managers of a multinational enterprise whose HQ is on the other side of the pond (the US) where policy is determined and exported. Quislingism might be an appropriate word in this context.
Finally, we come to the democratic deficit. This is important since the only way that change is possible is through the EU institutions. In order of importance these institutions comprise 1. The Council of Ministers, 2. The European Central Bank, 3. The European Commission. The last of these institutions consists of a President, at present, Jean-Claude Juncker, seven, Vice-Presidents, whose identities are not known to me, and twenty Commissioners, equally obscure. Juncker succinctly enunciates the process of EU’s decision making as follows:
If it’s Yes, we will say on we go, and if it is a No, we will say we will continue.”
So much for open and flexible debate on policy.
The Council of Ministers and the ECB also pull various levers, often in tandem with extra-European global institutions such as NATO, WTO and IMF. Of course there is absolutely no sign that the current policies of the EU are not continuing along its present reactionary trajectory; and since the electorates of the EU have no control of the Council of Ministers and ECB there seems no way to break into this closed system of rule by a technocratic oligarchy. Once again political unrest in Europe suggests a causal connexion between the nature of the EU’s political and economic structures and the policies and outcomes emanating thereof.
This is not the EU we in the UK signed up to in 1976, and there comes a time in politics where it is judicious to give up flogging a dead horse. A progressive Labour government under Corbyn would not be allowed by EU law to implement its economic reforms, cancel Trident, leave or even modify its NATO membership. Democracy is impossible without some measure of sovereignty, and nations must get control of their own foreign and economic policies since if they don’t the globalisers and Bilderbergers will and have done. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a volte face in politics. It was J.M. Keynes who once said:
When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?”