Europe slouching towards anxiety & war

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
Reuters / Alkis Konstantinidis
Europe, which the EU is supposed to represent, is fighting a double war that could ravage it beyond recognition – against Greece within its own borders, and against Russia in Ukraine.

An exhibition in Rome could not – inadvertently – be more graphic in defining the zeitgeist: “The Age of Anxiety – from Commodus to Diocletian.” Well, Roman emperors could barely imagine it would get much worse under the EU.

The tantalizingly tense face-off between Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem and new Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has set up the battlefield; the EU won't accept a “unilateral” Greece, and Greece won’t accept a bailout extension or the diktats of the troika (EU, ECB, IMF).

Legend has already taken over; after Varoufakis was firm on the “no troika” talk – as in no more economic terrorism – at the end of their press conference in Athens, Dijsselbloem murmured something in his ear that Greek officials have interpreted as a Pulp Fiction-style “I'ma get medieval on your ass.”

So now it’s all-out Athens against the Masters of the Universe (the EU division). Independent observers would be tempted to see it as post-modern Perseus trying to slay the EU Medusa – a monster so frightful that no living thing could behold her without being turned into stone.

The Medusa is now the troika. Medusa Queen Merkel and her minions – like Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble (“we won’t be blackmailed”), plus the usual faceless officials using sub-Homeric metaphors such as “tied to the mast of confrontation” – are ramping up the pressure with no debt reduction. After the Dijsselbloem-Varoufakis face-off, it would be up to the European Commission (EC) bureaucratic nightmare to come up with a feasible alternative for a Greek debt write-down.

Syriza is saying it wants to remain in the eurozone, but forget about paying Greece’s crushing debt through austerity. So the ball is bound to remain in Brussels’s court – as much as Dijsselbloem has spun the contrary. And troika pressure will be almost unbearable, as in convincing Athens to “honor” its debt – or else. In practical terms, we’ll be talking about an ultra-complex process of debt restructuring, or more EU funding for Athens, or eventually both.

The Perseus gambit wouldn’t be to slay the Medusa while it’s asleep (Masters of the Universe never sleep); it would be to unilaterally default on a significant portion of the debt. If diplomacy fails, Brussels will then have to impose sanctions (they’re very good at that; see Iran and Russia) but ultimately kick Greece out of the euro – the nuclear option that Eurocrats dread more than the Black Death. For the moment, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel is definitely bluffing, warning Greek Prime Minister Tsipras that the eurozone could survive without Greece ("We no longer have to worry like we did back then.")

If, however, Brussels admits a de facto, even partial, default, it would result in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and scores of other EU sufferers screaming “We want the same deal.”

The Medusa is rampaging, and hardcore squeezing launched by its myriad of troika serpents will be titanic. The next crucial showdown will be a Brussels summit of EU leaders on February 12. Perseus Tsipras better polish his shield and spear to perfection.

Better call Vlad

Then there’s the other crucial vector in this Age of Anxiety remix: Russia.

Moscow could indeed bail outbail out Athens, a possibility which has already been mentioned. So the Western corporate spin about Greece supporting this week’s extension of sanctions against Russian interests is nonsense.

Here is the essential background. And directly from Varoufakis, there is proof that Greece was not even consulted. Another nail in the lavish coffin of the myth of EU “democratic” practices.

Don’t expect puny EU puppets posing as “leaders” – who derive their prestige by being vassals of the amnesiac Empire of Chaos – to cultivate any historical memory. Which brings us to Ukraine.

Ukraine was part of Russia for three centuries – way longer than Texas and California have been part of the US. Russia giving up Ukraine after the end of the USSR does not hold as a historical precedent to justify the Maidan coup d’etat, billions of dollars financing internal subversion, and the subsequent looting of Ukraine by US multinationals, Germany, and the City of London. Not to mention the whole saga is mostly – and will remain mostly – about NATO expansion.

Imagine Washington tolerating Russian nuclear cruise missiles on its strategic red lines of defense – the borders with Canada and Mexico. The Empire of Chaos would invade without blinking. Ukraine was – and remains – such a red line for Russia. And Washington and Brussels always knew it.

Moscow, slowly but surely, is starting to counter-punch on the financial/economic war unleashed by the Masters of the Universe. Moscow has finally – and painfully – understood that the real Masters of the Universe are those who control central bank credit. The notion that central banking is an independent mechanism is pure fiction; it answers to private banking groups.

In parallel, on the military chessboard, things are getting heavy. Moscow may finally sell S-300 anti-missile systems to Damascus and Tehran.

Moreover, Russian Armed Forces chief Gen. Valery Gerasimov has been on the record saying Moscow will immediately respond to a US missile defense system that violates the START III Treaty and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Pentagon analysts know very well how Russian weapons systems are superior to the US missile defense system.

And just in case puppets from Washington to Brussels are not listening, wait for the Star Wars S-500 anti-missile system, to be operational by 2017, or even earlier. The S-500 travels at the speed of 15,480 miles an hour, with a range of 2,174 miles – and is capable of shooting down any ICBM Washington can throw at Russia. Translation: Russian airspace sealed to any incoming US nuclear ICBM.

Unlike the loud, bully-bomb-drone-sanction Empire of Chaos, Russia speaks louder, with action, patience, and stealth – very much Asian qualities. While Russia is existentially attacked via the oil/ruble/derivatives war, its leaders are silently preparing for the worst.

Gorbachev – who knows one or two things about cold wars – does have a very serious point; if Washington persists in its folly, this could get terribly ugly, and Europe will be caught in the deadly crossfire.

Dreaming of another EU

Which brings us back to Rome. It does not hurt to imagine what would be an alternative EU, a “Roman” EU, centered in Rome, Athens, and Istanbul –not in Brussels-Frankfurt-Strasbourg. The center of the current EU happens to coincide with the center of the 8th/9th Century Frankish Empire; Charlemagne revisited – or, according to some historical strands, the first emperor who tried to unify Europe. Other historical currents privilege an even earlier strand of German raw power tamed by Gallic culture and sophistication.

I’d rather channel Gibbon, as I did this week, back to that night in October 1764 when, sitting in meditation in front of the Campidoglio (what a fabulous point of view), after a serious pilgrimage among Roman ruins, he decided to write 'Decline and Fall,' the dissolution of a world that was literally founded in stone.

As Oxford’s Bryan Ward-Perkins has brilliantly noted, Europe carries at the deeper levels of its psyche the fear that if Rome crumbled, the same can happen to the most superb modern civilizations. And we all know, this current non-elected Eurocrat-ravaged EU – which despises Greece, antagonizes Russia, wallows in the mire of Empire of Chaos vassalage, and treats most of its citizens as heavily-taxed garbage – could hardly be described as “superb.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.