How Europe betrays its own interests to serve those of the US

Bryan MacDonald
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist, who is based in Russia
U.S. President Barack Obama and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a working dinner at a G7 summit at the hotel castle Elmau in Kruen, Germany, June 7, 2015. (Reuters/Robert Michael)
By slavishly following Washington’s line on Russia, Europe’s leaders are essentially sticking pins into voodoo dolls of themselves. It’s as pointless as it is ridiculous.

If America were hand-picking European leaders, it’s doubtful that they could select as subservient a crew as now dominate the EU. There’s nobody comparable to Charles de Gaulle or Willy Brandt in sight. In fact, there’s not even a Jacques Chirac. So depressing is the current situation that you’d even pine for a second-rate Thatcher impersonator. At least there'd be a few fireworks.

Instead, we have Angela Merkel, David Cameron and Francois Hollande on the front-line. When the White House suggests they jump, the only question they seem to have for Washington is “how high?” At present, their leaps are so impressive that they’d give Ukraine’s legendary pole vaulter Sergey Bubka a run for his money.

The last time Europe’s top players seriously asserted their independence from the US was in 2002 when Gerhard Schroeder and Chirac campaigned against George W Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq. Their brave stance was compromised by Britain’s Tony Blair who bent-over-backwards to play the role of poodle to his American master. The Polish, who should have known better, also participated in the unlawful offensive. Following the initial barrage, other fringe European states like Estonia, Latvia and Albania, desperate to curry favor in Washington, got involved. The rather more influential Italy and Spain also briefly contributed forces before swiftly withdrawing.

Since the august stand of Schroder and Chirac, Europe’s autonomy has collapsed. Germany is in the grip of the pro-American CDU/CSU and France’s Gaullists have given way to Francois Hollande’s insipid Socialists. Hollande has shown signs of a willingness to challenge Washington’s diktat but seems incapable of asserting France’s once-proud swagger. Gallic hauteur has been exchanged for callow diffidence.

Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon (Reuters/Regis Duvignau)

Lambs replacing lions

France’s former Prime Minister (from 2007-12) Francois Fillon spoke last week of his despair at Paris’ new-found meekness. Nicolas Sarkozy’s former right-hand man claimed that the US is drawing European states into a “crusade” against Russia, which goes against Europe’s own interests. While Fillon is merely stating the obvious, the fact that such a recent powerbroker is speaking publicly indicates the level of despair in Europe. Older, experienced politicians and diplomats from Henry Kissinger to Helmut Schmidt have previously lashed out at recent Western policy towards Russia, but Fillon is contemporaneous to the present kingpins. That is very significant.

Schmidt remains active in German public life - he is the publisher of Die Zeit - and is still a frequent television guest, often cigarette in hand, at the age of 96. He remarked last year that Russia’s reunification with Crimea was “completely understandable” and that US-led sanctions were “nonsense.” He also warned that they were symbolic and would “affect the West as much as the Russians.”

Despite the fact that Schmidt has probably forgotten more about diplomacy than Merkel, Hollande or Cameron will ever know, they chose to ignore his wisdom. However, Fillon’s eyes are wide open. “Today, Europe is not independent… The US is drawing us [the EU] into a crusade against Russia, which contradicts the interests of Europe,” he told the BFMTV channel.

A dangerous world

Fillon didn’t restrict his criticism to Russia policy; the Gaullist also laid into American activities further afield. He noted that Washington pursues “extremely dangerous” policies in the Middle East that the EU and European states have to agree with. The ex-PM further accused German intelligence of spying on France “not in the interests of Germany but in the interests of the United States.”

As Fillon was speaking in Paris, Sergey Ivanov - the head of Russia’s Presidential Administration - was warning in Moscow that the mutually ruinous sanctions game between Russia and the EU is set to continue. “As far as we know the recent G7 summit has prolonged sanctions against the Russian Federation. Therefore it’s logical for Russia to prolong its counter-sanctions,” Ivanov stated. Of course, Russia was excluded from the old G8 last year which served to deny Moscow and the American-led West a valuable forum to discuss their differences.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron (Reuters/Christian Hartmann)

What we now have is a race to the bottom. Europe and Russia tearing themselves apart - and undermining decades of carefully built bilateral relations - while the puppeteers in Washington barely suffer at all. The current needless tension is destroying jobs and businesses across the European Union and the Russian Federation and is of no benefit to either party.

Can we tell the dancer from the dance?

Meanwhile, the US is the big winner. By launching a massive propaganda campaign accentuating a non-existent Russian threat, they have scared eastern European states to such an extent that they now open up their territory to the American military without question. At the same time, Europe’s fringe nations watch helplessly as their nascent economic recoveries are stymied by a counter-productive sanctions game with a major market.

The big question now is whether it is conceivable that Europe will ever act independently again in its policy towards Moscow. The portents look grim. Cameron, while distracted by Scotland and his country’s EU membership, has recently received a new five-year mandate, giving him plenty of space to promote US interests in Europe. Merkel is midway through a four- year term and unless her CDU party replaces her (very unlikely) or she resigns (not implausible), the Chancellor will probably be re-elected for a 4th term in two years’ time.

Of course, eventually somebody will break ranks. Most likely the French, when Hollande is almost certainly booted out of office in 2017. Nevertheless, that gives Washington two more years to wreak havoc in Europe. By then, permanent damage will probably have been done to the European economy and the continent’s relations with its giant Eurasian neighbor. At the same time, America, while pulling the strings, will remain unharmed.

Towards the end of his life, de Gaulle observed: "I have tried to lift France out of the mud. But she will return to her errors and vomiting, I cannot prevent the French from being French." If he were around today, he'd surely say "Je te l'avais dit."

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