Saturday, June 17, 2017

Merkel tries to negotiate the new US/Europe environment

The Trump Family Business Administration has a number of traits that can add up to risky and poorly-considered foreign policy moves: extreme arrogance, contempt for understanding relevant data, a glorification of war, the desire to effect drastic changes quickly in major foreign policy and military alignments.

We have the complicated and obscure dealings with Russia. Trump has expressed his support for a Saudi-lead, anti-Shi'a/anti-Iran push in the Middle East. The immediate consequence was Saudi Arabia began a siege of neighboring Qatar - that is not yet a blockage - that includes the unusual aspect of seriously interfering with deliveries of food and medicine. (Gary Sick, The Siege of Doha LobeLog Foreign Policy 06/16/2017) These moves, and a further escalation of tensions with Iran, could have huge consequences.

So it's stunning that the Senate passed new sanctions against Russia and Iran with little public discussion and no votes against them by Democrats.

One of the most consequential shifts in US foreign policy under Trump has been his Administration's distancing of the US from European allies and its obvious hostility to the EU as an institution.

This kind of unilateralism is not new. Before the Iraq War turned into a disaster too serious for all but the clinically delusional to ignore, the Cheney-Bush Administration was gleefully demanding European submission to US demands on "out of area" military matters. Philip Gordon and Jeremy Shapiro examined that US ploy in Allies At War: America, Europe and the Crisis Over Iraq (2004) with particular emphasis on possible diplomatic paths to mending the damaged relationships.

They may have been eager to apply a both-sides-do-it perspective in some cases. But this observation is a good reminder of the contempt Cheney's Administration showed for the European allies:

The combustible interaction of politicians on both sides also deeply exacerbated the transatlantic split. On the American side, the self-assured, moralistic, and often condescending attitude of much of the Bush administration - particularly Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Richard Cheney, but often the President himself - made many Europeans even more determined to resist American leadership. From the start, Americans, including the President, gave the impression that they considered the Iraq decision - and indeed all decisions about global peace and security - solely for them to make, and that Europeans had little choice but to follow their lead or get out of the way. This was an attitude almost designed to provoke opposition from those in Europe who were reluctant to accept unquestioningly the virtues of American leadership or the merits of a unipolar world. [my emphasis]

Former Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer writes about Angela Merkel's German perspective on countering the Trump unilateralism in Angela Merkel’s Challenge to Europe Project Syndicate 06/05/2017:

Anyone who has been paying attention has known for some time that the historic changes taking place today did not originate in Germany. Rather, they are emanating from the geopolitical West’s two founding members: the United States and the United Kingdom. Prior to Trump’s election and the UK’s Brexit referendum, Germans saw no reason to make fundamental changes to the existing geopolitical order.

But those two events have shaken the foundation upon which Europe’s peace and prosperity have rested since World War II.
Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union could inspire other countries to follow suit. And Trump’s isolationist, “America first” agenda implies that the US will abdicate its leadership role in the world, and possibly abandon its security guarantee for Europe.

Europeans avoided a disaster of historic proportions in last month’s French presidential election. If Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front had been elected, she would likely have brought an end to the euro, the EU, and the common market. Continental Europe would now be mired in a deep economic and political crisis. [my emphasis]
What Fischer doesn't say here is that without abandoning the austerity economics she has successfully imposed on the EU, including writing it into national constitutions of the members with things like the Fiscal (Suicide) Compact, it will be extremely difficult to rectify that "deep economic and political crisis." The nationalist polarization against EU members like Greece, Irealand, Portugal and Spain and, soon enough, Italy, runs directly contrary to the kind of xenophobia that has given a surge in electoral popularity to Trump-Putin type parties in the EU like Le Pen's National Front in France.

Fischer, who was Foreign Minister during the NATO crisis over Iraq, argues that Merkel isn't trying to further undermine the NATO alliance:

A careful analysis of Merkel’s words shows that she was not questioning the future of the transatlantic alliance. Rather, she was calling for a stronger Europe. Merkel knows that if the US sacrifices its place at the top of the international order for domestic political reasons, it will not be replaced by a new leading power, nor will a new world order emerge. What we will have is a power vacuum, marked by chaos. And as the world becomes less stable, we Europeans will have no choice but to come together to defend our interests. No one else will do it for us.

So, Merkel’s speech was first and foremost about strengthening Europe. And, fortunately, she has found a partner in French President Emmanuel Macron. Both leaders want to stabilize the eurozone, restore economic growth, and strengthen Europe’s security with a joint border force and a new refugee policy.
Of course, anti-Europe politicians and pundits in the United States can always argue that any defiance of orders from Washington by Merkel or other NATO members is to blame for undermining the alliance. Because that's basically what the usual suspects argued during the NATO crisis over the US preventive war against Iraq.

No comments: