Monday, November 21, 2011


Chance meetings with American opinion-makers, economists and political pundits have left me baffled. Admittedly they were very critical of the financial and economical consequences of the gridlock in the USA and merciless in their criticism of Congress and of the President (while giving the Administration some credit for a more assertive policy in the Middle East and Asia). They were equally harsh in their evaluation of most things European. I am the first to admit that the centre of gravity today has shifted to the Pacific, where Europe has been reduced to being a by-stander rather than an actor. Since the implosion of the Soviet Union, Europe has lost its strategic added value. The continuous reduction of its military expenditures has further increased its irrelevance. The Libyan adventure would have ended in failure without American support providing the Europeans with supplies and intelligence, not to mention the collateral help from US allies in the Middle East who acted as surrogates.

All this happened while the Euro crisis deepened, sapping the trust of the United States in the Old Continent’s viability and credibility. The Americans look too easily at the EU as a continent in free fall, hostage to “theological” argument, returning to more atavistic reflexes. I do not detect any Schadenfreude in this, but there is some overreaction and disdain towards a project that looked so promising but suffers indeed from a structural indigestion. Having swallowed new member states that were not prepared, the EU lost the will to intervene militarily after the collapse of the USSR left Europe without a nemesis. This superficial analysis does not take into account European interventions in Kosovo, Afghanistan, etc.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was a moral and politically historic event. However, it deprived Western Europe of a raison d’ĂȘtre. The rush of the United States towards a policy of encirclement regarding China will only be accelerated, considering the void created as a result of the European malaise and its structural contradictions.

As a fervent “Atlantist”, I am worried by the marginalization of the EU in world financial and military affairs. This “disconnect” is partially due to German economical orthodoxy and historical baggage. Different times should allow room for revision. Even NATO is slowly becoming something else, which is understandable given the changing geopolitical reality, which has moved the centre of gravity elsewhere. The US military might as well consolidate their weight and presence in the upcoming theatre. Australia is a ”hint” of this “enhanced US containment” of China’s maritime ambitions.

I still believe that the EU will be able to disentangle itself from the current financial downturn and politically dysfunctional institutions. This does not affect the reality that Goldman Sachs and the dollar still have more universal appeal than the ”Cirque du Soleil” behavior in Frankfurt. Even the Chinese have started to snob the euro. The problem in Europe is becoming personal besides being political and structural. The toxic cloud of Weimar counts more than Keynesian economics. The EU is simultaneously the victim of both history and reality and it seems unable to find a cure for either the former or the latter. Time is running out. Almost surreal maps have started to appear in the US where the EU is presented as reverting to long-forgotten boundaries. I hope that this political anticlimax will not put a damper on the valid ambitions of Jean Monet, Robert Schuman and Paul- Henri Spaak, who were visionary statesmen and who had the guts to amend history, rather than be subjected to it.

The ideas are still going back and forth but the paucity of successors who could implement them is reason for grave concern.

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