Saturday, January 14, 2017


Europe finds itself in a non enviable situation. Russia is too close for coziness while Trump's America is too freakish for comfort.  Sometimes it appears is if one might need to change the orientation of the world map and see Europe as a smallish outgrowth of the Asian continent rather than as the second pillar of yesterday's Atlantic Commonwealth.

The Eastern borders of the EU are "nervous". The former NATO alliance feels weakened.  The credibility of its deterrence among members is in urgent need of confidence-building measures. It is far too early to foresee a Trump doctrine but the short attention span and range of the president-elect are giving rise to jitters in all corners. Western Europe feels like a lover spurned in favor of an alternative in waiting. Washington is abuzz with all rumors and happenings "Russian".  Putin is the talk of the incoming Trump administration and with the support of Michael Flynn & Co. he has a VIP entrance without having to had pay a fee. Western Europe, the first ally of yesterday, is openly snubbed as mere a Trojan horse for free trade, globalization and post-WWII world order.  After January 20th, Brexit and populism will claim their seal of approval. The snub of the EU has already secondary effects in parts of Asia too, who relied on Washington's commitment and are becoming equally troubled.

Contrary to other parts of the world, the EU has not only to confront the external pressures but also has its own structural problems. The commission is unloved and absent from the consideration of EU citizens. Yet again Brussels got a Commission president from Luxembourg, unfit for this time of fast changing expectations.  After Gaston Thorn and Charles Santer, the Commission is headed by Jean-Claude Juncker, another grey bureaucrat, former P.M. of Luxembourg, without charisma. Europe needs to return to the Jacques Delors-mood. The unloved institutions, the repetitive summits, the bland personalities, the Brexit hangover have created a stagnating feel. In the past, Europe could count on some form of American wake-up call, but now the trail has gone cold, almost.

To be fair, President Obama was not besotted by things European and his "pivot" to Asia left no ambiguity for where his priorities stood.  Both Europe and the Middle East were downgraded on the American radar.  As much as Europe never appealed to the Trump real estate "coups" which are politically color blind, his overreach in the direction of Israel might have devastating consequences for the few American allies left in the region...and for Israel's future.

Obviously, the incoherent Trump administration looks like a pack of competing wolves for now.  This president-elect is famous for contradiction and interruption--a poor omen for things to come. He might as well bypass his own cabinet by a tweet or by other competing channels. The man is basically unfit for a responsibility which requires some background, decorum and historically justifiable argument. President Nixon went so far as to consult Andre Malraux about China. Imagine president Trump doing so?  (Besides he doesn't know who Malraux is.) 

The current times are dangerous because they could fall prey to undisciplined intervention. Only the German chancellor can speak for now to President Putin and receive an attentive hearing in Moscow.  Still, elections in Germany, France and the Netherlands will lead to caution rather than to boldness. It remains to be seen if she finds a prepared interlocutor in President Trump.  It is important that this ending world order (for now) does not become a Hamlet repeat wherein everybody ends up dead !


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