Quo Vadis, Europe? – A Sequel
I have been reserved regarding the analysis of the EU and focused mainly on present great powers – the US, China and Russia. However, as to great power relations, some very important events and processes have been taking place inside and outside the EU in 2021. Therefore, I felt “good reasons” to analyze the situation but I also decided not to return this topic any time soon. Now, the latest significant events compelled me to return, once again, shortly to this topic and remind the readers of those warnings I have announced already before.
Transatlantic relations in turmoil
Australia’s submarine row shows that Europe cannot trust the US as an ally or partner any more. The leaders of Australia, the UK and the US (AUKUS group) announced a “technology-sharing deal” on Wednesday that would see the three countries come together to counter China. This naturally provoked outrage from Paris, which said the betrayal only reinforces the need to strengthen the European strategic autonomy in order to be less dependent upon the United States as a partner.
When Biden came into office, he proclaimed that “America is back!” and vowed to rebuild ties with Europe. A misleading narrative was that everything that had gone wrong with EU-US ties in the previous four years had been the personal making of the erratic preceding president Trump. The mistake which European commentators and politicians made was assuming that his “America First” attitude was just a temporary phase and Biden would automatically return relations to “normal”.
Despite Biden’s charm offensive in Europe in June, the US hastily threw France under the bus as soon as it saw the opportunity to deepen profits for its own military-industrial complex. Gullible and naïve European leaders placed far too much hope on Biden being different.
The strategic mistake Europe made was that it believed the US would actively work with them on China and failed to see that having sought to downgrade tensions with Russia, the US actually no longer see the EU as a priority and can pivot now to its Indo-Pacific playground. Europe is no longer strategically relevant to the US in the way it was for decades, not only with regards to Russia but also to the Middle East.
This is a new era and the new Cold War is not like the last one, because the center of gravity is no more in Europe but in Asia. Europe cannot any more be in forever indebtedness to the US for that US contribution about seventy years ago. If France and the EU as a whole are serious about European “strategic autonomy”, they should stop servile behaviour and kowtowing to the US agenda on China or any other hot issue.
Earlier this year, the EU and China reached a deal for a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, wherein China would offer increased market access to European companies. As made evident by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the US openly opposed the deal and demanded preliminary discussions on China’s economic practices. The White House moved to actively sabotage the deal between Brussels and Beijing. What happened? The EU allowed the US to drive a wedge between China and itself and totally sacrificed its own interests and strategic autonomy.
As the submarine fiasco shows, the US time and time again manipulates and traps Europe into submitting to its foreign policy preferences.
Ursula von der Leyen’s State of Union speech
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union speech embodied plenty of dreams and illusions, less of concrete measures to tackle Union’s practical severe problems and large range of anti-China rhetoric regarding climate, BRI, human rights, industry policy and high-tech issues.
Finally, she spoke about the Indo-Pacific strategy, a geopolitical concept that the US and some Asian countries have deployed to muster a stronger bloc to confront China. According to Leyen, “new EU-Indo Pacific strategy is a milestone, which reflects the growing importance of the region to our prosperity and security but also the fact that autocratic regimes use it to try to expand their influence.”
Regarding her speech, it is hard to avoid a conclusion: leading by values is leading by nonsense.
European Parliament Report on foreign policy
The European Parliament has approved a non-binding report calling on the European Union’s authorities to review relations with Russia. As many as 494 parliament members voted in favor of the report at a plenary session in Strasbourg, another 103 voted against it and 72 abstained from voting.
“The EU must strengthen its cooperation with the US and other like-minded partners and establish an alliance to defend democracy globally,” the document says, adding that “the EU’s agenda should counterbalance the efforts of Russia and China to weaken democracy worldwide and destabilize the European order.”
By this statement “The EU must strengthen its cooperation with the US”, Parliament reveals to live in its own bubble, not realizing the fundamental changes going on around Europe and worldwide. European Parliament has turned blind eye on political-military transformation processes around, which discloses that its strategic inability is staggering.
AUKUS decision vs. France
French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stated “This brutal, unilateral, unpredictable decision looks very much like what Mr. Trump used to do. It is was a stab in the back”. The French government has been furious and hit out Australia’s decision to tear up a submarine deal with France worth more than €50 billion to instead acquire American-made nuclear-powered submarines.
France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has accused Australia and the US of lying over a new security pact that prompted Paris to recall its ambassadors. He said the French ambassadors from Washington and Canberra were being recalled to “re-evaluate the situation”. “The fact that for the first time in the history of relations between the United States and France we are recalling our ambassador for consultations is a serious political act, which shows the magnitude of the crisis that exists now between our countries,” Le Drian stated. The future of NATO, Le Drian added, will be affected as they must take account and be involved in the crisis between the countries.
The AUKUS-pact is pooling the share of advanced technology and research regarding nuclear submarines and long-term defense cooperation. The goal of this agreement is to intensify attempts to contain China militarily and signals a huge geopolitical shift in US strategy. Now it seems that the primary instrument in containing China will be, besides the US, Australia, Japan and India as part of the so-called “Quad” and the United Kingdom, with its self-imagined “Great Britain’s role”.
The French and Indian foreign ministers spoke over the phone on Saturday, vowing to deepen their strategic partnership now that Paris’ ties with the US and Australia have been strained by a submarine deal debacle. France and India will “work on a joint program of concrete actions to defend a truly multilateral international order,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said in a statement on Saturday. Released by the French foreign ministry, it also said the two had discussed the situation in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific.
French-Indian joint statement throws interesting light on coming Quad Summit and India’s role in this Quad-context. Similar question mark will be put on NATO-cooperation and “European independent military force”. Huge stakes are in question.
EU’s fatal energy policy
Soaring energy prices drive anxiety and concerns over EU climate plans, when members of the European Parliament debated the European Commission’s “Fit for 55” climate legislation proposals. Low production of windmills, surging coal and gas prices are weighing on European consumer wallets and the union’s climate plans.
EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), which has seen the cost of a permit to emit a ton of CO2 more than double over the last year to around €60, is certainly one factor in this price spiraling system. The idea behind the ETS was to put a price on carbon, imposing higher costs on polluting energy sources like oil, coal and gas and encouraging low-carbon energy like solar, wind, hydro and nuclear. But countries have been closing both coal-fired plants and nuclear power stations and when there is less wind and sun available, it is increasingly natural gas purchased on global markets that fills the gap. Commission Green Deal chief Frans Timmermans told that increasing gas price was caused by low gas supply but was unable to admit Europa’s own suicidal gas policy (e.g., continuous sanctions on Nord Stream 2).
Electricity prices have risen by over 20% in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Germany and in many other European countries, due to one-sided, biased and flawed production structures with more and more renewable but low-usable production and decreasing amount of “old” production (coal, nuclear). In this way, the energy management of the whole EU is becoming very vulnerable, making possible, even probable, total pan-European outages. At the same time, the real base for the European manufacturing industry is weakening continuously and predict only gloomy future for the industrial backbone of the EU.
Majority of energy experts see that one of the culprits behind the present European energy price crisis is unstable renewable energy production. The lack of wind that northern Europe has been facing for several weeks reduced the share of wind power stations in the energy production, driving the authorities to restart coal power plants.
The rapid shift to renewable energy sources and their low stability at the moment, results in spikes in gas demand, as well as in electricity and fuel price hikes. Because the EU is unlikely to abandon its environmental priorities in the near future, this will lead to regular “price shocks during times of power shortages.”
Rising gas and electricity prices have negative affect on energy-consuming industries, including the steel, forest and petrochemistry industries, where gas is used as feedstock. Besides, a price boom may also have a negative impact on macroeconomic indicators, including inflation, consumer demand and economic growth rates.
Transatlantic relations between the EU – the US are in turmoil, the elite of the EU is living in its own bubble failing to realize fundamental political – military changes around, EU’s energy policy is off the track risking the whole industrial base of European economy; all these and plenty of other major and minor issues are driving the EU in wrong direction, in the risk of existential crisis. Unfortunately, any thorough-going change in the EU is highly unlikely due to the hubris, complacency and self-sufficiency of the leading EU-elite.