_ Alexander Rahr, project manager, German-Russian Forum; vice chairman of the Council of the Russian Business in Germany. Berlin, 5 April 2019.
Humanity is increasingly caught up in the maelstrom of new conflicts. Disorder in the world is growing. A great war can no longer be ruled out. The global conflicts have nothing to do with territorial claims or conquest, as in earlier centuries. No state today seeks territorial expansion, not even Russia, which laments the collapse of the Soviet Union; the events in Crimea in 2014 were a response to NATO’s eastward enlargement. Nor are we dealing with conflicting political systems or different state ideologies, as was the case with the Cold War in the 20th century. Basically, no one questions universal economic globalisation. On the other hand, the current world conflict concerns what states have always argued about: world domination. The opponents would deny that, of course, but it remains a fact. But here, too, it is less about conquering countries and nations than about the global rules of the game called ”multilateralism’ and the moral sovereignty of ‘progressive’ states over ‘non-progressive’ ones.
Thirty years ago, the Yalta post-war order, which had divided the world for 45 years, crumbled. For the past 30 years, the world has lived in a so-called Paris Charter world order, which has nominally sought to provide the entire world, after the end of the East-West conflict, with a peaceful, liberal-democratic order. The problem is that the international community has been divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ countries. The ‘good’ ones have internationally-recognised democratic governments; the ‘wicked’ are those which refuse to be ‘converted’ by Western democracy. The good ones are considered far superior to the ‘wicked’ ones because of their economic power. The Paris Charter order was based on the dominance, the rules of the game and the historical triumph of the Western community. Western democracy, the market economy and the rule of law promised people prosperity, well-being and security. It’s no wonder that the emergence of the Paris Charter order was celebrated as the “end of history”, the ultima ratio of global political enlightenment. But then the financial crisis collapsed over the world economy, and the Western value system was confronted with ‘alternatives’. The Paris Charter order is now being opposed by China (quietly) and Russia (loudly). The West became furious, fought for its supremacy, and tried to position NATO over the UN. The opponents were disciplined with sanctions. Russia and China were called upon to return to the multilateralism of the new peace order, which meant nothing more than reintegrating themselves back into the framework of the Paris Charter order.
Let’s go back 1600 years, to the end of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was militarily invincible; there were virtually no other states in Europe besides Rome. The so-called barbarian tribes in northern and eastern Europe were attracted by the standard of living of the Roman Empire, the first migrations were peaceful, Germans, Goths, Gauls – they all wanted to settle in the economically prosperous empire, where law and order existed to secure existence. But the arrogance with which Rome encountered them led to conflicts, and ultimately to the dispute and the disintegration of the once all-powerful empire in Western Europe, which could only be rebuilt one and a half millennia later – as the European Union. The late German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle dared years ago to make the comparison to the present and spoke of a return of “late Roman decadence”. He was almost stoned for these words. And one more detail stands out in the comparison with the Roman Empire. After it became progressively weaker, Rome divided into a western part (Rome) and an eastern part (Byzantium). The western part was conquered by barbarians, while Byzantium existed for another 1,000 years. Could the West, the USA and EU, suffer the same fate? It looks very much like it.
The Paris Charter order is about to disappear. It will be very painful because the West today has no recipe for how it can exist in any other context than a liberal world order. The West wants to dominate, not to share power. After the end of the Yalta order and the Paris Charter order, there will undoubtedly be a new order that will be more interest-led, some will say, more nationalistic and egotistical. Presumably, the new order will be more heavily influenced by Asia, which would be a historic novelty for Europe. The economy, dominant today, will no longer play its present role, but the military strength of the architects of this new order will factor in. Clever minds in Europe seem to suspect what awaits them in the Twenties. They are trying with all their strength to resist this fatal development.
Meanwhile, more and more bad news is coming to Washington, which is becoming increasingly irritated with its Western European allies. Things that were considered impossible months ago have become reality. It seems obvious that the Americans want to address the new geopolitical and economic challenges in the world alone – without their European allies. They defy the Chinese, Russians, Iranians and other opponents with their own means, and without consulting their allies. They no longer need the old NATO. It has become too expensive for the US, immobile and unresponsive. The baffled Europeans still do not understand that.
From the point of view of the present American leadership, China, not Russia, is the worst enemy of the West. Therefore, decision-makers in Washington are wondering whether it still makes sense for the US to spend millions of dollars on NATO, which is of symbolic value. Sure, the US wants to maintain its influence in Europe, but that will work without the old NATO in the future. NATO, with its unruly, unreasonable allies is gradually becoming a burden for Washington. In addition, the Europeans themselves are divided, what makes the implementation of US interests another burden. The Europeans demand alliance loyalty from the US, but the US now considers its historical allies as mere parasites.
The Europeans should look at how the US shapes their policies in Asia. In Europe, similar facts will be created in the future as in Asia..In Asia and North Africa, the US has four strategic allies: South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and, to a lesser extent, Pakistan and EgyptThe US has bilateral military alliances with these countries. So far, that was enough to control the Asian continent, including the Middle East, and keep China and Iran in check. In Europe, Donald Trump will do the same, establishing a coalition of willing states that serve the interests of the Pax Americana. Unwilling states will be sorted out, but the US will also prevent them from establishing a common European army that could be a global competitor to America. The US will adopt bilateral military alliances in Europe with the following countries: Great Britain, Poland, Romania and, to a lesser extent, the Baltic States. US troops and military technology, including rockets, are stationed or will be used in these states. That’s enough to sustain American influence across Europe, even without NATO.
The US maintains a similar security structure in Latin America, where Brazil will be the most important US strategic military ally. The old Monroe Doctrine has been revived by the Trump administration: apart from the Pax Americana, there cannot be any other security alliances in Latin America.
The transformation of Europe’s security architecture will have a significant impact on the reorganisation of the future global order. Some Europeans will beg for US assistance and be prepared to pay for it. Others, such as Germany, Italy and France, will be awakening in a new geopolitical environment. The current European politicians are simply overwhelmed with the new task of repositioning Europe in terms of security policy. They lack a Plan B; they have lost their sense of reality and their strategy is solely based on hoping that the world will be better after Trump, Xi and Putin. Hoping for a new De Gaulle or Adenauer seems idle, but time is running out.
One of the critical issues for Europe is its future relationship with Russia. Will the European Union one day succeed in establishing a common house with Russia and the former republics of the Soviet Union, or will Russia become the enemy again for Europe? Germany is the only European country openly advocating the building of common spaces between Lisbon and Vladivostok. Other EU countries, which lean closer to the United States in terms of security policy than Germany and France, want a Europe without Russia.
The advantages of a Europe with Russia are obvious: Western Europe needs Russia’s natural resources for its economies. These must not come under Chinese control. Russia is culturally part of Europe. Europe is enriched by the fact that Russia belongs to its civilisation. The Russian economic market needs a modernisation boost from Europe. The EU and Russia must tackle the challenges of the future together. Geopolitical conflicts over states like Ukraine would become obsolete in a common area.
After the end of the Cold War, there was a historic momentum, albeit short-lived, to build a common security architecture between the US, Europe and Russia. A post-communist Russia integrated into a common Atlantic-Pacific security system would have found its way to democracy faster under such circumstances. Regrettably, there was not enough confidence in this historical rapprochement; all of the politicians lacked the requisite strategic vision and political will.
As long as Willy Brandt’s ‘grandson’ – the Social Democratic Party – remains in the government in Germany, the idea of a Europe with Russia will be upheld and implemented against the resistance of the Poles, Britons, Balts and Romanians. A black-green government coalition between the Christian Democrats and the Green Party would no longer pursue this idea and endorse instead the American counter-conception of a Europe stretching from Vancouver to Donetsk.
China may have the last laugh. The world was of the opinion that China would not become a second superpower to rival the US until the middle of the century. Now, however, it looks as if the global ambitions of the middle kingdom could be realised much sooner. China’s Belt and Road strategy is nothing more than a reconceptualization of America’s Marshall Plan. China is expanding its influence in Eurasia, the Middle East and Africa, while the US is withdrawing from these regions. The US no longer relies on the oil interests of the Middle East, as it is now the largest oil and gas producer in the world. It will be interesting to see how long it will take before China not only has the strongest land army in the world, but also a global naval force. A forced ‘reunification’ with Taiwan, perhaps following the pattern of Russia’s action in Crimea, is probably only a matter of time.