Geopolitical Future of Europe
BSSB.BE Erich B 08.08.2018
Balkans Danube Ex-USSR
* The U.S. vision to contain Russia through NATO is inadvertently pulling Europe apart.
Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe could no longer rely on others, by which she clearly meant that Europe could no longer rely on the United States. The statement undoubtedly arose in part from her personal friction with Trump.
Part of it had to do with politics:
- Trump is unpopular in Germany, and the German public, particularly the left, has had doubts about the German-American relationship. The country has federal elections in September, and Merkel is under pressure. Her statement generated support from segments of the population that don’t normally support her.
- But underneath personality and politics, there is a geopolitical reality that has been in place since 1991 and is now emerging fully into view. This reality is that Europe is fractured and, as a whole, its interests have diverged from those of the United States.
- Beneath his unusual demeanor during the trip, Trump was representing a view – a rational view – that is increasingly common in the United States. This view holds that NATO was created as a coalition of countries with identical interests: preventing the Soviet Union from invading and occupying Western Europe.
- NATO was successful because its purpose was clear, there was a deep consensus, and although the U.S. carried much of the burden of defense, other European countries, particularly Germany, carried a share of that burden proportionate to their ability – and would bear the brunt of a Soviet invasion. The alliance made sense.
The alliance persisted after the fall of the Soviet Union and expanded to include the countries that had been Soviet satellites. The political purpose of expansion – helping to integrate new countries into the West – was understandable, but without an obvious adversary, NATO as a primarily military alliance no longer made sense. The laser precision of the bloc’s Cold War mission was replaced by a vague mission and an uncertain vision.
The U.S.-NATO Divide
In the meantime, 9/11 launched the United States into a series of wars in the Middle East. Whether they were wise is immaterial at this point; they were the primary military focus of the United States. But though the Americans’ invocation of Article 5 (the principle of collective defense) committed NATO to the war in Afghanistan, how much individual members contributed was up to them. And in Iraq, where Article 5 was not invoked, many NATO members chose not to participate at all. Germany played no part in Iraq, and in Afghanistan, it deployed a relatively small force with tight restrictions on combat operations.
The Americans understood the technicalities. They also understood that NATO was no longer very relevant to the problems the United States was facing. Bilateral relations took precedent over relations with NATO. The U.S. moved closer to the United Kingdom and smaller countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, that were prepared to commit what they could to the wars in the Middle East. It became increasingly difficult for the Americans to think of Europe as a whole: It didn’t behave as a whole, and the Euro-American alliance didn’t extend beyond NATO’s mission – a mission that appeared to have expired.
The mission was somewhat revived by the Russo-Georgian war in 2008, and even more in 2014 with the uprising in Ukraine. The Russians appeared to be growing more aggressive. However unlikely a Russian invasion was, NATO was committed by treaty to defend the Baltics, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. It had to have forces on hand to deter or repel Russian action
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: Erich B