Curtailing power and conflict with the formation of a trade block from the Pacific to the Atlantic
Europe today is the strategic heart upon which the foundations for a lasting peace may be established. The problem, however, continues to rest in Europe’s subservient position in relationship to US geostrategic interests, interests which seek to globally pursue a dividing policy that cements US primacy. These concepts of division are outlined in Mattis 2018 national defence strategy, which reiterated the US long standing commitment to both the containment of China and Russia. In simple terms this equates with the isolation of the two regional powers and the maintenance of the US as a solitary and all powerful hegemon. It is further testimony to the cloaked realist agenda that the Transatlantic partnership conceals behind a “velvet glove of liberalism”.
Can Europe go it alone?
As a consequence, the fundamental points the Europeans have to answer in response to the global “great game” are not only in the realm of security per se, but more importantly about the validity of their ideological claims, claims which purport to promote liberal institutionalism and open markets, not to mention their special brand of social democracy. Certainly following US realpolitik prerogatives undermines the values they profess to hold dear. Europe therefore has a choice between fashioning a position for itself as a unique centre of power in a multipolar world or indefinitely free riding on American power, thus reducing their role to that of a mere pawn. It is worth noting the long term consequences of the second option and Europe’s current course will invariably lead them to conflict with China or Russia either via outright war in the traditional sense or via some kind of proxy lead interventions in the Pacific rim.
The Ukraine crisis that followed the Maidan in 2014 should serves as a stark warning to European policy makers throughout the continent that its continued indeterminate submission to the United States geostrategic policies will guarantee an array of similar crisis that ultimately will prove highly inimical not only to the equilibrium of Europe and its interests but also to the stability of the globe. The nature of the conflict in the Ukraine undoubtedly lies in Europes inability to create a shared common European home with the Russian federation following the end of the cold war and at the behest of US interests.
Europeans equally must understand that they too are not immune from the Americans desire for the maintenance of a unipolar world. The result of such thinking implicates that the EU for instance can only operate within the constraints of its more powerful partner: it can be under no illusion that to challenge the US primacy independently would result in a crisis. In other words Europe appears to be caught between a rock and a hard place. This realisation becomes magnified when we consider that the containment polices the US espouse with regards to both China and the Russian Federation have led to a rapprochement between the two subaltern powers which substantially tilts the balance of power eastwards and slowly away from a western centric vision of the world.
Time therefore is of the essence if European social democratic values are to be preserved. Additionally the dysfunctional structures of Neoliberalism built on an economy of debt, not to mention US military overstretch, are additional variables that seem to be indicative of a gradual shift in the global balance of power. Obama’s “pivot to Asia” was after all not by chance, rather it was a clear sign of intent that any “changing of the guard” will be met with resistance.
A New European Project
A peaceful alternative to the headlong collision as propagated above and a scenario in which the West can avert the rise of a new global order in which the Transatlantic powers find itself on the wrong side of history, is already in the offing, however it is Europe that invariably is the key piece in the puzzle. That is to say Europe will need to be at the heart of an initiative for the joint creation of institutions that stretch from Lisbon across the Eurasian plain, beyond China and across the Yellow Sea onwards to Japan. Europe’s preeminent relationship with Washington will also facilitate the incorporation of North America into any potential international organisation. An organisation based on a multiplural balance of power and wedded together through a constraining web of interdependence. In an increasingly globalised world new projects such as the new silk route need to be exploited for the common good, certainly in logistical terms its path will undermine the sea ferrying power base of Anglo-American global design. The European role is more significant in as much as the USA cannot extrapolate itself from its hegemonic ambitions, their institutions are ridden by a group of powerful bipartisan hawks of which the Nuland, Kagan typology are the most disconcerting. Europe therefore has to act decisively not only for its own well-being but also for that of its bigger brother.
A new global order would therefore unite the transatlantic alliance with the Greater Eurasian Project in which both China and the Russian Federation are taking a lead and as such would create a space for cooperation and interdependence in which all the telemons of global power would be subdued to a more pragmatic balance, seeing a switch to a win-win outcome rather than the divisive current US strategy which is blind to all else but the continuation of US hegemonic power.
Certain is that China and Russia are willing to cooperate for the benefit of all. It serves Russia’s interests because uniting with the “Historical West” provides Moscow with a counter balance to the rapid rise of the Peoples Republic of China, whilst from the latter’s perspective greater market access to both Central Asia and the European Union across the Russian “bridge” provides notable economic interests. For the Europeans and the US cooperation becomes imperative not only from a geopolitical and economic prospects but long term anything else will push both China and Russia tighter together with the likely result that the US is displaced as the global hegemon as opposed to sharing power as a prime fulcrum in a pluralistic world. Hence the West must view such an opportunity as a vehicle by which to cement its position albeit with two equally strong partners. If Europe takes the chance and is prepared to brake the shackles of US domination (something that is more than questionable), then a truly progressive order can be established, Washington then would have little choice but to follow or risk a self- imposed isolation with a concurrent demise in the world share of power.
Abstract values, real lives
For the Historical West a liberal paradigm shift would prove pragmatic, indeed even necessary if it would no longer be able to persist with its self-defined tutelary role in relation to both the Russian Federation and China, something that in essence only exists in the minds of those with a steadfast fictitious sense of moral superiority in their self-professed divine form of “liberal governance”. It must be realised nonetheless that for the majority of the global population the exceptionalism of the West as espoused in the categorical imperatives of secularism, democracy, neoliberalism and human rights were buried a long time ago on the back of a host of NATO interventions, all of which failed to adhere precisely to any notion of the democratic machinations of the UN, that rejected international law and that failed when talking about human rights to place an imperative on the “right to life”. It begs the question: what are human rights worth if life itself has been obliterated in the name of human rights itself? Much more the world has become aware of the self-serving nature of such Western Values and the institutions which supposedly embody them. These ideals have become a geopolitical tool to be deployed by Western dominated institutions the moment any subaltern power becomes uncomfortably strong. Western lead organisations have become adept at the imposition of sanctions on the back of a country’s persistent inability to submit either to neoliberalism or the Wests moral. Of course the unabashed hypocrisy present when the Transatlantic partners sell and trade arms with allied regimes that by their own standards would fail to meet their criteria of “shared values” by the greatest of margins, more than indicates to the rest the apocryphal nature of the Western vision.
The modern concept embodied by current definitions of Western moralism are by their nature exclusive, in as much as they reject the right of other cultures and ethnic groups to define their own form of governance according to their religious, cultural, geographical and social contexts. At this point the Westerner needs to be enlightened, by his failed attempts to modernise Iraq, Libya, Syria and all the other nations which have been wrecked by market fundamentalist IMF interventions, let alone by war. These represent empirical evidence that social democracy cannot be enforced according to some simplistic copy and paste model.
The West in seeking to unite the world through joint institutions with their Eurasian partners would have to revert to a more circumspect vision of liberalism, one that renowned professor John Gray describes as a modus vivendi, that is to say a Humeian/ Berlinian vision of Liberalism devised to generate toleration in a pluralistic world, it is a belief that acknowledges that there are multiple ways to lead a fulfilling life and one that simultaneously recognises both the cultural and religious contexts by which entire nations derive their distinct value sets. In short the Historical West must refrain from pushing its views of so called liberal “shared values” and replace it with a form of liberal agnosticism in which it allows people to flourish relative to their national or religious background.
It means an end to the revisionist post state conceptions, that again are only self serving and a return to the notion of state sovereignty that has been synonymous with international law since the treaty of Westphalia. To be clear we are not talking here about a return to protectionism, more the recognition that state sovereignty becomes the fundamental principal by which peoples of states organise their societies in accordance to maximising their potential to lead a happy and fulfilling life. To reiterate the point made earlier in a slightly different guise, it must be considered that not all nations are bound by the same social contracts, to believe we can artificially export a new model at the expense of some forlorn dictator so far has delivered only the most frightening of dystopias.
That said it becomes vital that the West takes the opportunity while it remains culturally dominant, to shape norms and values within the framework of a joint institution. There is no shadow of a doubt that these so called “shared values” are more likely to meet with global consensus within the framework of an all-encompassing institution based on principals of cooperation as opposed to the hostility and divisiveness implied within the American policies of containment. It is precisely through the constructs of joint institutions by which these ideals and norms will be disseminated, it is after all Western Liberal Institutionalists that claim that peace and social democracy are the result of precisely such organisations. To reject the Russian and Chinese proposal therefore in itself becomes the rejection by the West of its very ideals and the preservation by default of Realpolitik.
Strategies of containment invariably lead to conflict, by imposing isolation we provoke nations primordial need to fight in order to survive, war therefore is symbiotic with containment. Integration, not a policy of enforcing the isolation of others is key. Change the mind set and end the competition for hegemony before possibly landing on the wrong side of history. Power is in constant flux. Does Europe have the strength to lead us all to the promised land?