Western Europe needs its 1989 moment

1989 marked the liberation of Eastern Europe from Soviet control. Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia had regained their independence, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, Eastern Germany reunited with Western Germany one year later. 1989 is probably the most important year for the history of Europe in recent memory. 2 years later, the Soviet Union collapsed.

In the 1990s, Soviet troops left the countries that formerly belonged to the Warsaw Pact, a military organization created in 1955 in response to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO, born in Western Europe six years before. 30 years after the demise of the Warsaw Pact, it may be time for Europe to emancipate itself from the US and NATO. This kind of stance is of course anathema in Transatlantic public discourse and it will almost automatically bring accusations of Russian propaganda. This is nonsense.

US dominance over Europe was a direct consequence of World War II and the destruction of Europe that resulted. NATO occupying forces and memories of the horrors of the war served the purpose of guaranteeing peace in a continent that had seen two world wars in the space of thirty years. For all their sophistication, European countries had not found a way to peacefully find solutions and compromises when their interests diverged.

Germany has been blamed for the outbreak of both world wars. In the aftermath of WWII it was clear that it had to be brought under control. Fears of a Europe dominated by Germany had been circulating since the turn of the century and after the Nazi atrocities this provoked horror to many. Parts of Germany had been occupied by French soldiers even after WWI but the fact just a few years before Hitler came to power in January 1933. German revanchism led Europe to catastrophe.

Because of the natural instability of a region with at least three big rivalling powers, peace in Europe could be granted only by an occupying force. Europe has de facto be in relation of suizerainity with the US since 1945, with the US controlling foreign policy of European formally independent nations. For the first 40 years after WWI the Soviet Union served as an enemy against which Western Europe coalesced. Recovering after the war, Europe went 30 years of growth and material prosperity. The West stood for freedom and democracy, while the Soviet Union stood for oppression and dictatorship.

America and Western Europe become closer than ever. America had begun as an offshoot of European civilization and found emancipation from European imperialism. Now the young nation America, free of the original sin of European nationalism, stood for progress and liberation from the burden of the European decadent and ultimately self-destructive culture.

Today Europe and America are almost inseparable from each other, in spirit and action. American pop culture has invaded the houses and lives in the imagination of most Europeans. Political discourse has also been influenced by the latest American trends. Nowhere in the world was Barack Obama more cheered and Donald Trump more despised that in Europe.

Today‘s Europe, however, is the not the Europe that came out of the ashes of WWII. It does not need the US generous hand, offered to rescue it from itself. European countries have built now over a eighty year long history and peaceful cooperation. Europeans know each other better than most Americans know Europe. Europeans can use their experience to continue working together with US overlordship. It would be absurd to say that contemporary European democracies are not mature enough to solve their problems and finding a common ground without the US mediation.

On the contrary, the extreme polarization of the US public discourse, centred around the issues of race, sexual identity or immigration, does not help at all in finding harmonic and organic solutions to open questions. It may sound surprising to most people in the West, but in the vast majority of the rest of the world LGBT rights and abortions are simply not the kind of issues that people consider to be at the centre of the political and societal collective debate. People simply have other problems.

Instead of acting as a neutral arbiter in conflicts in other countries, the US (and increasingly Europe under the US tutelage too) risk polarising and increasing the tension between different groups even more. Take Ukraine or Belarus, where the US and EU unconditional support for the Europhiles against the not so Europhiles has brought one country to a war with a large part of its population and the other to the brink of revolutionary chaos that could be halted only with significant police brutality and repression.

Europeans, in particular young Europeans, are so in awe of America that last year, during a pandemic, tens of thousands in different cities took to the street to protest in solidarity with the killing of George Floyd, apparently killed just because he was black. Not many stopped to consider the fact that police violence against blacks is simply not an issue in Europe. Europe is not America.

Europe has built a tradition of shared prosperity through government socialism, with generous benefits, high taxes and some degree of basic social security. There are innumerable socialist parties in Europe and nobody sees anything wrong with them. In America, the sole word Socialism echoes invented Cold War memories of Stalinist-like repression and tyranny, although European socialism is nothing of the sort. Many Americans, however, seems simply unable to comprehend that.

Even US insistence on Europe stopping the construction of the gas pipeline North Stream 2 through the Baltic Sea proves that the US does not always have the best interest of Europe at heart. Jan Psaki, the White House speaker, said that North Stream 2 is “a bad idea, a bad plan”. It would make Europe too dependant on Russian gas and would be detrimental to European security. Does the US seriously believe that its European partners can‘t decide for themselves what is good for Europe and what not? The nonchalance with which a US representative can say these things should be troublesome to people who have some self-respect.

The US of course is not very interested in seeing EU emerging as an alternative pole to US dominance. And some states in Europe (Poland, the Baltics) seem to have stronger loyalties to Washington than to the interests of European cooperation. But a subordinate Europe will deviate from its natural development path in the name of some fanatical idealism. Europe needs to start cooperating on the basis of rational realism. Emancipating itself from the US is the first necessary step in this direction.


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