The Liberal Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, one of Europe’s longest serving leaders is a committed Atlanticist, who’s beliefs are rooted in decades of Dutch Atlanticism and centuries of overseas trade.
Looking at his 10+ year rule in running the nation, which prides itself on Calvinist thriftiness, the prime minster has shown competence combined with considerable political instinct. A capable custodian who at the end of his rule is leading his fourth coalition government since 2010, with sound economic and financial policies, but scarcely a serious strategist.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte is a proponent of American hegemony, the international rule based liberal order and one of the voices in Europe committed to follow the US. This reliance on the US is motivated by our historical, cultural and economic ties, as well as a common dedication to individual freedom, democratic principles, and human rights.
These shared ideas have nurtured a strong alliance between the US and Europe. Even during the calamitous Trump Presidency, the prime minister showed his commitment when joining the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. on July 18, 2019 to deliver a speech called “Stronger together than apart” (1).
In this speech Prime Minister Rutte shared his perspective on the Transatlantic relationship, the need for greater US-European cooperation in a rapidly changing global context, and the ongoing political transitions in Europe and their wider implications.
Also European Commission President von der Leyen has made the case for the Transatlantic Alliance, despite the fissures between the United States and Europe when she noted in her 2020 State of the Union address,
“we will always cherish the transatlantic alliance based on shared values and history, and an unbreakable bond between our people.”
Unboundedly, and the prime minister referred to this, we Europeans own a debt of gratitude to the United States for its involvement during WWII and in helping defeat fascism, a debt which we never can repay.
Our gratitude has come in the form of our continued friendship, which has helped us maintain, and strengthen this relationship which have existed since American independence, but this can never come in the form of subservience.
But after Vietnam, Iraq and Guantanamo the United States of America is not the same country Walter Isaacson and Ivan Thomas described so insightful in “The Wise Men- Six Friend And The World They Made”(6) which idealistic vision has been tainted by decades of contact with reality.
The prime minister will almost certainly dismiss this, undeterred by the risks of following the US, but we Europeans must avoid continuously being dragged into America’s adventurism, the wars of convenience and all kind of interventions, sanctions and regime change strategies.
In all humility, I have “differences of appreciation” with the prime minister and it would be gratifying to see him recognize the reality of today’s world and how at the start of the new Millennium, with the President George W Bush administration the “winds of our times” changed with the American self-serving approach towards international law, which Richard N. Haas labelled “multilaterism a la carte” and contributed greatly to the present instability.
Looking at the geo-political landscape I allow myself the following suppositions:
• It cannot be underestimated how President George W Bush,“ with policies motivated by liberal logic is largely responsible for the present instability and laid the seeds for the decline and ultimately end of the era of Western dominance over world events, that began roughly 500 years ago.
In the words of Zbigniew Brzezinski “I think President George W. Bush contributed directly to the fact the status of America as the only superpower lasted for 20 years at most.”
• China is increasing its political and economic influence and the gap between Chinese and US power is closing, emphasized by China’s deepening role in the development world and the Middle East. This has recently led to the reproachment between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Dissatisfaction with US policies since the Iraq war has led to Saudi Arabia’s vision of strategic autonomy has, which led to the convergence of the strategic interests of China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
In response to China’s growing influence the US seeks to contain and undermine China’s industrial development and military capabilities with tariffs, trade curbs, investment screening and banning the export advanced technologies. With the policy to strive for continued American and Allied military supremacy in the Indo-Pacific region, a policy directed at China’s own natural sphere of influence, this makes for a ferocious contest of strength, and even war unavoidable.
• With the American isolation and sanction strategies, excluding Russia from the global equilibrium Russia has been forced to drift in the Chinese embrace. This is effectively allowing China to control the “middle” and “eastern” space of Eurasia, which control likely will last long after President Putin has left office. This can be qualified as one of the greatest geopolitical errors over the last decades of different US administrations.
This will also effect one of the pillars of US influence, the status of the US dollar as the global reserve currency and the global international eco system. Also the assumptions by US strategists that the Chinese system is destined to collapse from within and the political calls for the overthrow of the CCP are strategically self-defeating.
Contrary the view of the prime minister, today the question is not if the world order will change, but what will replace this on the medium to long term. In a continuously changing and divided world this so called “word order” lacks distribution of power, which today is being challenged. As an afterthought there are no good reasons to suggest why this lofty project of American primacy might be successful, or why this even might be desirable.
In the period behind us, with disagreeable partisan politics in the US and questions of reliability, we Europeans must recognize Europe failed to absorb the lessons learned from the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, which all at some point pivoted away from traditional Europe, but returned to Europe when this was in US interest.
During this period Europe made the self-defeating choice to continue to be a American protectorate and to rely on the benevolent hegemon, its US patron, an unreliable friend that ditches allies without warning as the hasty departure from Afghanistan in August 2021 showed, and much is motivated by economic interests, such the submarine contract AUKUS, American opposition against Nord Stream 2 / the landmark EU-China investment agreement, and its recent “Inflation Reduction Act.”
We Europeans should be cleareyed, the European reliance on the US raises serious strategic questions. The conclusion is warranted, in this present strategic environment Europe cannot continue to outsource its foreign and security policy to the US and must take responsibility for its own defenses. Our policies are judged by our willingness to ensure our own defenses. To depend on foreign protection is a policy that lacks prudence, limits our own sovereignty and on the long term is delusional and irresponsible.
Naturally, this does not mean ignoring the bonds of friendship, which have existed since American independence between Europe and the US. But we need to reconsider the terms of this relationship and look for more useful forms of cooperation in order to create a more level playing field for everyone.
In doing so Europe must end its subservience and dependency and emancipate itself both militarily and politically from the US, under the maxim “cooperate when we can, be independent when we must.” Europe must become Europe again, by prioritizing European interests over American interests and by becoming gradually more self-reliant, otherwise the choice is made for our own irrelevance.
The prime minister may wish to dwell on the warning by former Bundeskanzler Angela Merkel from May 2017 “The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
In contrast to the pragmatic views of Angela Merkel on a range of issues, including China and Russia, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has been very receptive to the message and the grand narratives of standing together against authoritarianism coming from the Biden White House and is more aligned with the US, in building its world power block against China.
This is particularly concerning and reducing economic and diplomatic ties with China will only increase the spiral of tensions between China and the EU. This will in time only isolate the EU further.
This is something Angela Merkel understood, who in 2021 while still in office rejected calls for Europe to pick sides between the U.S. and China. Angela Merkel was rightly cautious about the return to cold war factions. In a speech at the Davos World Economic Forum in January 2021.Merkel said “I would very much wish to avoid the building of blocs,”
Today, with the European Union standing at a inflection point it’s reasonable to conclude there are certainly “differences of appreciation” on the future of the European Union, the limits of European expansion and the liberal world order.
•The French President Emmanuel Macron rightly believes Europe should strive for a shift towards more internal and external strategic autonomy and become less reliant on the United States and foreign trade, arguing for “European sovereignty,” reinforcing the capacity to Europe to decide and be responsible for itself. In the words of Emmanuel Macron, “Europe must resist pressures to become America’s followers and must avoid getting dragged into a confrontation between China and the US over Taiwan.” We have entered the “grand bouleversement” with the end of the unipolar world, which is being replacement with a more fragmented world and a new round of great-power rivalry.
•The “Bucharest Nine” all joined the European Union in 2004/2007 which eastwards expansion served more American interests than European interests. This was acknowledged by Zbigniew Brzezinski (8) .
Although enlargement of the European Union was a tremendous opportunity, but at the same time after the treaty of Maastricht of 1992 the enlargement slowed down and negatively influenced the integration of the European Union and its institutions.
The “Bucharest Nine” with Poland considering itself a regional leader have shown little interest in bolstering the EU’s “strategic autonomy,” in fact oppose this. Pro-Americanism is deep-rooted and intimately linked to the quest for freedom from Russia and America’s support is seen as a safeguard against Russia.
Led by Poland, which is not a member of the EURO zone, the “Bucharest Nine” are prioritizing national and American interests over European interests. This is on the medium to long term unsustainable and must have consequences.
Nationalist sentiments in Eastern Europe, this utopian but prominent force in 19th and 20th century, which led to conflicts and wars in Europe, have been rising at a time the “Bucharest Nine” with serious and persistent breaches of EU values, oppose EU constitutional reforms, EU integration and consolidation. This is based on the catastrophic idea nation-states are Europe’s future.
The Polish government opposes deepening integration, which clashes with the vision on which the EU was built on and the belief that only stronger integration and more effective decision making are the way forward. For the “Bucharest Nine” is EU expansion and a membership of Ukraine as a way to shift the center of gravity from “old Europe” and Franco-German domination to a Central European constellation.
Given the position of the “Bucharest Nine” this is a difficult and unrealistic proposition. The “Bucharest Nine” have a population of 95 million people, a fifth of the EU total, with their GDP approximately one a tenth of the EU’s total at market rates. They also receive more money from the EU budget than they pay in.
•Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the informal leader of the “Frugals” a group of small, rich countries (Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Austria,) has misgivings about European strategic autonomy and has shown himself to be a roadblock for a further European integration. This is, contrary to the first sentence “an ever closer union” of the preamble to the 1957 Treaty Rome, the European Economic Community founding document and is still clinging to the illusion of national sovereignty.
As a liberal outpost, the Netherlands felt closer to Britain than to France and since Brexit the prime minister has increasingly taken over the obstructionist role of the British, a close follower of the US, echoing Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron, which have during 40 + years delayed and frustrated European integration at every turn.
The recent agreement by the Netherlands with the US to limit the export by the Dutch company ASML to China, the largest supplier in the world of semiconductor manufacturing machines, earned the prime minister a visit to the Oval office of the White House on January 17, 2023 and shared hosting duties by the Netherlands at President Biden Summit of the Democracy, based on the principles of freedom, rule of law and human rights.
On February 21, 2023, the one year anniversary of the War in Ukraine Prime Minister Mark Rutte gave a guest lecture on democracy to first-year law students at the Leiden University, titled ‘Democracy and Tyranny’ (2,3) and spoke about democracy, the war in Ukraine and the role of the Netherlands in the conflict.
The current events in Ukraine, a sovereign country, which entail atrocities by the aggressor and have a component of genocidal intent, are absolutely overwhelming. Russia has with the unjustifiable annexation of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine provinces violated the principle of national sovereignty and international law.
With the 2022 invasion in Ukraine the Russian President Vladimir Putin, although a capable chess player, has made a grave strategic mistake which is tragic for Russia, Ukraine and Europe and will leave Russia diplomatically isolated, economically crippled and internally divided.
Definitely, I agree with the sentiments expressed by the prime minister, “Ukraine deserves our support,” but only in a more pragmatic manner with conditions attached to our assistance, leading to a negotiated settlement.
Moreover, these events deserve a more strategic and calculated response, based on wisdom guided by reason, instead of the unlimited emotions and moral outrage the parliament of the European Union is so much moved by.
Looking at the circumstances and the perils which surround this conflict, I hardly need to suggest the options are limited and there are limits to the possible. Instead of being driven by emotions we need to follow the dictates of “realpolitik” thereby avoiding further escalation which might lead to direct military conflict with Russia. Escalation of the spiralling tensions is undesirable and must be avoided, for this purpose China should be engaged in order to find diplomatic solutions.
As a historian, the prime minister might reflect on the words of Will Durant, the author of the eleven volume The Story of Civilization noting “War is the result of a longer period in history and each time the price goes up.”
This also applies to this struggle in Ukraine, as the history of this conflict defines this struggle (13). The roots of this conflict can be found in the US-Russian antagonistic relationship, based in the words of former President Jimmy Carter spoken in 1977 address at Commencement Exercises at the University of Notre Dame “on the “inordinate fear of communism”; the “containment and encircling” doctrine of Russia, first outlined in George Kennan’s (14) 1946 “Long Telegram;” and with the unforeseen developments after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which reshaped the modern world.
Spheres of influence remain one of the most prevalent phenomena in the practice and history of international relations and have been pursued through history and it would be naïve not to recognize they are part of the geo-political scenery in the 21st century. With the conflict in Ukraine, we witness the struggle for global hegemony and in this fight Ukraine is only a pawn (15), a springboard for deeper expansion of democracy in the Eurasian Balkans for which Europe is the US beachhead.
By increasing American influence on the Eurasian Balkans the US seeks to limit and counter the ambitions of China, Iran and Russia to create their zones of influence as well as China’s “Greater Eurasia” project. Also India and Turkey have ambitions, not based on imperial agenda’s but on calamities and pursue their own spheres along their borders in Eurasia, something the US has always sought to limit.
This American strategy has a long history and is described by Zbigniew Brzezinski in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives (8) which envisions Ukraine as a part of the critical core of European security.
Indeed as the prime minister remarked in his speech “there is much to think about this year.”
Clearly, the geo-political aspects of our relationship with Russia, China and Iran deserve more serious attention and scrutiny, and so does our imbalanced relationship of dependency with the US, which requires rebalancing towards a more “interdependence” relationship.
Prime Minister Rutte underscored in his recent speech at the Leiden Law Faculty the solid support in the Netherlands for military and financial assistance for Ukraine, which is motivated by our democratic values and history, drawing the conclusion this war is about our future. Stating “when the war takes longer or takes longer than we hope we must be willing to take the consequences.”
But, only a fool can predict the future and the prime minister might reflect on the present isolation and escalation tactics and the outcome of this conflict, which in the words of General Mark Milley can turn into a “protracted conflict … measured in years.”
The American objectives in this conflict in Ukraine, include “regime change” and “the weakening and total defeat of Russia,” carry extraordinary risks and have pushed Russia since 2014 towards China. Also the efforts to isolate and exclude Russia from the global equilibrium as an independent factor has long-term consequences. Perhaps the prime minister can in a lost moment dwell on Russian history, culture, resilience and how Russia lost and won wars during its history.
Looking thoroughly at this conflict, it is reasonable to suggest this conflict is only a sideshow and part of the struggle for US primacy and the long-term US-China confrontation, in the name of US national security and the American war economy.
In the light of the long-term confrontation with America this may lead to a disastrous war over Taiwan. The American intentions were also confirmed in the words US Strategic Command head Admiral Charles Richard of last November.
In the geo-political American-China-Russian Triangle, in which the war in Ukraine has become a existential threat to the regime in the Kremlin and Russia has made the choice for growing isolation and economic dependence and may soon be more dependent on China than it ever was on Europe. After the pivot of Russia towards China in 2014, this loyalty will come at a steadily increasing “subservient” price for Russia, in a large Eurasia dominated by its China’s masters, which control will last long after President Putin has left office.
However, in the view of Prime Minister Rutte and President von der Leyen this is of minor consequences, but what matters is that there are two main principles which apply to this conflict, which increases the risks of further escalation:
a. Ukraine must win, whatever this vague principle after a stalemate of eight years of conflict means is uncertain and unrealistic given Russia’s doomsday weapons which can be used as a last resort;
b. President Volodymyr Zelensky is to define what victory means, which is also rather dubious idea since our financial “life support” to Ukraine determines if this war continues, confirming Thucydides maxim “War is a matter not so much of arms as of money.”
Our history shows Europe has been a war plagued continent and the question has never been how to start conflicts or wars, but how to resolve and end them is more difficult. Evidently most of our European borders attest to this and are the result of peace negotiations.
Instead of framing this conflict in Ukraine as a contest, of which the human and economic costs exceed the benefits, we would be better served to look at the reasons, values and security interests of both sides and find acceptable solutions, although presently the acceptable resolutions remain far and wide apart.
The world is not a gentlemen’s club and there is the undeniable truth, all wars end in negotiations based on the realities of the battle field and belligerents negotiate either when there is a winner and a loser or when both sides are exhausted.
Until there is a cease fire leading to negotiations, the fighting and the PR battle will go on or until the supporters which supply the weapons and money to Ukraine finally decide to return to good old German “realpolitik,” leading to a peace settlement based on Henry Kissinger’s “balanced dissatisfaction” grounded on compromises, different territorial borders and a security arrangement between Ukraine and Russia.
Instead of this contest we must win, but cannot win as Russia has nuclear weapons as a last resort and despite the high and noble principles of the prime minister and the president of the European Union, the more realistic questions to ask are:
•What is the balance of power in Ukraine; What are the likely outcomes of the war in Ukraine?
•What is the cost of the war in Ukraine; What is the best achievable goal at the minimum cost to Europe and Ukraine?
•How do we end this war; should Vladimir Putin be offered Scipio Africanus “Golden Bridge,”(17) instead of escalating and sleepwalking into a bigger conflict (16)?
In reviewing these difficult questions it’s time to take a step back, reflect, consider and decide on the question of the depth and length of the support to Ukraine. This support cannot be unlimited and indefinite, as billions are being spent on aiding the country, with armed forces are being upgraded. This war has effected the global economy with increasing inflation and recession. This are only the short-term effects but the long-term qualitive and quantitative effect are more difficult to forecast.
It has been duly argued that at the end of this conflict Ukraine will require strong Western security guarantees and large and lasting transfers of arms and financial aid. Some European leaders dubiously argue that this requires our support for full NATO / EU membership and for the reconstruction of Ukraine.
Although, this EU candidate-membership of Ukraine is forced upon us and given our political support became almost unavoidable, a EU candidacy membership of Ukraine is like putting lipstick on a pig.
Ukraine is thoroughly corrupt country with faulty institutions which will require years of nation building, with the bill running into the hundreds of billions of dollars at a time Government budget are being splashed.
With the flawed idea of rebuilding Ukraine by using frozen Russian billions, which has the support of our resourceful politicians, like European Union President Ursula von der Leyen the European Council President Charles Michel, the EU is walking on legal quicksand.
To confiscate frozen property and bank assets of Russian owners, which before the invasion of 2022 were considered legal, is a most dubious approach since there is no legal basis to expropriate Russian funds and assets, which is in violation with property rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Without evidence and legal process that these funds and property were obtained criminally, this “Robin Hood” approach, will face legal challenges and tie up this matter for years in the courts.
What lays in the future is the answer to the question of what to do with a nation of 140 million people, with nuclear weapons, embittered by sanctions and rejecting the West, if this unwise sanction and isolation program succeeds?
The fact remains Europe and Russia both live under the same roof and as our common history shows Russia is politically and culturally an integral part of our European house and despite our ideological and value differences have no alternative but to coexist respecting the limits of this relationship. With understanding of Russia’s geopolitical goals, we will need to seek and find common ground on issues which divide us.
The suggestions of the prime minister about a. the imminent danger of Russia to Europe; b. the claim Ukraine is of vital interest to the security of Europe; c. Ukraine is protecting European democracy are questionable and disagreeable suppositions, since “balance of power” is not threatened in Europe, even though President Putin’s 2021 NATO ultimatum has not been retracted.
Modern states distil their power from their economic base, by this measure Russia is a minor power, too weak to matter in the great power competition and far too weak to pose a serious challenge which is also confirmed by Russia’s ineptitude displayed on the battle-field. On the other hand, although it’s hard to predict the future it cannot be ruled out that after a period of 10-15 years of Russia rearming, revanchism can lead to other disturbances.
Then there is the issue of Democracy, which Prime Minister Rutte emphasized in his lecture is more than just a political system.
“Together with freedom it is an important element of the economy, culture and social structure of a country. Democracy gives people the space to get the best out of themselves, which leads to creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. There is a direct link between a strong democratic state and a prosperous and attractive country.”
Concluding “Democracy will always be stronger than tyranny.”
About this conclusion of the prime minister, with democracy under attack in every region of the world, this also seems to suggest the circle of Plato’s wheel of political history still applies today, from dictatorship, to monarchy, to aristocracy, to democracy to dictatorship…
Obviously the prime minister argument about Democracy has merit and without question its highly desirable to live in countries under the umbrella of liberal democracy that protects individual rights through laws, but I also recognize and accept there are other political forms of thought and we would do well in the words of George F Kennan not to succumb to “the romantic and universalistic concepts.”
Following the wisdom of Machiavelli, humanity never has had and likely will never have a common culture and given the multiple ideological and ethical, moral and political value differences there always will be distinctions, which will have to be recognized and if possible accommodated.
As the prime minister admitted in his speech, it was naïve to follow the thinking in Francis Fukuyama The End Of History (6) published in 1992, whereby liberal democracy would steadily sweep across the globe, spreading peace and triumphs over all political forms.
To believe in an universal homogeneous state, in which all prior contradictions are resolved, an international system which is hierarchic, not anarchic in which balance of power policies of our Hobbesian world no longer exist was idealistic. To the contrary in our anarchic Hobbesian world “might makes right” and “realism” is timeless. In this world there is no supreme power and life is solitary, brutal and short.
In this anarchic world, national states fight for self-preservation and compete for power based on “balance of power” policies, when conflicts are an ever present possibility and nations when matters of vital economic or security are at play nations will do whatever they think is in their self-interest, regardless of whether this violates prevailing or written rules of international institutions.
There is no “nightwatchman” in the form of a superior and centralized authority above states, to protect or enforce these rights on the world states. States will do everything they deem necessary for their own survival, confirming Thucydides’ maxim in an anarchic system
As a realist in a complicated and dangerous world, I recognize, my opinions are contrary to the beliefs and optimism of the prime minister who sees the world as a potential battlefield for this ideological contest between the liberal order versus autocracy. This contest is like a never ending circle which already resulted in the Korean and Vietnam wars and many American proxy wars elsewhere.
Certainly, strengthening and advancing liberal democracy is a worthy endeavor, but one which has shown itself to be exceedingly difficult and is destined more often to fail than to succeed.
Then there are the costs of “liberal hegemony,” in which consultation has given way to confrontation, beginning with the illegitimate interference in internal affairs of other states. The intrusion by the liberal hegemon, this 800 pound Gorilla, in the name of American exceptionalism and promoting democracy has too often been followed by sanctions, regime change strategies and war.
As the scholar John J Mearsheimer points out in his excellent book The Great Delusion- Liberal Dreams And International Realities (8), liberal hegemony is a recipe for endless wars and its preferable to opt for a strategy of restraint based on the balance of power politics.
The prime minister may appreciate what the old Greeks already realized, that despite all the promises of civilization, the river of civilization does not flow with the same speed everywhere and in the universal flux of everything anything in time can turn into the opposite.
Although the prime minister remarked in his speech to have some concerns about the weaknesses of American society, he still reasons Ronald Reagan is still right when he spoke in his 1989 farewell address to the American people about America as a champion of freedom and openness, describing America as the “Shining shiny on the hill” (3) (4) , a beacon of hope for the world.
Minister Rutte expressed his conviction that like the 20th century, the 21st century is again the American century and we must continue to invest in the Transatlantic cooperation.
Although I understand and can appreciate the prime minister’s view about the “Shining shiny on the hill,” a opinion which I also shared in the 1960’s, but today in the 21st century I think this is an overly optimistic assessment and would suggest some realism and prudence.
When looking below the thin shiny veneer of American civilized society I see a different scenery and the wood has been effected by the tooth of time. In fact the image painted by “The Gipper” has lost its splendor. The “Shiny City On The Hill” is no more if we look at the United States’ multiple problem at home and how the burdens of US hegemony contradict with the domestic interests and needs of the American people.
In fact, it seems not very trivial to conclude, the house America build is crumbling under its own weight in times that tribalism, populism, nationalism and cult hysteria have become the norm, with nuance and the willingness to reach consensus missing from the daily conversation.
In the absence of reason and responsible leadership America seems to be following in the footsteps of the Roman Republic from Marius to Caesar, which decline was a process, not a single event and also showed military pre-eminence is not a prerequisite for national security.
There is the erosion of the constitution, civil rights, voters rights, taxation and with rising economic inequality democracy is in danger to give way to a oligarchy given the monopolization of ownership in US economy, increasing the unhealthy influence of monopolies on democracy.
As Benjamin Disraeli said “Change is inevitable. Change is constant,” leading to the conclusion mature systems must adapt or they will die.
Change is effecting the internal situation in the US, as noted in George Packer ‘America in Crisis and Renewal’ (11), with the US now divided into two economic societies, four ideological camps, each feeding the others and paralyzing the nation through dubious theories of blame and redemption and faced with illiberal challenges. Like the world is also divided in different spheres and faced with the same illiberal challenges.
Given the authoritarian predisposition of part of the American electorate as described by John W Dean / Bob Altemeyer in ‘Authoritarian Nightmare’(10) this means for us Europeans its necessary to look realistically at the scenery.
The choices before us Europeans are far-reaching, as change in the US is only “one” election away until the next authoritarian arrives, someone who will be more intelligent, suave and competent than the former guy, able to move the US into deeper “authoritarian” troubled waters.
This is consequential for Europe, as this has the potential to reshape its entire political landscape.
Change means for Europe to acknowledge the European Union has reached the limits of eastward expansion for both NATO and EU and making the choice for consolidation would be an act of self-defense and the limitation will assist Europe in finding greater strategic clarity.
Change means for Europe to resist the bipolar logic which is pressing Europe to choose between an American and the Chinese economic and technological sphere. The American approach of isolating China and restricting and preventing the export of chipmaking-equipment to China, banning TikTok on government devices and pushing protectionist policies, which policies are reluctantly being followed, are harming our own European companies and industries.
Splitting off from China is unrealistic and a fools arrant, Europe has their own interests to defend and must maintain strong links with China. We need not lessen our ties, but re-engage diplomatically and economically with China and cannot have any interest in decoupling from China.
The EU must strive for “strategic autonomy” and avoid following the US in their contest with China, or in the words of President Macron “getting caught up in a crisis’s that are not ours,“ despite American pressure to isolate Beijing. Following the US and getting dragged into a confrontation between China and the US is a strategy which is not in our political and economic interests, a strategy that isolates and weakens the EU economically and makes Europe more dependent on the US.
Change is also effecting the international order in the world which is in transition, an order which has been based on Western Hegemony during the last 500+ years, But also a world divided between along its fault lines, on the one side the industrialized nations and on the other side the neutral and non-aligned countries who share a aversion toward the US and its allies.
The recent meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin of March 21, 2023 in Moscow confirmed the overall convergence to consolidate their sphere of interest and to shape a world adverse to American values and interests, towards a more transactional system of arrangements between great powers.
This was also the tenure of President Xi “Global Civilization Initiative” of March 15th, 2023, which argues that countries should “refrain from imposing their own values or models on others and from stoking ideological confrontation.” A multipolar world based on balancing great-power interests.
The meeting showed also the failure by the West attempting to isolate Russia from China, with both leaders having common interests, united by contempt and common grievances, strategic thinkers like Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger have for long recognized and warned against.
The attempts by the US to divide the world between “democratic” and “non-democratic” nations increases the divisions and is most unhelpful. This is confirmed by the fault lines of our global village which show the struggle over competing visions.
Only one-third of the world populations lives in countries which have condemned the invasion in Ukraine, based on established Western societal and political norms. The majority of the countries, including the BRIC countries, representing 40 % of the world GDP do not follow the economic sanctions of which the ethical and moral costs exceed the benefits (18).
To many, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 exposed the West’s double standards on international law and human rights and see the struggle between democracy and authoritarianism as a form of hypocrisy. As a consequence the West is losing influence in Africa and Latin America, in favor of China and to a lesser extend Russia.
Concluding, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and European Union President Ursula Von der Leyen might wish to take a closer look at the world at large and consider how on this defining moment in time our global village is faced with numerous perils that could result in the evisceration if not destruction or ability of our so-called civilization to survive.
When dwelling on the seriousness of the major threats we are faced, from climate disruption to global pandemic and nuclear security, the prime minister and the EU president might also conclude these issues cannot be addressed by regional wars, a greater power competitions, regime change strategies or with an full-fledged ideological battle between democracy and authoritarianism.
This requires the recognition of the limits imposed by nature and acceptance of a shared vision. This also leads to the unescapable return of “realpolitik” and spheres of interests, the old tenacious concept of Prince Clemens von Metternich, “balance of power” politics. (12).
This diatribe expresses my personal views and observations.
- Speech Prime Minister Mark Rutte of July 18, 2019 before the Atlantic Council in Washington called “Stronger together than apart” The Atlantic Council 2019- Speech PM Mark Rutte “Stronger Together Than Apart.”
- Guest lecture Prime Minister Mark Rutte of February 21st, 2023 to first-year law students at the Leiden University, titled ‘Democracy and Tyranny’ Rijksoverheid 2023- Gast lezing Universiteit Leiden
- University Leiden 2023- PM Rutte Lecture “Democracy Will Always Be Stronger Than Tyranny.”
- The Reagan Library- Ronald Reagan Farewell Address To The Nation
- The Atlantic 2020- David From – Is America Still The Shining City On The Hill?
- Walter Isaacson / Evan Thomas The Wise Men – Six Friend And The World They Made – 1986
- Francis Fukuyama The End Of History and the Last Man- 1992
- Zbigniew Brzezinski The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives – 1997/2016
- John J Mearsheimer The Great Delusion- Liberal Dreams And International Realities- 2018
- John W Dean/ Bob Altemeyer Authoritarian Nightmare – 2020
- George Packer Last Best Hope – America in Crisis and Renewal – 2021
- Henry Kissinger A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812-1822 -1957/2013
- WJJH Blog 2022- Ukraine A Conflict Thirty Years In The Making
- WJJH Blog 2022- From George F Kennan To Active Confrontation
- WJJH Blog 2022- Ukraine A Pawn On The Eurasian Chessboard
- WJJH Blog 2022- Sleepwalking Into A Greater Conflict
- WJJH Blog 2022- Scipio Africanus – Build Your Opponent A Golden Bridge
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