Europe's bridges are down: No route through to a political future
With ‘all bridges down’, the Euro Élites have no road ahead to a new political vision.
Eurointelligence founder, Wolfgang Münchau, is a strong pro-Europe advocate. He has been that way for a decade. Earlier this month however, he commented: “The battle for European integration has failed. It is time to recognise defeat, and to think through the consequences”:
“When you fight for a cause that does not materialise, at what point do you recognise, and admit, defeat? The euro area’s sovereign debt crisis deprived me of my last great European illusion, the notion that crises make us stronger. That particular crisis made us weaker. So has the pandemic …
“My scepticism is not impatience, but concern that opportunities have been lost forever. Take ECB asset purchases. There was a short window for a genuine Eurobond between 2008 and 2015, when the ECB’s programme of quantitative easing started. Afterwards, the ECB bought national sovereign debt in the trillions, and turned them into euros. This is what QE does: it swaps debt for money. Money is a liability similar to bonds, except that the maturity is shorter.
“The idea behind a real Eurobond - could not be more different: If only!… I have come to the conclusion that this ship has sailed. Once you realise this, the consequences are far-reaching. If a proper economic union constitutes the first-best option: It does not follow logically that a dysfunctional economic union is the second best”.
Münchau is clear that the EU has already passed the inflection point at which Europe collectively must re-define itself. And this week, the Russian-Chinese joint statement landed on Europe’s doorstep with a big thud. It provides for a vision of the future shared between Russia and China that can only concentrate the European mind -- not least because the ‘grand strategy’ statement encompasses the building of a Eurasian community which will include the entire Eurasian landmass and its adjacent Arctic waters. This Eurasian heartland will be sovereign, and ruled by multi-polar consensus.
Just to be clear: The Russo-Chinese vision directly opposes the Leitkultur of the EU and its insistence on a transnational, liberal culture, bereft of nationalist sentiment and rooted in western ‘liberalism’ in its post-modern clothing. The statement celebrates diverse sovereign nationalism - and local culture, within a multipolar framework. It stands at the opposite pole to the one-size-fits-all vision of a homogenous EU.
It was already clear – in the context of the Ukraine invasion frenzy - that Europe actually possesses almost no leverage over Russia (let alone over the joint architects of the incoming global order). The ‘Mother of all Sanctions’ threat has proved to be no more than Team Biden ‘blowing smoke’. It is clear that Russia is largely sanctions-proof. And, if anything, the sanctions would likely hurt Europe more than they would hurt Russia.
Russia clearly understands the geo-political and geo-economic pressure points that Europe controls are near zero, and that in military terms, any European intervention was to court unmitigated disaster - when matched against Russian military capabilities.
The EU has clung then, to its’ ‘life-raft’. It has said that whilst it was true that Europe has been dependent on Russian gas for 40% of its needs, Brussels argues that this should be understood as an ‘inter-dependency’, rather than a dependency: i.e. Russia needed Europe’s market for its gas as much as Europe needed that Russian gas. As usual, the EU imagines its ‘market’ to possess such irresistible magnetism that other states can only flock to accept the concomitant imposition of European ‘values’. This is how the EU conceives the European Prometheus’ imperium.
Yet, no more. In the margins to the Russo-Chinese summit, a ‘Power of Siberia 2’ gas pipeline was announced that will have a bigger capacity than the already huge ‘Power of Siberia 1’ pipeline. What the Brussels leaders need to contemplate is that the gas for PoS-2 will be coming from the same West Siberian fields from which Europe now draws its gas. Furthermore, PoS-2 will connect to the same pipeline that serves Europe. In other words, any ‘nonsense’ from Brussels, Russia can redirect the European flow into the China network. Russia does not need Europe for gas.
Moscow can see too, that whilst the US does not want to raise interest rates, it has to. Russia can also see that they have the ability to force inflation on Europe far higher, inflicting significant economic pain. They can see that food prices are soaring, with potash from Belarus blocked, and Russia banning the export of ammonium nitrate.
The consequences for fertiliser prices - and therefore European food prices - is obvious, as is the consequence on European spot energy prices, were Russian gas to be sanctioned and blocked from reaching Europe. That is how economic pain works.
The West slowly is discovering that it has no pressure point against Russian/Chinese ‘military-technical’ measures that will be unfolding in reaction to the US and NATO’s ‘no’ to Moscow’s draft treaty of security guarantees.
What is becoming clear is that Moscow had already decided to break, in a fundamental way, with the West. What is afoot today is the manifestation of this earlier decision.
What will Europe do? If the project for European integration already has failed, in which direction will Europe go? Can it even go? Will it try to come to terms with this new confident Super Axis, or cling, ever tighter, to the Washington apron strings (even though the US now regards the EU as a dangerous ‘rival’, perhaps even on a par with China)?
In practice, Europe does not enjoy the luxury of making such a deliberated, leisurely choice. Firstly, they have to sort out their self-made energy débacle; secondly, they face the reality that the end to the ‘liquidity supernova’ has arrived. The Bank of America this week warned that the Endgame has begun: "The global rate shock has triggered a ‘Tech Wreck’; a recession countdown - and the risk of a ‘systemic event’".
Interest rates are ascending and a European sovereign debt crisis is gathering. The ECB has long abandoned Ordoliberal hard money ideology, to become a soft-money institution that is currently soaking up Italian debt and serving the Italian national interest. That cannot go on, as the Federal Reserve hikes rates in the face of record inflation.
The deeper problem is that Europe has burnt all bridges to the future. In the excess of zeal to push aside all opposition to a European flat, transnational lietkultur, European ‘Politics’ at large has been suppressed.
‘Technocratic’ pro-EU leaders have been parachuted in to ‘serve’ as heads of government to ensure that the dreaded ‘populists’ are pushed aside; elections have been either ‘not allowed’, or the voters bludgeoned into compliance via meme-war waged by a colluding, paid MSM.
All contrarian political parties thus are undermined, leaving behind only the most docile of opposition that would never commit any sacrilege against the European project, and national Court questioning of constitutionality are emptied of jurisdiction by a partisan ‘super’ judiciary (the ECJ).
Where is the ‘opposition’ inside Europe (Orbán apart)? Is he the only one left standing (for now)? Europe has no credentialised ‘other thinking’ or vision. Brussels then will be tossed from side-to-side by the sheer waves of ‘events’ that fast approach it.
With ‘all bridges down’, the Euro Élites have no road ahead to a new political vision. And its people have no alternative but amorphous, violent protest (mostly now made illegal), when the economic strains become unbearable. Until then, Münchau’s second best, ‘dysfunctional economic union’ will pertain. He may disdain it, but the Élites have left nothing, but scorched earth.