Apparently, there’s a lot of talk by the pro-Russian propagandists that Europeans are ashamed of speaking about Nord Stream given they don’t want to admit that Europe is a vassal of the US. This is a very convenient way of psychologically trying to drive a wedge between the Atlantic alliance. The narrative that Europe is a vassal to the US is not factually true either. Allow me to go through some basic history.
The United States is the biggest trading partner of the European Union taking up more than 18% of all its trade followed by the UK and China. The relationship between Europe and the US has a history of solidarity, especially since the Second World War when the US helped liberate Europe from Nazism while simultaneously ensuring that Europe does not fall under the control of the Soviet Union. Ever since the Second World War ended, Europe’s and the US’s economies only became ever more intertwined and this organic and reciprocal growth was facilitated by the fact that both Europe and the US are democracies with rule-of-law. Both in Europe and the US the right to private property is guaranteed and the state will not expropriate your private property at will, unlike in authoritarian states where these guarantees are not provided.
The natural alliance between democratic states is, of course not perfect and all parties will strive to seek their interests, although legally, diplomatically, and possibly in an amicable manner. Disputes are common and regular and the US and the EU have fought against each other over made trade issues: agriculture subsidies and tariffs, production of commercial aircraft, steel dumping, and much more. Often, the EU takes strong measures against US corporations, most notably, lately, the EU was in a strong drive initiated by Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to clamp down on abuses by big tech, slapping them with billions of Euros of fines in the process – surely not the behavior of a vassal.
Today, we are facing the biggest war in Europe since the Second World War and this war will undoubtedly affect many facets of Europe, including its relationship with the US. After the Cold War, Europe refused to arm itself seriously against a potential invasion by the USSR and relied for its defense on the US, conveniently through its NATO alliance. European political leaders lacked interest in weaponising their nation-states after the Second World War as they created this new pacifist ideal, where European states needed to absolutely make sure never to go to war against each other again. Theoretically, this idea was brilliant. After many centuries of infighting, Europeans would cease the possibility of fighting catastrophic wars against each other simply because they were no longer armed. And in case of emergency (an attack by a foreign host) – there was NATO.
Germany was the nation-state that most practiced this pacifist ideal of refusing to arm itself: although with regards to Germany, this ideal was forced onto it. There was another thing that the Allies had forced on the Western Germans and this was democracy. The Eastern Germans were forced by Soviet dictatorship. Yet, Germany was to rise again as the top nation in Europe in economic terms and today, Germany has the strongest sway in the leadership of the European Union – and this is a problem.
So, what Germany decides to do at home will affect all of Europe and Germany will also seek its interests through EU institutions. Yet, the problem is that Germany has compromised Europe’s defense and energy independence. Partly out of nostalgia for the Soviet past, corruption, and Russian money, and a short-sighted national interest that does not consider the rest of Europe, Germany ended up depending on Russian gas, with Nord Stream eventually being the most significant pipeline. However, there is also an important historical event that may have driven Germany and Europe to Russian gas that may somewhat, put some rationale behind German’s turn to Russian gas: this was the 1970s oil crisis.
As discussed in this article, in 1973 Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil-producing countries sparked a global energy crisis as they issued an oil embargo on the US and its allies for sending weapons and aid to Israel in the Yom Kippur War. The oil crisis in the 1970s created a serious inflationary crisis in the West worse than what we have experienced so far with Russia’s war on Ukraine. Buying natural gas from the Soviet Union in the 1970s was one of the ways that Europe used to solve its serious inflationary and energy crises.
Repeatedly in history Western states have been deceived by their autocratic energy suppliers, and today, the lesson is more clear than ever: democracies can not depend on autocratic states either for their energy supplies or for their economic growth. Clearly, there is a difference between how democracies and authoritarian states act in the global field of politics and security, and this difference will create clashing economic and geopolitical interests that may not be resolved peacefully, in contrast to disputes between democracies.
The biggest problem we have in Europe today is that Germany is refusing to learn these lessons and is stuck with a 19th-century political mindset where imperialist powers can sit around the table and decide the fate of sovereign states – and this is what Germany tried to do with the Minsk Agreements. Germany believed that it could cajole Ukraine into accepting territorial losses to Russia so as to settle Russia’s war with Ukraine (pre-2022). Even French President Emmanuel Macron had this same position as he signaled to the Russians that their takeover of Crimea was somewhat acceptable. It didn’t work out that way. Ukraine wasn’t going to give up on its sovereignty and Russia was playing an imperialist game of conquest, deceiving everyone in the process, including Zelenskyy himself who strived for a peaceful solution. Russia wanted Ukraine and it was only buying time.
Most of Europe is steadfast behind Ukraine, and many Europeans, especially those living in Eastern Europe, know and appreciate very well that without the US, Russia would have had a stronger hand in Europe. Had it not been for the US, Germany would have successfully blocked many arms donations to Ukraine, and Ukraine would have fallen to Russia as Germany tried to find “a peaceful solution” to Russia’s aggression. Germany’s stubbornness over defending Ukraine militarily is not really about “nuclear escalation” – it’s about a position that seeks to restore economic and political ties with Russia for opportunistic reasons that are short-sighted and logically wrong. Keeping up hopes of restoring ties with Russia under these circumstances only enhances the impunity of autocrats. In addition, depending on authoritarian states for energy supplies is dangerous for everyone and Germany doesn’t want to admit this, because consistently, in Europe it has always sought its own selfish interests at the expense of others. Germans may think it’s a good idea (it’s not) to keep buying Russian gas while Russia murders other Europeans within our borders, but even if so, it would be a horrible decision for everyone else.
Not only should Europe slowly shed away all energy trade deals with autocratic states, but Europe should also build and find economic alternatives to China. The more the West sheds away any economic dependence on China, the more leverage it has in global affairs and the weaker China is. China and other autocratic states only grow and survive as long as they have a steady inflow of our hard Western currencies, mainly the Dollar and the Euro. It has been like this for a long time and there is nothing that is going to change this soon, not even a BRICS fantasy gold-backed currency. The West has the upper hand and it should keep it that way. On the other hand, the Germans may have to learn these lessons by force if they have to, as they have always done in the past – for our sake.
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