To some on the geopolitical stage, “stability” is something like a sacred word.
Of course, the devil is in the details. For decades, the word was used by successive US governments in a sense which did not preclude a certain number of wars – as long as those wars, whether officially declared or merely approved by an American President under the terms of some special Congressional authorization such as the one which is behind most current US military activity, were begun and carried out on American terms.
“Stability” was and remains the justification employed in defending United States support for some truly nasty governments, kings and dictators. Their professed opposition to communism or terrorism – as defined by the US government, of course – has been the primary qualification for that support. Although there was often talk of democracy, cosmetic moves purported to lead in that direction would usually suffice to sell the relationship to Congress, and in more than a few cases even the cosmetic mask is absent: it is simply asserted that the nation in question is a crucial strategic domino, the fall of which would put the entire world in jeopardy, and our noble principles must needs be temporarily suspended. Some of these temporary suspensions have lasted for decades now.
The dreaded scourge of instability, however, has now reached the heart of the empire.
In Germany (Western Europe’s biggest economy, as a result of massive American efforts to rebuild it as a protegee bulwark against the Soviet Union after World War II), preliminary negotiations designed to enable the formation of a new governing coalition broke down this week.
Although Chancellor Angela Merkel’s unfortunately named Christian Democratic Union emerged from the national German parliamentary election in late September as, once again, the country’s strongest political party, it lost a great many voters to the upstart right-wing anti-immigration Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) — as did its coalition partner since 2013, the Social Democratic Party. The Social Democrats fell to a historic low of 20%, only 7 percentage points higher than the AfD which entered Germany’s parliament the Bundestag for the first time at 13%, as a massive number of voters deserted the governing coalition over its acceptance of a million refugees into Germany in 2015. Merkel has walked the fence on the issue for the last two years, refusing to renounce her decision to open the borders as a massive wave of refugees headed into Europe, but simultaneously moving to reverse the policy on a number of fronts. During that period other European nations have refused to share the refugee influx, and xenophobic sentiment has grown steadily within Germany as across much of the EU. Establishment politicians and media breathed a huge sigh of relief when far-right racists failed to force their way into the government in The Netherlands, and the National Front lost the election in France, and that same establishment began to crow about the march of the far right having been stopped in Europe. As in 1990 after the “Fall of the Wall”, when they crowed ecstatically about Capitalism Triumphant, they had jumped the gun once again.
In Austria, in Poland, in Hungary, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in The Netherlands and France, in Italy and now in Germany, the strength of the far right continues to grow with opposition to immigration and refugees as the rallying point. While the bankruptcy of neoliberal austerity politics a la EU and the elitist top-down structure of the European super-government are also fueling right-wing discontent, it is very clearly the refugee and migration issue, with the accompanying fears of terrorism connected to the recent recurring attacks within Western Europe trumpeted 24/7 by the corporate and government media, which is driving this dynamic.
We have heard relatively little from the United States government about this growing instability in Western Europe. The exception: unsubstantiated and far-fetched charges that Russia is behind it. Sound familiar?
As with other aspects of the current massive anti-Russia propaganda campaign being steered from Washington, which went into higher gear after Russia’s response to US support for the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government in 2014, and up another notch to shift blame for the failed 2016 Clinton campaign, the charge that Russia is behind Europe’s growing problems is a preposterous and malicious attempt to distract attention from the real culprit: the European refugee crisis, Made In The USA.
As with other aspects of the current massive anti-Russia propaganda campaign being steered from Washington…the charge that Russia is behind Europe’s growing problems is a preposterous and malicious attempt to distract attention from the real culprit: the European refugee crisis, Made In The USA
Among the million refugees allowed into Germany in 2015, the largest contingents were from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Now, what might be the common thread joining that interesting group of countries?
But of course, we don’t address this embarrassing fact openly in the mainstream media of EU and NATO countries. It’s not “nice” to say bad things about other members of your dysfunctional family and their nasty habits, even if those habits are tearing apart your social fabric. We simply couldn’t function without our imperial bulldog, it’s so much more comfortable to leave the protection racket to him. And in the EU, we are all about comfort … at least, in the affluent Western European countries that created the EU.
The other major force pulling the EU apart is a joint concoction of the United States and the EU, and emanates from those (less comfortable) EU members that are former member states of the Eastern Bloc which crumbled between 1989 and 1991. It seemed like such a good idea at the time … let them all join the EU and NATO as fast as possible. What could go wrong? My elderly mother, who was in that part of the world not long after the geopolitical tectonic shift, told me recently with great emotion how moving she found it to see the joy of all of those Eastern Europeans who were “finally free”. Many of those persons saw it exactly the same way at the time. But after 28 years a vast number of them have changed their minds, and have apparently decided that perhaps the absence of fear over losing jobs and homes, a general security which was the norm under socialism, was an even greater freedom than the Western/EU sort, which often seems to be more of a euphemism than a reality. There is widespread anger over the yawning gulf of discrepancy between the promises made to them in 1990 about a better life under capitalism, and their persistent inferior economic and social status within the EU today. Often this anger is manifested as bitterness over a perceived welcome to foreigners which they themselves did not experience in the attitudes, for example, of West Germans toward their new East German fellow citizens after reunification.Nor is Russia pleased – understandably – about the advance of NATO to its borders, complete with troops and missiles, in contravention of commitments made to Gorbachev in 1990 in exchange for Soviet cooperation on German reunification. Oh, these hypersensitive Russians … after all we’ve done for them.
As of this writing, Germany seems to be leaning toward a minority government, following the failure of talks aimed at creating a coalition between the Christian Democrats, their even more right-wing Bavarian “sister party” the Christian Social Union (a misnomer if there ever was one), the libertarian party of the affluent which is the Free Democratic Party, and the Green Party. Minority governments have existed in a number of European countries in the past, but never in modern Germany. It would be a gamble for Merkel, who has governed for 12 years with fairly workable coalitions. But the remaining alternative of a new snap election – provided the Social Democrats do not change their minds and agree to a renewal of the current “Grand Coalition” which has driven their support steadily lower – may be even riskier, as it is not unlikely that the strength of the Alternative für Deutschland could grow even greater.
It strikes me as increasingly surreal that it remains taboo to associate the refugee crisis, which is destabilizing the EU, with the American Neocon wars in the Middle East and Asia in the public discussion over the growing strength of the far right. But there is no shortage of surrealism on the geopolitical stage in 2017.
Nonetheless, with the USA now having become a major liability to its European allies, it is time for Europe to call a spade a spade. It is time for major change.
About the Author
Gregory Barrett, originally from Tennessee, worked for 40 years as a professional pianist, singer, songwriter, and touring and recording musician in the USA and Europe, both in the spotlight and as an accompanist for major stars and others. His activist career includes stints in the 1980s with Amnesty International USA at the national level and the ACLU of Tennessee. Since 2012 he has worked primarily as a translator. He has lived in Germany for a total of 18 years and has a diverse, multicultural family. His commentary and essays are published in The Greanville Post, Counterpunch, the Anglo-Indian magazine Socialist Factor, and other publications.
GREG BARRETT—It strikes me as increasingly surreal that it remains taboo to associate the refugee crisis, which is destabilizing the EU, with the American Neocon wars in the Middle East and Asia in the public discussion over the growing strength of the far right. But there is no shortage of surrealism on the geopolitical stage in 2017. Image: Polish paratroopers in NATO exercise.