In the late 1950s many signs of the carpet bombing of Germany were still evident. Though the factories had been at work since soon after war’s end, the first wave of post-war, cheap and hurried housing construction was the rule. Germans were still rebuilding train stations, several of which I followed like an urban planner, including the Frankfurt/Main and Munich stations. The restoration of the great gothic cathedrals of Cologne and Ulm proceeded at snail’s pace.
Most urban areas of the cityscape still had gaping holes where important buildings had once stood. While one spoke widely of denazification, the general atmosphere in the country still smelled of war, unjustifiably accompanied by what seemed to be fervent positive hopes for the future. I think now that only foreigners perceived a certain bitter sweet romanticism in the general destruction; Germans were too busy rebuilding to romanticize their situation.
Germans examine the rubble in one of their cities after heavy nighttime bombardment. (1944)
Americans in Europe tended to lump together all European countries under the name “Europe”, which irritated Germans and other Europeans in those times when only a few European dreamers bandied about the idea of a united Europe. I soon learned to distinguish carefully one country from the other: Germany was Germany, France was France and Italy was Italy … the latter geographically and culturally separated from all.
Since that time an adulterated form of a United Europe has emerged: the economic European Union, today capitalism’s arm for the subjugation of the “continent”, a tainted union, however, far, far from the original European idea of its earliest founders—Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Altiero Spinelli—whose ideals for a united Europe were peace, unity and prosperity. Gradually borders and some old divisions fell, while the founders’ original ideals mutated into excessive bureaucracy and exaggerated forms of EU-controlled capitalism run by a clique of unelected capitalist leaders who have created little more than the political wing of US-controlled NATO. An economic union policed by the so-called troika consisting of the European Union (EU) in Brussels, the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington. The troika has ruined the economy of more than one country with its rules and their subsequent enforcement. Greece is now engaged in a life or death struggle against those regulations and directives and guidelines. The troika’s blind adherence to German-dictated austerity economics and to the US neocon program for Europe is generating growing resistance especially in southern EU member states.
Always luring, sometimes mysterious, Europe, Europa, Evropa, Auropa is the ancestral home of many Americans and still the first travel destination of American college students and Japanese and Chinese wealthy. Like seventy years ago or in the post-WW I era, something about contemporary Europe still attracts foreign youth, artists and scholars. Today’s Europe encompasses an area of 4,000,000 square miles with a population of over 500,000,000—depending on how far east your Europe reaches. As traditionally understood Europe is the second smallest continent, after Australia, only about one-fifteenth of the world’s total land area. The Europe considered here reaches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains, as in the post-WWII era former French President Charles de Gaulle preferred. According to Nietzsche, the Europe of his time was powered by two great narcotics: alcohol and Christianity (neither of which hold water today). Or, as Milan Kundera prefers, war and culture are the two great inseparable poles of Europe, both her glory and her shame. Not to be outdone in the spinning of quotations, the great Leo Tolstoy allegedly once said after a long and pensive study of the world map: “Evropy niet.” Europe does not exist.” A true observation in the sense that French are still very French, Germans are German and Italians are Italian. Surveys however show that today’s young people of university age might identify themselves as first Europeans and secondly according to their ethnic belonging. Today, in Italy, a silent emigration abroad of college graduates is occurring, however, for the wrong reason: lack of employment at home.
The European Union has become little more than the political wing of US-controlled NATO.
However, I assume Tolstoy had in mind the geographic fact that Europe in reality is a large peninsula attached to the Eurasian land mass, separated from the continent of Asia by the Ural Mountains and the Ural River in the east, the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains in the southeast, and the Black Sea, the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmora, and the Dardanelles in the south. The Mediterranean Sea and the Straits of Gibraltar separate Europe from the continent of Africa. On the north Europe is bordered by the Arctic Ocean, on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, on the south and east by the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It is quite common today to hear the expression: “Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals.”
Those Eurasian borderlands are precisely the lands that neocon-led America wants to get its hands on because of an infantile fascination with the historical claim that, “he who controls Eurasia controls the world.” In reference to the grandiose convictions of America’s neocons, I keep in mind Tolstoy’s words in War and Peace: “Those whom God wishes to destroy he drives mad,” which he borrowed from the Greeks, probably Euripides.
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ABOVE: The actual cost of war. Have Western Europeans forgotten so easily? Why are they so inebriated with Washington’s indecent lies? Is American propaganda that effective?
You can’t ignore the reality that perhaps never before has a fine knowledge of geography been more important than today. It is a geographical fact that Eurasia exists. However any gung ho American neocon policy that aims at American control over that vast area rings like an Earth power claiming control, or aspiring to the control of, say, the planet Uranus. Fortunately, Europe understands the idiocy of neocon belief in America’s invincibility and Exceptionalism … or perhaps Europe is finally beginning to understand. But not necessarily for the right reasons. Old competitions, old rancors, old misunderstandings have a way of repeating themselves.
According to journalist Viktor Tolochko, as reported by Russia’s RIA News, German analysts have come to believe that the American game in Ukraine (or, in THE Ukraine, as Tolochko writes) is aimed less at Russia than at the European Union (EU) itself. The writer says his German contacts confirm that Germany opposes Ukrainian membership in the EU because that country faces default. Furthermore, according to German analysts, the sanctions against Russia pressed on the EU by Washington have cost the EU over one trillion euros, making each German 25% poorer than before the sanctions. And while the very nature of the EU, its spirit and long-time goals, degenerate, causing dissension in its member states, ecco Greece bursts on the scene and demands no less than reparations from Germany for the damage inflicted on Greece in WWII, thus threatening to undermine that original spirit of United Europe: peace, and the existence of the EU itself. (Hypocritical Europe likes to speak of seventy years of peace, simply ignoring the wars against ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the bombing of another European capital, Belgrade, and the recognition of Kosovo, annexed by the USA and the small country converted to one great military base.)
It is no secret that some European leaders fear what are still unclear American adventurous plans for their small continent. Already de facto vassals, what will the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty mean for European nations? Among many matters it would force the EU and its member states to follow instructions of multinational corporations, depriving governments and parliaments of the right to regulate standards. TTIP regulated cooperation will limit consumers’ freedom of choice and force upon them products they do not want, like genetically modified food. The TTIP as conceived will be a trade barrier between the North and the emerging countries of the South. It will reduce Europe to insignificance on the world stage.
Germany thus far has been a prime example of the kind of ally America prefers. There are already so many American military bases in Germany (including Ramstein Air Base in the southwestern part of the country which serves as headquarters for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and is also a North Atlantic Treaty Organization installation and where some 50,000 Americans live) and so many American military personnel that Russians speak quite readily of Germany as an occupied country. The fact is Germany has never achieved true independence after its debacle in WWII.
Members of the 37th Airlift Squadron and 86th Maintenance Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, observe three minutes of silence Sept. 14 to remember victims of 9/11. The sight of US military personnel of all types is exceedingly common in Europe, and Italy has become practically a moored aircraft carrier in the heart of the Mediterranean. (Public domain)
However, HOWEVER, a certain resistance is hatching in Europe. Also in Germany. American intervention in Ukraine might be the last straw for European patience with their drunkenly staggering giant partner on the other side of the Atlantic. Seventeen of the EU’s 28 member nations have apparently sided with Russia and will NOT deliver weapons to the Ukrainian government as the USA has ordered. The downside is that 11 EU nations side with the USA in its aim to exterminate ethnic Russian residents of the Donbass. German Economic News has identified the following EU states strongly opposed to supplying weapons to Ukraine: Spain, Germany, Greece, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, France and Slovakia. Furthermore, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi recently visited President Putin in Moscow and is increasing cooperation with Russia. In general, the silence of some EU nations and a slow-down in cooperation with the USA show EU efforts to also lift the sanctions against Russia.
BELOW: CLAY KASERNE, Germany – Soldiers assigned to the 1-214th Aviation Regiment push a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter into a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft here, Dec. 8, 2014, as part of an emergency deployment readiness exercise. The American military presence and numerous bases has created a state of constant anxiety throughout Europe, as Washington seeks to create a wedge between Europe and Russia, while destabilizing the latter.
ABOVE: Aviano is also an enormous US air base in Italy, practically a self-contained town. It is the sheer corruption of postwar European politicians and the enormous power of the US to meddle in foreign affairs openly and surreptitiously that has allowed the American hydra to gain a huge foothold on the European continent.
As strange as it might ring to the ears of Westerners, also to many Europeans and most Americans, Europe’s future is inextricably linked to Russia, not to the USA. In the context as laid out here Tolstoy’s words in War and Peace do not ring strange: “Russia alone is to be the savior of Europe.”
Tolstoy continued: “The means are… the balance of power in Europe and the rights of the people….It is only necessary for one powerful nation like Russia—barbaric as she is said to be—to place herself disinterestedly at the head of an alliance having for its object the maintenance of the balance of power of Europe, and it would save the world!” Save the world from America’s mad aspirations for world hegemony one can add.
Westerners do not realize the mutual attraction linking Germany (Europe’s major country as it has always been) and Russia, a relationship only partially interrupted by the Bolshevik era in Russia, the ferocious German Nazi invasion of Russia and the no less ferocity of the Russian reaction: at the cost of more or less 25,000,000 lives Russia defeated Nazi Germany and in fact “saved the world”. The mutual attraction has been arguably chiefly cultural, perhaps the proper field to express the love-hate relationship linking them. Yet intermarriage among the former royalty of the two countries contributed to a special feeling one for the other. Peter the Great’s reforms were based also on German influences: his capital city was named St. Petersburg. Many German words have been incorporated into the Russian language with very similar pronunciation: Schachmatt-chess, Kartoffel-potato, Buterbrod-sandwich, Perückenmacher- barber or hairdresser, Schlagbaum-barrier, Rucksack-backpack. Then after the 1917 revolution so many Russians fleeing Russia settled in Berlin’s Charlottenburg district that it was called Charlottengrad.
Perhaps the mysterious attraction of apparent opposites is more mutual admiration than friendship: the German mind and the Russian soul. It’s something metaphysical, even epistemological, a feeling, an emotion, a sensitivity common to the two peoples. Recently one of my Russian Facebook “friends” posed the question: Do you prefer Wagner or Verdi? Those who know Russia would not be surprised by the Russians’ overwhelming preference for Wagner.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
[box] Senior Editor Gaither Stewart serves as The Greanville Post and Cyrano’s Journal Today European correspondent. A retired journalist, his latest novel is The Fifth Sun (Punto Press). He’s also the author of several other books, including the Europe Trilogy, of which the first two volumes (The Trojan Spy, Lily Pad Roll) have been published by Punto Press. These are spy thrillers that have been compared to the best of John le Carré, focusing on the work of Western intelligence services, the stealthy strategy of tension, and the gradual encirclement of Russia, a topic of compelling relevance in our time. He makes his home in Rome. Gaither can be contacted at email@example.com. His latest assignment is as Managing Editor with TGP’s Russia Desk. [/box]