Two reasons that Europe would be forced to decouple from the US
Published: Jan 05, 2023 02:06 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Several years ago, I wrote in a Danish book about foreign and security politics that Denmark and other European countries would be wise to begin to walk on two legs: One for The West, and one for The Rest. One leg would be friendly, correct and necessary cooperation with the United States, the EU and others ultimately belonging to the West, and allowing friendly criticism too. The other leg would consist of taking into account the emerging world order change and seek cooperation with the Rest - China, the Belt and Road Initiative, and at least some of the non-Western regional organizations. As expected, there was no reaction. 

In the fields of foreign and security policy, Denmark and quite a few other European countries have put all their eggs in one basket, where earlier they maintained some freedom of navigation. EU countries Finland and Sweden joining NATO speaks volumes: The dominant psychology is that the West must stand united against - not with - the Rest. The NATO-Russia conflict playing out so tragically on Ukrainian soul is just one example. Many European countries might just as well close down their Ministries of Foreign Affairs and become US State Department divisions. 

Now, what do we mean by the West? Politically and militarily, mostly the US + NATO + EU. Culturally, more the Christian world, which has been created through Western colonialism, imperialism and militarism - coming with a Bible and, if that wasn't enough, the Sword. In terms of civilization, deeper values or ways of thinking, it means the individual over the collective, Man over Nature, Man over Woman, one God over Man (and monotheism), either/or thinking over both/and thinking, linear over circular time, the psychical/mechanical over social/organic, the body over the soul and spirit, the idea of one center guiding peripheries benevolently or by violence - that is, the West's civilizing mission on the Rest, the White man's burden. 

The old Cold War that ended around 1990 was between two versions of that West which actually had a lot in common, namely deep Westernness. The Eastern West lead by the socialist Soviet Union with its vassals in the Warsaw Pact and Comecon; it built upon a mechanical social philosophy by a German mind, Karl Marx, embodying everything Western/Occidental. The Western West on the other hand, grew out of Enlightenment, free spirit, industrialization and even revolutions but that too built on a stale center-periphery thinking with the US, God's own country, as its center and the Rest as 2nd- and 3rd-class peripheries. Its center is NATO, not the EU, because the EU has been manifestly unable to get its act together. 

This system's philosopher was Adam Smith, originally a moral philosopher but ultimately twisted into a father of the capitalist market economy with its God-like invisible hand. It's main - false - assumption was that individual utility and profit maximization would benefit all society. Alas, it led, instead, to perverse and unstoppable inequality and global militarist dominance for its maintenance. Around this market, revolves a parliamentary democracy. But it's based on 2-3 percent of the people who are members of a party - compared to about 7 percent in China - who make up the lists of candidates the citizens can vote for. Western democracy is about voting, but not selecting; it's representative but direct rule of, for and by the people. The Eastern West fell apart in the late 1980s. Predictably, the Western West is now in rampant decline and bound to fall, mostly because of its unwise, triumphalist response to its "brother's" demise. It falls also because of a) militarism beyond any rationality, b) lack of self-criticism and innovation and c) lack of a vision beyond the four-year election periods. 

For the above reasons, my prediction is that the Western West will cling to the US as its leader. United in decline, it needs the image of an external image, narratives and a negative vision: Everybody and everything non-West is a threat to us! Win/lose is the message, instead of win/win. Confrontation instead of cooperation. The EU Lisbon Treaty states that the EU shall serve peace, speak with one voice in foreign policy and that it shall build efficient supra-national structures. It has succeeded in none of them. It lacks true democracy, its top leadership not voted into office. Its security is mostly NATO/US-based with no vision of an alternative common civil-military security. 

The EU failed miserably to build peace with Russia, handle the refugee crisis in 2015 and the COVID-19 crisis, and now it blindly follows the US' response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and becomes a victim of it. However, there could be two reasons that Europe would be forced to decouple from the US. One, if the post-Biden US becomes extremely isolationist or disintegrates into a civil war-like situation. Two, if the effects of the US sanctions, cancellation of everything Russia, the destruction of Nord Stream 2 and the US selling liquefied gas at four times the price in the US cause stronger anti-US sentiment throughout Europe. 

When the West falls, the Rest will be wise to mitigate and help the West - non triumphally, but also without compromising its own development philosophy and momentum. It won't be easy, but that will be the task the next few years. Everything must be done to avoid a new Occident-Orient Cold War because even a cold war will prevent us from solving humanity's urgent problems.

The author is director of Sweden-based think tank Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn