UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — This November will mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. When Hungary began to open its borders in April 1989, when the Soviet Union lost influence on the Warsaw Pact countries.
Despite worrying about the dizzying pace of events, the peaceful end of the Cold War came as shocking for the Western powers as it was for the Kremlin. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s desire for reunification has raised concerns about Germany’s potential hegemony in central Europe.
French President Francois Mitterrand and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were horrified to expect such a development. Shattered after the Second World War, Germany gained unity.
In Washington, the administration of President George W. Bush, initially skeptical of the USSR Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev, sought a post-war settlement in Europe. Bush, together with Kohl, not only led the unification of West and East Germany, but also helped create the Charter of Paris for a New Europe in November 1990.
The Charter was supposed to lay a new foundation for the European world, providing for the significantly expanded role of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Washington and its Western allies insisted on expanding NATO eastward. The sudden end to the US-Soviet conflict led to euphoria in the West, as The National Interest wrote, which until then perceived the Cold War as an unsolvable conflict.
In 1985, editors published material in the first issue of this journal stating that “the Soviet Union poses a serious threat to America’s interests now and in the foreseeable future.” Four years later, Francis Fukuyama’s essay, “The End of History?” Appeared in TNI, stating that liberal democracy with a free market is “the ultimate form of human rule.” The essay overnight triggered a storm of conflicting statements about the role of progress in history.
In addition, it served as an impetus for the doctrines that led the leading neocons, Paul Wolfowitz, Charles Krauthammer, Robert Kagan and William Kristol, to defend American triumphalism.
You can talk long and tedious about the steps by which the neoconservatives began to dominate the debate about the war and peace in Washington. However, after the Cold War, several leading realists presented a slightly different point of view. For example, George F. Kennan warned in 1997: “NATO expansion will become a fatal mistake in American politics after the end of the Cold War. We can expect that such a decision … will push Russian foreign policy in the wrong direction.”
But the essay by Owen Harris, the founder of The National Interest, most directly contradicted the spirit of the Fukuyama essay. At first, he touched on the essence of the problem that hit Western democracies since the end of 1989. In an essay published in 1993, Harris studied what he called the “collapse of the West.”
When America and Europe sought to expand NATO and ponder military intervention in the Balkans, Harris posed the fundamental question: is there such a thing as the West? His point was that historically there was a cultural unit known as the West, but quite often it experienced political and economic divisions. Given that economic ties hinder the war, as A. Taylor noted, Europe had the greatest unity before the First World War: “A Londoner could at any time decide to settle in Vienna or Paris and move there on the same day and move his property there. Europeans never had such freedom and never will be again.” Unity was not a natural state of affairs in Europe.
Over the past few years, several tough faults have occurred in the West, each of which is the result of an increase in populist sentiment. One example is the Brexit referendum in 2016 and the painful attempt by the United Kingdom to leave the EU. The British conservatives always considered the European community, and then the EU, as a conspiracy of Germany or France, which was supposed to deprive the United Kingdom of sovereignty and make it a vassal of bureaucrats in Brussels, decreeing immigration or agriculture, contrary to the true interests of Great Britain. Brexit has already cut off the scalp of two prime ministers, David Cameron and Theresa May. It was Boris Johnson’s turn, who, in an effort to challenge parliament, only aroused his antipathy, creating an alliance between the Labor Party and the Liberal Democrats.
In late September, he announced: “We have consistently put forward what seems to me to be trustworthy; what is based on 5 principles – the customs union, trade relations, consumer protection, environmental protection and the Belfast Agreement.”
If Corbyn wins, he will adhere to his own version of the policy of “little England.” And this will further disrupt relations with Europe than Johnson believed. Most likely, this will end with his own form of personified government modeled on Cuba or Venezuela. Johnson is a parody of an authoritarian leader, and Corbin is an authoritarian leader.
Another sign of a split in the West can be found in the rise of nationalism. Germany, once a supporter of the unification of Europe, is facing growing populist sentiments, especially in the former East Germany, where offended locals believe that they were abused after 1989 by their brothers in the West.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s emphasis on hospitality is detrimental to the position of her Christian Democratic Union, which bypassed the Alternative for Germany party.
Initially, it was a party of Euro-skeptics and journalists who opposed the monetary union in Europe. However, then she grew into a much more militant party, despising the German sense of guilt for the Holocaust. After Merkel became the “Chancellor of Refugees” in the summer of 2015, having received hundreds of thousands of Syrian immigrants in Germany, “Alternative for Germany” began to gain momentum. In the recent elections in Brandenburg and Saxony, she showed excellent results: 23.5% and 27.5%.
Now this party is the third largest in Germany. Just a few years ago, that would have been unthinkable. But the party’s calls that it was time to restore German pride and stop apologizing for the horrors of World War II obviously found their listeners.
Almost 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, nationalism has again become the norm in a decent society. Germany may enter a trade war with America, as Trump oversees the introduction of tariffs on cars.
All of this can affect the relations of Berlin with Brussels, its membership in NATO and its alliance with Washington. Instead of acting as the leader of a revived Europe, it can begin to implement the strategy “Make Germany Great Again,” turning to Russia and China to repulse America.
In a new provocative book, Wir Brauchen den Westen (“The World Needs the West”), Thomas Klein-Brockhoff, former assistant to German President Joachim Gauck, argues that it is erroneous to believe that German-American relations will not work out, and Western liberalism will cause revival. He notes the crisis in which America found itself in the mid-1970s, when Richard Nixon stepped down as president, leftist terror was on the rise, OPEC imposed an oil embargo, and the US economy fell into recession.
Nevertheless, the tension between Europe and America will become more pronounced if Donald Trump wins the 2020 election. In fact, Trump is trying to deal with “new Europe” at the expense of “old Europe”.
In the most inimitable way, Trump actually sought to form an alliance with countries such as Poland and Hungary, based on universally recognized cultural ties. In 2017, Trump delivered a rant in Warsaw, in which he endorsed the Polish government’s struggle for “civilization” against EU threats and refugees.
As he noted, it is necessary that countries defend their “culture, faith and traditions.” He showed little interest in the traditional ties between America and Europe. On the contrary, in 2018 he discussed a number of possibilities to say auf Wiedersehen to NATO.
In this regard, Trump is returning to the older Republican tradition of maintaining distance in relation to European conflicts that are not directly related to America. The result may be the collapse of the Western alliance.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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