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Germany and the EU: In the Crosshairs of Trump and Putin - by James Laxer

EU: It is time to stop being mouth fed by the US
Links between the Trump administration and the Russians are an explosive political issue.

But what draws U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin together? As it happens they do have one major common target in their sights. Though this may surprise many, that target is the European Union and more narrowly the power of Germany.

The reasons for their enmity toward the EU and Berlin are not obscure. Even after the United Kingdom exits, the European Union will have a population of more than 440 million people spread across 27 member states.

Number one in the EU is Germany, home to just over 80 million people and the continent’s dominant economy.

During the post war decades, a major goal of American foreign and defence policy was to bolster the reconstruction of the West German and European economies and to support the progress toward the creation of today’s European Union. Western Europe was to serve as a bulwark against the Soviet Union.

Much has changed. Germany is united and economically dominates the continent. The Soviet Union and its Eastern European empire have collapsed. Today’s autocratic Russia is capitalist, brimming with nuclear missiles and has a Gross Domestic Product that is smaller than Canada’s.

The Trump administration reckons that the further evolution of the European Union’s political and economic project poses far more of a threat to American power than does Russia.

Today, with the open support of both Trump and Putin, far right populist movements across Europe have launched political assaults against the EU. Last June, the leave forces triumphed in the referendum to pull the U.K. out of the EU.

A crucial presidential election in France will further test the viability of the EU.

Marine Le Pen, who is pro Putin and pro Trump, leads the far right Front National. Polls point to her coming first in the initial round of voting in France’s presidential election in April and going on to lose in the second round to a more moderate candidate. If Le Pen were to win, unlikely but far from impossible, it would constitute a body blow to the EU.

The hostility to the EU among far right parties in Europe, as well as in Trump’s Washington and Putin’s Moscow, is deeply ideological. The EU is the world’s leading experiment in creating a nascent federal state to which countries voluntarily give up some of their sovereignty. If it works, the EU will create a post-nationalist European identity. This is anathema to Trump, Putin and Le Pen.

The EU displays the vulnerabilities of a half-constructed edifice. Most of it has a common currency, the Euro and free movement of citizens. But rates of unemployment vary enormously from Spain and Greece where huge numbers of young adults cannot find jobs to Germany with a current jobless rate of only 5.9 per cent. The generally cautious policies of the German government and the European Central Bank have long been blamed for sluggish growth and high unemployment in many parts of the continent.

As Europe confronts the fraught politics of managing the flight of refugees to the continent from the Syrian war, and from African countries torn by drought and civil conflict, far right parties see this as their great opportunity.

Last month, when I was in Menton on the French Mediterranean border with Italy, I saw French police squads rounding up African migrants who had walked into France along the railway tracks or who had arrived on trains. The migrants were questioned, placed in police vans and driven to the border where they were dropped off to fend for themselves in Italy.

So far, the German political centre is holding under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who heads up a coalition government of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. But she is under fire from right wing populists for admitting over one million asylum seekers into Germany over the past two years. Her government faces national elections later this year.

Note EU-Digest: The EU can either move forward to more complete economic, social and political union, or it can fragment into its constituent parts. Trump and Putin would welcome the latter, which would enfeeble a potent rival. For Europeans who have enjoyed peace and relative prosperity for decades, rather than the terrible wars that came before, it would be an entirely different matter. 

Europe must wake-up to the fact that the EU-US Atlantic Alliance with the Donald Trump Administration is dead on paper and in reality. 

Consequently the EU must stop crying over spilled milk, refrain from putting any more eggs in the bottomless US Corporate and Military basket. Instead, start to seriously develop an independent foreign policy, including a strong  military defense force.


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