07/06/2024 lewrockwell.com  8 min 🇬🇧 #250016

Nato, the American Defensive Umbrella, and the Diseases of Prosperity and Security That Are Eating Europe Alive

By Eugyppius
 A Plague Chronicle

June 7, 2024

Public discourse in Germany is so terminally broken that you must be grateful for every rare scrap of truth that makes its way through the propaganda machine - however obvious it may seem. It is even better when these rare truths appear in regime-adjacent press outlets, and when they shed light on the core political pathologies that are eating us alive.

Former Trump adviser Elbridge Colby has dropped some important and unusually bald statements about the nature of the postwar European order  in his latest Welt interview, published yesterday. His observations touch on crucial themes that the German press routinely ignore. They also provide a fresh opportunity to explain many things - both about how we ended up in our present dire situation, and whether the future will offer any way out of it.

Colby could fairly be called a China hawk. He is closely affiliated with the Center for a New American Security, and he bears no little responsibility for reorienting American foreign policy towards its growing rivalry with the People's Republic of China. What the coming decades promise is not a drab sequel to the Cold War, however much our politicians seem eager to renew old hostilities with Russia. Instead, we will see an intensifying new rivalry between the United States and China.

Colby explains American attitudes towards the People's Republic in this way:

... Asia is the largest market in the world. It is the centre of the world, no longer Europe. China is the first so-called [American] peer economy of the modern era... In terms of purchasing power parity, the People's Republic already has a larger economy than the USA. It has a larger industrial base, 200 times the shipbuilding capacity and produces half of the world's steel. The Chinese are putting enormous energy into space, communication and control of operations. They are building harbour infrastructure - in Cambodia, Djibouti, Oman, Equatorial Guinea. This is a clear indication that China is planning beyond Taiwan. They want first to become a regional hegemon and ultimately a world power. All of this is frightening. Russia is on a completely different level.

Yes, you have heard this a thousand times before. It is nevertheless very important, because it means that in the longer term, American interest in NATO will fade. "Structural challenges" including "high deficit and debt, deindustrialisation" and "war-weariness" will require "painful decisions" - Colby's delicate way of saying that the United States must sooner or later reduce their military commitment to Europe. These are broad forces independent of any specific politician, and they will make themselves felt whether Trump wins the election and pressures Germany to spend more on defence, or whether Biden squeaks into a second term and delays the inevitable for a few more years.

Colby hopes that a Trump administration would compel Europe to "take the lead" in funding Ukraine's defence. What he does not note, is that this would make the Ukraine war vastly more controversial on the Continent than it already is. European nations would have to increase defence spending substantially to replace  the vast military aid provided by the United States. This would require countries like Germany to curtail their overblown social entitlement programmes. Entitlements, however, are much more than a simple luxury that our politicians provide because they can afford to. They are the lifeblood of our centre-left party cartel system - the primary reason that sad personages like Karl Lauterbach, Nancy Faeser and Olaf Scholz are elected in the first place.

Should America reduce its support for the war, these dissipated nobodies would be forced to decide between funding Ukrainian defence and maintaining their hold on power. We had a hint of what this might look like during Olaf Scholz's  brief posturing as a "peace chancellor" some months ago. It is highly significant that Scholz adopted this stance precisely  as Senate Republicans in the United States were blocking a Ukraine aid package, and that he has become much more enamoured of the war -  to the extent of supporting plans for Ukraine to strike targets within Russia with German weapons - since  the supplemental aid bill finally passed in April. For a brief moment, Scholz felt compelled to experiment with another kind of foreign policy, and now that he believes American military aid will flow as usual, he is back to his old ways.

The American defensive umbrella in Europe has a significance extending far beyond the present conflict. It is the root cause of the European sickness. Much of modern politics exists in tension between two poles: On the one side is heedless liberal universalism, on the other security-obsessed nationalism. The liberal universalist pole comprises positions commonly associated with "the left," while the nationalist pole entails a great many things now derided as "far right." To the extent that we feel fat, happy and secure, our politics will slide in the liberal universalist direction; external threats, meanwhile, will drive us towards the nationalist pole. American security guarantees have encouraged our blindingly naive globalist politics, which are extremely unusual because they reflect our artificial security situation. In the longer term all of this is doomed.

Colby continues:

During the Cold War, both Republicans and Democrats were tough as nails with the Europeans because we all took common defence and obligations seriously. President Eisenhower at the time wanted to withdraw US forces as quickly as possible so the Europeans wouldn't 'suck Uncle Sam dry.' Other US presidents of the time took a similar view. President Trump's approach was much closer to the Cold War approach. Insisting that each member does its part. The root of the problem does not lie just with the Europeans, to be fair. It is also the fault of our foreign policy establishment, who thought the division of labour after 1989 was great - the Europeans demilitarise and America's foreign policy elite is in control. Incidentally, it's no coincidence that this foreign policy establishment is very unpopular with US voters, for good reason. Its record over the past 25 years is very poor.

European politics began their devolution into true insanity after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Suddenly there was no more external threat to balance the system, and as America assumed the bulk of the financial responsibility for European defence, our entire politics were demilitarised. To take the measure of the consequences, you need only look at the tale of two Russian gas pipelines. In 1981-82, European countries and especially Germany pressed forward with the construction of the Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhhorod pipeline, over strong American objections and even sanctions. The episode is amazingly chronicled in an undergraduate thesis written by none other than current US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, which is sympathetic to the European point of view. 1 In 2022, some as-yet unknown country - in all likelihood the United States or another NATO member - bombed the Nord Stream pipelines, an open attack on German infrastructure that our politicians have wholly accepted. As a student, Blinken thought Reagan's reaction to the Siberian pipeline was excessive, but as Secretary of State he  famously called the Nord Stream bombing a "tremendous opportunity":

... And ultimately this is also a tremendous opportunity. It's a tremendous opportunity to once and for all remove the dependence on Russian energy and thus to take away from Vladimir Putin the weaponization of energy as a means of advancing his imperial designs. That's very significant and that offers tremendous strategic opportunity for the years to come...

The forces I described above have nourished an entirely novel class of child politician like Olaf Scholz, who know they owe their position to American defence guarantees and with every generation become ever more eager to give way to Atlanticism. These same forces have also, in kind a mirror image, inspired a new American foreign policy, which Blinken's transformation illustrates perfectly. I know that my American friends are wont to describe Europeans as free-loaders on US defence spending, but the truth is that the political class of both continents gets something out of this strange arrangement, and the non-monetary costs for those of us in Europe have been catastrophic. The United States must absolutely insist that Europe begin to fund its own defence. We will never be able to close our borders or stop the insane programme of economic destruction known as the energy transition otherwise.

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