The future of Europe after the U.S. “Pivot to Asia”

19 September, 2021

People walk past flags set at half-mast outside the European Commission Headquarters.
People walk past flags set at half-mast outside the European Commission Headquarters.

Australia breaking its naval contract with France as part of the birth of AUKUS, is just “the tip of the iceberg” according to a senior British Foreign Office official. It is the culmination of President Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” as asserted by the US, recalling that “no matter how much one pretends otherwise it is impossible to pivot to Asia without turning away from other places.” The European ruling classes translate this as the end of a historical period in which they could rely – not without contradictions – on the US to defend their own imperialist interests. The future of Europe is changing.

Table of Contents

The US “pivot to Asia” and the future of Europe

The pivot to Asia implies that US imperialism looks at the world map with the Pacific at the center. The future of Europe in the global imperialist game is peripheral.
The pivot to Asia implies that US imperialism looks at the world map with the Pacific at the center. The future of Europe in the global imperialist game is peripheral.

The symbol of the moment is the call for consultations of the French ambassadors to the US and Australia. It is neither an “outburst” by Macron nor a gesture to the gallery in order not to give away a “national humiliation” to Le Pen in the presidential election, as British commentators point out. In fact by not recalling its ambassador in London, the Elysée wanted to make a difference. According to Jean Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister:

We know their permanent opportunism. Britain in this case remains the fifth wheel of the wagon.

It’s more than just a little dialectical payback, and it is not limited to the trade dispute over submarines. It is a way of reminding London that on the new U.S. imperialist map Britain is as peripheral as the continent and can aspire to no more than a subordinate role in the new U.S. alliance architecture.

And the fact is that, in less than a week and only with the presentation of AUKUS, the global imperialist confrontation has rapidly advanced towards the constitution of imperialist blocs. The SCO (“Shanghai Cooperation Organization”) summit, which promised to pass once again unnoticed, reinforced by the incorporation of Iran has become the natural antagonist of AUKUS, organizing Afghanistan’s role in the new stage and serving as a loudspeaker for Xi’s calls to “resist external forces”.

The European position, calling for concrete measures to strengthen Taiwan’s role in the United Nations and blaming China for the growing military tension in the China Sea and Taiwan Strait, reveals how little room for maneuver the EU has left. The future of Europe in the Indo-Pacific can only be that of a partner. And the Indo-Pacific is the new center of the world.

Russia, which has been strategically clear about it for years, is playing that trump card to penetrate the zone of French-German influence in the East and the Balkans. “Russia tells us that the EU and NATO are not good geopolitical choices” asserted the President of Montenegro recalling that the change of centrality in the global imperialist conflict also puts into question the future of Europe beyond the EU.

Read also: AUKUS and the Road to a 3rd World War, 9/17/2021

The future of Europe goes through centralization and militarism

Macron parades down the Champs-Elysées.
Macron parades down the Champs-Elysées.

In fact, in Brussels the very foundation of NATO, its Article 5, which obliges all members to defend each other from aggression by a third party, is beginning to generate tensions. The EU countries, especially the Baltic states and Poland, want to count on the deterrence of the US “obligation” to go to war with Russia in the event of a border conflict. But Germany, France, Italy or Spain would not want to be dragged in in the event of an armed conflict between China and AUKUS today.

Another consequence of this week’s AUKUS-SCO duel has been that it has rendered obsolete the recently presented EU Indo-Pacific strategy. It was one thing to make a presence in what the EU continued to understand as the economic rearguard of the US and quite another to be qualified to play a decisive role, even as an ally, of the first global power at the center of the world imperialist conflict.

It is very likely that, by the time of the defense summit promised by von der Leyen this week, France will no longer be alone in its main proposal for the future of Europe: a coordinated military alliance of its own outside NATO and subject to the EU structure. Such an alliance could also, they think, have a deterrent role vis-à-vis Russia… which would help Brussels “detach” the states bordering Russia and Belarus from the U.S.

Read also: State of the Union 2021, 16/9/2021

The future of Europe and centralization

Von der Leyen promised in last week's debate on the future of the Union a summit co-organized with the French Council presidency to push forward the "European Defense Union". The future of Europe passes through a further development of militarism.
Von der Leyen promised in last week’s debate on the future of the Union a summit co-organized with the French Council presidency to push forward the “European Defense Union”. The future of Europe passes through a further development of militarism.

After the Covid experience and the floods of this year, the German bourgeoisie seems to have become aware of the fragilities of its productive system and the state’s ability to react… and blames this on years of “austerity” and the discourse of “spending discipline”.

The point is that it’s not that easy to get out of it. And the consensual way of doing it within the German power seems to be similar to that of countries with weaker national capitals within the Union.

Weaker national capitals, already devoid of monetary sovereignty, agree to lose increasingly strategic areas of fiscal policy and occasions of imperialist self-assertion. After decades of cuts and austerity, it seems acceptable to align with the big Franco-German monopolies in exchange for mutualizing within the EU new areas of spending.

State of the Union 2021, 16/9/2021

The latest example of this trend was provided by Pedro Sánchez just this weekend. Cornered by the rise in electricity prices and having encountered frontal resistance from the electricity companies to give up part of their extraordinary profits until May, the Spanish government asked for political support from Brussels… which did not want to get involved.

The Spanish response came from President Sánchez himself: demand from the EU a common policy for both pricing and control of gas supply sources. In other words, mutualizing costs and risks in exchange for a loss of sovereignty and, in Spain’s case, a reinforcement of its critical imperialist interests in the Maghreb.

That is why the centralization in Brussels of a budget at least equivalent to that of the current recovery funds has now become a vision shared by a large part of the ruling classes. It is necessary in order to align the European states around Germany and France in the competition with China but also to build an army of sufficient depth to aspire to play a role in the development of imperialist tensions between AUKUS and China.

We are no longer in the realm of “visionaries” and think tanks. The consensus within the German ruling classes on the future of Europe has turned radically. Volkswagen’s CEO was calling as recently as a week ago:

To make the EU a global economic powerhouse, able to compete on an equal footing with the Americans and the Chinese. The best way to achieve this is to adopt a common foreign, economic and security policy.

Germany: under economic prosperity, a fragile state. Le Monde

Britain in future of Europe

Peace in Northern Ireland is in jeopardy because of the increasing contradictions between imperialism in Europe, not because of refrigerated sausages.
Peace in Ireland is endangered by increasing contradictions between imperialisms in Europe, not by some refrigerated sausages.

In Britain on the other hand, the divisions in the ruling class that led to Brexit don’t seem to have quite closed. Even within the Tory party, fear of being drawn into a war with China is raising misgivings about the future of AUKUS.

In reality, after Brexit, the British ruling classes had little alternative. The capacity of the British economy gives, at best, to convert the militaristic deployment of “Global Britain” into enough for a global alliance with the US, not to impose a global military presence of their own.

It is a headlong flight forward that involves valorizing for the US the UK’s British imperial remnants at every possible point of friction with China, as we can see from the China Sea to the Falklands and Drake’s Passage.

Britain aspires to play in the future of Europe a role of strength derived from its alliance with the US, but it will not be able to avoid becoming a “hot spot”. Because some of these colonial remnants are in reality a weak and increasingly costly flank. Northern Ireland, has become a cause of permanent friction with an EU increasingly committed to Irish reunification and interested in British breakaway nationalism.

The ideologies of war in the future of Europe

Angela Merkel presents the Charlemagne Prize to Emmanuel Macron, surrounded by "Europeanist" imperial symbolism in May 2018.
Angela Merkel presents the Charlemagne Prize to Emmanuel Macron, surrounded by imperial “Europeanist” symbolism. It was May 2018. And it is so remote today…

An important element in the process of consolidation of imperialist blocs is the emergence of bloc ideologies. The future of Europe lies in a differentiation of state ideologies around the dividing lines between poles.

However, for the time being, nationalism still reigns supreme. The British government is putting in place legislation “to capitalize on the new freedoms of Brexit”. Suffice it to note that the supposedly won “freedoms” have as their main course the abandonment of the decimal metric system and the return to “imperial” weights and measures. The inability to clothe nationalism in anything that smacks less of stale bacon and military barracks is generating criticism, derision and even a certain nostalgia for Blair’s pitiful “Cool Britain.”.

But the EU doesn’t seem to have creative capacity to spare either. After the adoption of the Green Deal by the US under Biden, environmentalism, although ideologically useful, is no longer differentiating.

Feminism, state ideology in some countries like Spain, was adopted as a common flag of the EU to justify a classist policy of refuge during the crisis created by the departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. But it can hardly be said to have been too successful as a bloc ideology, however much the warmongering vocation of feminism shows up every now and then. And even less so in rivalry against the US.

On the other hand, the “social” banner rehearsed in Porto by European presidents so openly revealed a precarizing goal, that after the summit it has hardly received any references, so we can consider it discarded.

And in the last State of the Union debate von der Leyen had no better idea than to declare that the “New European Bauhaus” was the truest expression of the “soul of Europe”. The “New Bauhaus” is the old, dehumanizing Bauhaus of Gropius revamped and revitalized for the needs of the Green Deal.

That is, Europeans, whether British or continental, remain incapable of crafting an ideology rivaling the American ones… however decadent and dysfunctional the latter are.