What are the reasons which tie Europe to the USA, rather than Russia?
And: what is left after Trump?
It seems far-fetched. But what do the facts say?
The noble reason, of course, is the sharing of values.
But one thing Trump has never contradicted himself on is his admiration for Putin. It would be ironic to think of his government as better. And indeed: he supports torture, is an enemy to women’s reproductive rights, he despises and threatens the checks and balances of democracy… staying their allies would require us daily looking the other way.
But, what about the practical side -money?
Here things are even more worrying. The other thing Trump has been adamant on, is that he wants America to have a trade surplus; or at least to cut its deficit. It’s an incredibly stupid idea, we all agree. But he will do it -we’ve already seen he really means what he says.
Europe has a huge,and growing, trade surplus with America. This means, adieu to TTIP; but that is only the beginning. It means, any trade move of the Trump administration will be obstinately aimed to reduce our exports.
Instead of being able to hope to boost our economy with ever closer ties, we have to brace ourselves for a merciless trade war which could be devastating -at a time where many states are still exceedingly fragile.
After all, Trump doesn’t even like the European Union. Possibly the only man on earth to fear it, he described it as “an attempt to beat us”. Hell, his perspective ambassador to the EU explicitly likened it to the Soviet Union. Relying America in any way from now on would be suicide. They’ll purposefully try to undermine us at every turn.
So we’re between a rock and a hard place. America is an enemy to us just as much as Russia is. Or is it?
What divides us from Russia?
Mainly… being on America’s side. NATO wants to demolish any alternative sphere of influence; and therefore the wars in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria… we stuck with America because it was the most convenient choice at the time, although it dragged us in a lowkey war with Russia.
But now that war doesn’t exist anymore. Trump has no interest in maintaining a global empire. He explicitly stressed out he won’t antagonize Russia in any way.
So Crimea is Russia now. Kiev won’t like it, but that’s what it is.
Will Europe persist in sanctions against Russia when it also hurts relations with the USA; which will be deteriorating already on their own? Not with this economy, we won’t.
And when you look into it, it’s not that bad. Putin keeps Ukraine in a state of civil war because that gives it a bargaining chip to stop it from joining NATO. With that out of the picture, things might change.
Once we can blame the loss of Crimea on the about-face of America; if Putin started working towards a peaceful agreement in the east, it wouldn’t even look like a defeat if we dropped the sanctions.
Why should Putin want this? Well, because the Pentagon has experts enough. We would have won the war, eventually. Having an enemy is good for the image; but entering the third year straight of economic contraction, or at least far weaker growth than it would be possible -is definitely not. With stagnating economy and ever increased military expenses, Russia would have collapsed given enough time. There is a reason, after all, why they invested heavily in changing things in unconventional ways -say, helping Trump.
At this point, Putin has milked the opposition to America for all it’s worth. Now if Trump offers him recognition as equal superpower again on the world’s stage, recognition of some token victories on the ground (Crimea, Assad in Syria), and it comes with a strong rebound of the economy thanks to the lifting of sanctions… it would be just stupid to refuse, and Putin isn’t stupid. The Russian people would see that their sacrifices actually paid off in full! His support would only stop by hitting its head at the 100% limit.
Sure, in a few years he’ll need another enemy; but maybe in the meantime we’ll have survived Trump. And, that enemy might not even be us. Cannot count on it, but it’s a possibility. Maybe we can just keep Russians happy with fighting “terrorism”, now that they are ‘a global superpower’? If Americans at the height of their dominance could be kept afraid of Iraq and North Korea -that might definitely be an option.
And in the meantime; the end of the “pro-western” and “pro-russian” nonsense in our backyard would stop useless divisions, and free the region’s potential for commerce. We need it -remember the main crisis: Trump will close his border to our exports. Reopening Putin’s (which also means the land link to China) might just help soften the blow.
And migration. Restoring Assad in Syria cannot possibly be worse than continuing the war -and it will lessen the flow of refugees many of our fellow Europeans are so concerned over. Another crisis we could definitely do without, at least until the union is stronger.
The synergy would be positive in other fields too. Take, privacy: we don’t have a vote in USA, but part of us is there -most of our digital lives. Maybe 90% of our data is under Trump’s jurisdiction, and he made it clear he won’t respect it. Russia has instead developed its own networks, like VKontakte. While it would be just as crazy to switch to Putin’s tools -a technology transfer agreement could help finally jumpstart a proper European digital industry, of which he have a tragic lack as of today.
Of course there is the issue of human rights. But if America has decided not to be better, it’s quite moot. To save our values, the priority is surviving. And I’m pretty sure we could start being OK with them tomorrow -just as we keep being good friends with China, Turkey or Saudi Arabia. Don’t talk about it on the newspapers, it’s as good as not there.
This is what I’ve thought today -Putin, being a smart guy with a passion for audacious plots, has probably seen it from November 9.
The shift could be well underway.
Don’t believe me? Go look at the positions of the candidates to the next big event of European politics -the elections in France, a few months from now. We all know Le Pen is Putin’s lapdog. But what about the pro-EU candidates? Fillon, the “classic right” candidate and current favorite:
European Union sanctions on Russia are pointless, the frontrunner in France’s presidential election Francois Fillon said on Monday in Berlin, warning Russia and the United States under Donald Trump could forge links that exclude the EU.
Oh. What about Macron, the center candidate and rising star of the election?
France must reopen talks with Russia, centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron told journalists on Wednesday. He said Russia must play a decisive role in ending the conflict in Syria, and that the removal of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad cannot be a prior condition to end the war. The former economy minister also favours renewed peace talks on Ukraine in order to gradually diminish sanctions against Russia
This IS huge. Whoever wins -France will be in favor of mending ties with Russia.
And in September, we’ll have the German elections. Would you be so surprised if say a convergence between CSU, AfD and others doing surprisingly well unhorsed Merkel (maybe after some scandal, email reveal, Wikileaks dossier…) -and shifted the tide in favor of Russia in Germany too?
Then the EU would just follow suit.
If my theory is correct, Le Pen will do poorly in the coming months …because her funds and army of virtual influencers will have shifted to the pro-EU candidates.
Enemy cities are to be destroyed if holding them is too difficult. If the enemy is just packing and going away …well, they’re your cities now. America was strong yesterday: but if Trump is either corrupt or blind enough, Putin can just keep Europe together -and playing the right cards, swallow it whole.
Time will tell.