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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

The rise of new world order rhetoric and the current identity crisis

Two articles well worth a gander, both trying to work out the “new post-Cold War world order” that increasing numbers are identifying in the wake of the Georgia crisis, and slowly trying to define.

First up, from The Economist, this week’s Charlemagne:

Never has the European Union enjoyed such diplomatic prominence… Seen from Brussels, the Georgian crisis has exposed a tectonic shift in the global balance of power. It is not just that Russia is back. The crisis has also confirmed Europe’s sense of an America in relative decline…

A previous generation of EU leaders, such as Jacques Chirac or Gerhard Schröder, dreamt of a multipolar world, in which several powers would wield clout. Now something like it may have arrived. Yet today’s European leaders are not crowing. Talk to ministers and officials in private, and they admit that the new world order is making them anxious.

Next, a similar take from a more Russian perspective over at Eurozine:

The general mood in Moscow these days is that “Russia is up, America is down, and Europe is out. Russia, previously a Pluto in the Western solar system, has spun out of its orbit, powered by the determination to find its own system.”

…mutual suspicion, misperception, frustration, and paranoia are starting to determine the dynamics of the relationship between Russia and the European Union… In the eyes of the West, Russia has turned from a partner-in-the-making into an adversary-in-the-making. The mixture of mercantilism and messianism that is at the core of the Kremlin’s new foreign policy frightens Europe.

We’re in the midst of a new wave of historical revisionism, another period of reassessment of the shifts in world power following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is nothing new – Fukuyama’s The End of History was published way back in 1992, and has been repeatedly attacked pretty much from the day it appeared for its claims that Western liberal democracy had triumphed. What does appear to be a new trend, however, is the emphasis on the role the EU may play in this new analysis – largely because its potential is seen as so great, yet its current impact on world events perceived as so minimal.

The one thing that does seem agreed upon is that the hesitancy of the EU is one of its defining characteristics. While Russia and America are reverting to Cold War rhetoric and tit for tat retaliation (“You invade Georgia? We’ll invest vast amounts of money there.” ; “You site missile defence systems in eastern Europe? We’ll point nukes at you.” etc.), the EU is sitting back and prevaricating. Cunning strategy, or just the inevitable consequence of the EU’s ongoing inability to work out its path following the failure of Nice, the constitution and Lisbon?

The US, Russia and the EU are all passing through identity crises – the US finding it’s neither as loved nor as powerful as it once thought, Russia shaking off the embarrassment of defeat through a resurgent sense of national pride, the EU going round and round in circles through indecision and a lack of clear purpose. How they will resolve these, we will have to wait and see. One thing that does seem clear, however, is that our current decade will be written about and analysed for decades to come – the new century bringing not just the US shift of The War Against Terror but also the emergence of Putin in Russia and EU stagnation following the failure of the Treaty of Nice back in 2001, all three developments whose long-term impact has yet to be resolved, yet which could well be immense. We are living in interesting times.

One Comment

  1. is the emphasis on the role the EU may play in this new analysis

    Indeed this is the argument made by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the currently ongoing debate at The Economist: http://www.economist.com/debate/index.cfm?debate_id=12&action=hall