“Germany declared war on Russia – Swimming in the afternoon.”
— Franz Kafka, diary entry, 1914
If the article linked below does not make you pause and think, if at some level it does not scare you half to death, then check your pulse and make sure you’re still alive.
It is easy enough and not unreasonable to frame the comments by Emanuel Macron as a typical kind of French posturing within the all too typical politics of Europe – in which France attempts to assert itself as a world power. One could recall any number of Blues standards from de Gaulle regarding France being aligned with NATO but separate to get the sense of the lineage involved.
And as this is on the eve of a NATO summit one could say well, he would say that, wouldn’t he – after all, he’s raising the stakes and bluffing in order to push the US and Germany, etc.
Except the rhetoric is of a different type.
Here is the president of France saying the strategic situation is as dire as the one faced in the late 1930s.
To suggest American withdrawal from Europe either directly or through indifference is to start the trains leaving the station.
Next stop the crack up of the UK and England reduced to a rump state in the grips of a post Brexit Dystopia one part Farage fascism, one part BoJo clown, one part Rees-Mogg flogging peasants and hundreds of billions of dollars in Russian state mafia money sloshing in and out of the City.
Leaving France and Germany to rearm and drag the smaller former NATO countries along for the ride because, without the US, anyone who thinks Putin would not begin the push to reestablish the Russian empire in Eastern Europe is a fool.
Anyone who thinks this is not all ultimately filtered through a series of Russian plans, initiatives, ad hoc and prefabricated strategies is an idiot.
And anyone who thinks that’s not your concern is a fool who should be drop kicked into the middle of the ocean.
A diplomatic wit said many years ago NATO exists to keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the German down.
The issue is not good versus bad but is, bad versus worse.
France cannot defend Western Europe alone.
It might be able to offer a credible defense in conjunction with Germany but that’s a different sort of Germany.
The German military by all accounts is mostly a shell able to operate as a not so menacing garrison force.
Minus the US and an effective UK, France and Germany would have to spend billions to upgrade their defensive posture and present to Russia the credible idea that victory as such wouldn’t be worth it.
And spending billions on defense (including the reorganization of the economy from exploitation to sustainability) will be fodder for increased disruptive factionalism.
Notice also that Macron has linked issues – military, common foreign policy and crucially, the environment into one issue.
The survival of Europe as an idea, a geo-political entity, requires unity on key issues and all of those issues pass sooner or later through the maelstrom of the environment.
Yesterday, during his valedictorian speech, former Speaker of Parliament, John Bercow said, Brexit was the worst action by the UK, since the Second World War. We assume he means the worst political initiative since Chamberlain, all in an effort to keep the fascists pointed east, offered to give Hitler a political hand job in the form of selling out the Czechs and the Poles, and renting the empty space where his spine had been.
The comments by Bercow and Macron are bookends.
The lights may not be going out across Europe but they are flickering and that smell is of burning wires.
With more emphasis on traditional French assertiveness than on a wider sense of crisis, here is a sober if not what me worry view of the situation: