Monday, 29 May 2017

Warming Up

After the mixed martial arts Handshake[1] bouts between The Donald and France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, there have been further signs of strain between the US and Europe. Speaking after last week’s NATO and G7 meetings, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel called the G7 meeting ‘six against one’. You can guess who the latter was. In a separate speech, Merkel also remarked:
‘The times in which we could completely rely upon others are more or less over. That’s what I have experienced in the last few days … We Europeans have to take our destiny into our own hands … of course in friendship with the US, in friendship with Great Britain, also with Russia and other countries, but we have to know that we fight for our own future as Europeans, for our destiny.’
Notably, this was an ex-UK ‘Europe’.
Trump’s America First policy questions how far the US can still pretend to act both as the referee and as the biggest player in the imperial game. But the election of Trump is not the only thing that has called into question the ‘western alliance’ of major powers. Britain’s rejection of EU membership is also a big worry for the European members, ironically including Britain itself. While Brexit does not quite hurl the UK into the mid-Atlantic, the Brits are finding it difficult to keep a happy family together by using anti-Russian propaganda and posturing at NATO. Not surprisingly, since Brexit has upset the European institutions established over decades.
Merkel’s call for Europeans to take charge of their own destiny basically means that the major continental European powers need to prepare for the breakdown of the former international order from which they had benefited. It is a striking comment from a German conservative leader, and one that fits well with a more general European concern about Trump.
Things are warming up in the oven of imperial rivalry, not just on the fringes of the imperial system.

Tony Norfield, 29 May 2017

[1] Macron won on points. The Handshake is a relatively new sport in diplomatic circles. It blends a rictus smile, white knuckle grips and macho, fake bonhomie arm slapping. The player with steadiest stance and gaze, showing the least perturbation throughout the 1-2 minute contest, wins. Points are given by the international news media and on Youtube. See here for example.

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