Russian aggression in Ukraine has provided yet another theater for political mudslinging in Washington D.C. As per usual, more energy has been spent pinning the blame across the aisle than offering up concrete solutions. Some Republicans fault Obama for being too soft while a handful of Democrats regard the problem as a general weariness in foreign policy caused by the recently concluded Iraq War. Both have (to a degree) a point, but the arguments show just how insular and Amerocentric our elected officials are; like so many of us, they believe the United States carries the world on our shoulders and by our mistakes the International Community suffers.
Let’s get this out first: Putin (and his Eurasion Union dream) is the primary and overwhelming factor in Ukraine’s troubles. We all know that. Yet he’s an entity that we’ve encountered before.
Was Obama asleep at the wheel? Maybe. It certainly seems like he didn’t take Russia too seriously from how he scolded Mitt Romney in the foreign affairs debate. I grant that he may have been trying to uphold a façade of lingering friendship with Putin or he may have legitimately not seen Russia as a major geo-political foe (and thus did not see this coming, while even folks like Sarah Palin did).
We don’t know and to quote a famous lady: “What difference, at this point, does it make?” Even if Romney had won the election, Russia’s momentum wouldn’t have changed; his foreign policies possessed far more similarities to the President’s than differences.
So do we go back a few steps and blame Bush? No. The world does orbit around the words and policies of our presidents. The impetus in all this is the centralizing and consolidating would-be superpower of the European Union.
The European Union has its origins as a community of free-trade (something like our North American Free Trade Agreement, aka NAFTA); the EU since has taken up a common currency project in most of its member states (the Euro), through treaties it has created a more unified political status and it is (debatably) in the process of creating its own joint army. With a population of 500 million, it possesses the foundation for a “superpower,” or what its creators might call a voice on the international stage that sovereign states alone couldn’t obtain; but the EU still requires greater political unity. Through diplomacy, wealth and promises the EU continues to peacefully absorb new countries (primarily in Eastern Europe) into its fold.
“And now,” said Jose Manuel Barroso (current president of the European Commission) with a restrained smile, “we have what some authors call the first non-imperial empire.” His 2007 statement (in response to a question requesting he define the nature of the EU) made the usual rounds of indefinite stumbling until he got to that nugget of truth. Truth it was, and truth it remains.
Three key countries (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) have set 2015 as a target date to create the “Eurasian Union.” They also hope to gather other former members of the Soviet Union. It appears that these countries wish to bring the USSR back together. They do. But more than that they want the nature and status equivalent to the EU; this includes a Eurasian Commission, a powerful executive branch, which is similar to the semi-democratic (at best) European Commission.
But the European Union isn’t like the Eurasion Union: it is a gentle, rational and civilized entity, right? It may be, but the fact remains that it has developed a powerful shadow leaving others wanting their share of the light. By its very nature it is stirring the creation of an equal and opposite force that is more aggressive and desperate because of its own late arrival to the game. The EU also holds little moral authority in denouncing the creation of the Eurasian Union; its very existence is all the provocation and justification the Eurasian Union needs in committing its people into dissolving local powers in favor of empire. Even if the EU is currently peaceful and impotent, even if it is a “non-imperial empire,” this does not mean the status quo will remain the same for the next five, ten or twenty years.
Europe is no longer a complex pattern of independent countries; it is a nebula with two emerging stars. The recent troubles constitute just another symptom of the deeper divide. The next decade will be a scramble for both unions to collect nation-states and consolidate power. The battlegrounds will be the countries courting both suitors, like we have seen in Georgia and Ukraine. Through the force of invasion and (likely coerced) secession (like Russia is doing with Crimea, Abkhazia and South Ossetia) or merely through pandering, propaganda and promises, these two entities are destined to swell and undermine the sovereignty (and democracy) of lands on their respective paths to glory.
If we don’t want a series of military face-offs in the border nations of these two unions, there are three possible options. The first and weakest targets the creation of designated sovereign buffer states that by treaty neither Union is allowed to add to their ranks; trade influence, domestic politics and ambition in all its forms would make this a very precarious solution.
The second solution would be a treaty to either break the EU into parts or intensely limit its powers over sovereign states in exchange for the same agreements to be met by the Eurasian Union; this might function as an interim agreement to facilitate peace by having the two step back from their super-state aspirations.
The third and best option (and also the most unlikely) would be to make an agreement for both unions to gradually dissolve (or, in the Eurasian Union’s case, to never finish forming) and allow for their individual member states to take back complete political, economic and foreign policy control for themselves; though this might just be my wishful thinking popping up again (like my Winter Olympics in Minnesota idea).
Strong, sovereign democracies have always been and will always be the best hope for peace (especially if they are invested in helping each other resolve disputes). Large unions or empires of nations might have advantages when it comes to ease of travel, organized policy implementation and international presence, but they also invite united opposition. This has been the common thread of European conflict and catastrophe for the last century: entangling alliances for WWI, Axis versus Allies in WWII and NATO versus The Iron Curtain in the Cold War. Now, unless things change, the destiny before us promises a conflict between two great unions.
We have learned nothing. God help us.
Photos via: Google
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