“Reconciling power politics and peace politics”?

Does it make sense to bring up the idea of a neutral EU Europe?

by Karl-Jürgen Müller

There are good reasons for focussing public attention on the “corona” issue. But it also bears the danger of ignoring other important issues. Global politics before corona continues even with Corona. And, unfortunately, it must be said that the world has not become more just and peaceful with corona – which, if it were the case, would have made, or would make, the fight against the pandemic enormously easier. In a world of multiple exchanges, it is difficult for one country or a group of countries to successfully fight a pandemic on its own. It would be much easier if all countries and peoples worked together, supporting each other. But that is not the plan of all the players. We remember how allergic the EU reacted when China and Russia supported Italy with supplies and aid workers. Italy, the first country in Europe to be hit by the pandemic and the one hit hardest at the time. Or what are we to make of the fact that Bill Gates recently called again for global cooperation in the upcoming vaccination programmes, but failed to mention the Russian and Chinese efforts to vaccinate?1

Cold War instruments

With the east and south-east enlargement of NATO and the EU after 1991 and the still existing plans for the admission or connection of further European countries – for example, with the EU’s association agreements (“Eastern Partnership”) or NATO’s euphemistically sounding “Partnership for Peace” – the intention was and is also to extend centralised political management and control to the whole of Europe.
  Although repeatedly concealed officially, one can assume, based on today’s knowledge, that not only the first steps of “European integration” after World War II had US foster fathers. The book published in 2000 by Beate Neuss “Geburtshelfer Europas? Die Rolle der Vereinigten Staaten im europäischen Integrationsprozess 1945–1958” (Europe’s midwife? The role of the United States in the European integration process) is not a “conspiracy theory”, but a post-doctoral thesis of an established professor of political science at the Chemnitz University of Technology, accepted in 1999. Just like NATO, the Warsaw Pact and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA), the Coal and Steel Community, the European Economic Community (EEC), the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and the European Community (EC) were instruments in the first Cold War. And after 1991, NATO’s eastward enlargement preceded the EU’s eastward enlargement.

Early voices for neutrality in Europe

However, there were also repeated phases in European history after the Second World War when voices in individual European states or even across states were questioning the all too close ties to the United States of America. For a country like the Federal Republic of Germany, which was particularly closely steered and controlled by the USA, these voices were highlighted in the 2001 book by Alexander Gallus, “Die Neutralisten. Verfechter eines vereinten Deutschland zwischen Ost und West 1945-1990“ (The Neutralists. Advocates of a United Germany between East and West 1945-1990). Many will also remember the years 2002 and 2003, when the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the French President Jaques Chirac, with broad approval in their countries, refused to join the US in the Iraq war (which violated international law), and sought closer cooperation with Russia instead.
  This was a departure from the plans of the “single global power” as formulated by the former US security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski in his 1997 book “The Grand Chessboard”. For him, the Europeans were something like US vassals and a “democratic bridgehead” for the US. France and Germany played a central role in these ideas – along with Poland and Ukraine.2 The plan was in danger of collapsing. US reactions were harsh. Donald Rumsfeld, then US Secretary of Defence strained to divide Europe – more precisely: EU Europe – with a distinction between “old” and “new” Europe – and to discipline France and Germany.

While the German  Ministry of Defence is back in line …

The times of Schröder and Chirac are over. In January Donald Trump’s US presidency will also come to an end. France, and even more so Germany, are once again looking to close ranks with the USA, with the new US administration. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has made this clear in recent weeks, in her keynote speech to soldiers at the Bundeswehr Academy on 17 November 2020 and now again in an interview with the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” on 11 December 2020, where she said unambiguously: “It is in our interest to take the most important steps with America. [...] That is why we should remain side by side in the transatlantic alliance. [...] We share common values and interests with America. [...] The main issue is the systemic rivalry with China. For us, there is no equidistance in this. We are and will remain allies of the United States. Germany is integrated into Europe and is clearly part of the West.” And: “Russia recognisably is a challenge”.

… this is not the case  for Germany and Europe

It is interesting, however, how the newspaper itself presents Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer: “As few politicians, the 58-year-old stands for a critical approach to Russia and a clear commitment to the security partnership with the USA” (emphasis by the author). One must add: The German Defence Minister does not represent the majority opinion of the German population either. Current Concerns has repeatedly reported this, most recently on 11 December 2020.3 And broadening the view to the whole of EU Europe, shows that there are many different voices on the future global political orientation of EU Europe or the countries from which these voices come. Many people in Europe, including responsible politicians, see that being too closely tied to the USA means to be tied to a sinking ship and that the disadvantages of such close ties are getting greater and greater.
  The US policy of the past decades, both at home and in foreign policy, makes it increasingly difficult to speak of “common values”. US sanctions against all those who want to trade freely and according to their own ideas with Russia, or an increasingly hostile attitude towards China do not meet with approval everywhere in Europe. More and more people in positions of responsibility know that the era of the “single global power” is over, but that it is also still very unclear what the “new” world order will look like and how it will be possible not to fall by the wayside as a vassal of the USA in the distortions that are to be feared.

Micheline Calm-Rey is  proposing a neutral EU Europe

Such considerations match an idea currently formulated by Micheline Calmy-Rey, former Federal Councillor and head of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), in detail in her new book “Die Neutralität. Zwischen Mythos und Vorbild” (The Neutrality. Between Myth and Role Model) and more concise in a guest contibution for the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” of 16 December 2020.
  Her argumentation is as follows: So far, the EU’s “Common Foreign and Security Policy” has played virtually no role in issues of global political significance.4 Why is that so? A look at Switzerland’s history may help answering this question: “Switzerland, like the EU, is home to many languages and cultures, and neutrality has allowed it to consolidate its internal cohesion and to be respected by the rest of the world for a reliable and useful foreign policy.”5 Coupled with its own defence capability, neutrality in alliance policy was the means of choice for the Confederation to first secure itself externally and later to be able to develop foreign policy effects.
  It should be noted here that, for example, the fronts in the First World War also influenced Switzerland and there were clear differences of opinion in German-speaking and French-speaking Switzerland. At the time, a military alliance decision of any kind would have torn Switzerland apart. During the Second World War, on the other hand, the vast majority of the population was united. In both wars, armed neutrality was a blessing for the country and for neighbouring countries, which Switzerland was able to assist to the best of its ability with the ICRC and many volunteers.
  In her article for the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”, Ms Calmy-Rey writes: “Considering the mechanisms that led the young Swiss Confederation to adopt a policy of neutrality, would it not ultimately also be possible to imagine a neutral Europe? With a commitment to active neutrality, the EU [...] would set in motion a development which would allow it to reconcile power politics and peace politics. Otherwise, it can be assumed that the EU will be forced into a rather insignificant foreign and security policy in the face of continuing dissent and internal tensions.”

Which path in foreign and  security politics will the EU follow?

With the “Treaty on European Union” (formerly: EU Treaty), the governments of the EU states that concluded the treaty in 2007 wanted to reaffirm that it is no longer the individual member states alone that conduct foreign and security policy, but also all member states together. After all, 26 of the 55 articles of the 2007 Treaty are dealing with the Common Foreign, Security and Defence Policy. The principle of unanimity applied (and still applies) in the European Council (Assembly of Heads of State and Government) and in the responsible Council of the European Union (Council of Ministers). In the area of the Common Foreign, Security and Defence Policy, the government representatives alone decide (“intergovernmental”), without the EU Commission or EU Parliament. The “spokesman” for the Common Foreign, Security and Defence Policy, the “High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy”, currently Joseph Borell (Spain), is also a member of the EU Commission, even one of the Vice-Presidents, but in fact no more than an administrative head.
  The “Treaty on European Union” does not prescribe an alliance with the USA or with NATO. Nevertheless, where it has become concrete, the EU’s foreign, security and defence policy has so far almost without exception been guided by US policy. One example is the EU sanctions against Russia. In general, the core of EU foreign policy to date consists of sanctions decisions. So far, there is no sign of an independent EU foreign and security policy.
  Nevertheless, it has become clearer in recent years how much EU Europe is made up of very different peoples with very different cultural traditions and ties. There are also more different positions again on many foreign policy and security issues. And if the EU states really want to “reconcile power politics and peace policy”, this cannot be done today with an orientation towards the USA and NATO. In this respect, Micheline Calmy-Rey has formulated an interesting idea.

Not to allow to be used for  power-political ambitions

The question is justified: Is it not rather a nice but unrealistic dream that the EU is pursuing “peace policy”? But one may also add the following question: But is this not mainly due to the power politics of individual member states or the external power, the USA, which wants to put its stamp on the entire EU in its quest for more power?
  Peace policy is more urgent today than ever before – also in view of a worldwide pandemic. An EU that allows itself to be harnessed in its foreign and security policy to the power ambitions of the USA or even of one or more of its power-hungry member states – which are also demanding a departure from the principle of unanimity in foreign and security policy – is a danger to peace.
  An EU with an “active” neutrality policy, on the other hand, could put the brakes on power-political ambitions. A neutral EU Europe would certainly not be a democratic entity. This is not even possible due to the construction of the EU. But it would be an EU Europe corresponding more to the will of the citizens in the member states – if its neutrality and the peace policy resulting from it is honest. A good concept for a neutral EU Europe could help initiating a reflection on how they want to shape their NATO membership in future, even in those member states that are also NATO members and from which opposition is to be expected for the time being. It would be worth a serious attempt. Especially considering that continuing the current path means more and more confrontation and the danger of war. And that affects all of Europe and the whole world. 

1 “Telemedizin und mehr: Bill Gates nennt positive Folgen der Corona-Pandemie” (Telemedicine and more: Bill Gates names positive consequences of the Corona pandemic); in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 8 December 2020 (https://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/digitec/bill-gates-sieht-positive-folgen-von-corona-mehr-innovationen-17091415.html) 
2 Brzezinski is a master of cover-up and whitewash. US policy, he says, is solely concerned with “an international order of democracy and cooperation” in its quest to become the “single global power”. The USA were a good hegemon. Accordingly, his chapter “The Democratic Bridgehead” ends on page 58 as follows: “America’s central geostrategic goal in Europe can be summed up quite simply: it is to consolidate through a more genuine transatlantic partnership the U.S. bridgehead on the Eurasian continent so that an enlarging Europe can become a more viable springboard for projecting into Eurasia the international democratic and cooperative order.” Such formulations need interpretation. 
3 “Dialogue on the Volga”; in: Current Concerns No. 27 of 11 December 2020
4 On the desolate situation of the EU’s “Common Foreign and Security Policy” (CFSP), the German “Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik” (SWP) published a comprehensive study in November 2020: “GASP. Von der Ergebnis- zur Symbolpolitik. Eine datengestützte Analyse” (CFSP. From politics of results to politics of symbols. A data-driven analysis.) (https://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/aktuell/2020A86_GASPOutput.pdf) This study, however, does not serve peace policy, but is oriented towards power-political ambitions probably above all of the German government.
5 It is now generally accepted that Swiss neutrality has not only had a foreign and security policy dimension in its history. For example, the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (https://hls-dhs-dss.ch/de/articles/016572/2010-11-09/; article on “Neutrality” of 9 November 2010) states: “The overriding goal of neutrality can be derived from its history as the preservation of internal and external peace within the framework of relative independence and the common good. Against this background, five functions of neutrality can be identified: the integration, independence, free trade, balance and service functions. The integration function served the internal peace and cohesion of the confessionally and culturally heterogeneous Confederation. [...] For the Confederation, which was divided along confessional lines and committed to a variety of alliances, the focus of old-fashioned federal neutrality was on the integration function and the independence function. Foreign policy abstinence was an essential condition for the interplay between consolidation and deepening of integration. Neutrality created unity.” 

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