The European Union has been defined with a certain cruelty, not without realism, as an economic giant and a political and military dwarf. And that seems to be the sign of the times. Europe committed suicide with two world wars that resulted in the emergence of two great powers (the United States and the Soviet Union) and fifty years of the Cold War.
That the political axis, the clash of powers and interests would be located in the XXI century in the Pacific Ocean is something known and announced for decades. The 20th century was an Atlantic century, with a permanent conflict axis: the Mediterranean.
Since ancient times, the Mediterranean Sea has concentrated the meeting of three continents (Asia, Europe and Africa) and three religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), so there is no way to find long periods of peace and stability. And now a very intense migratory pressure is added. A permanent headache for Western statesmen and for riparian countries.
The clash of interests in the Mediterranean will not abate. What happens is that the main conflict has moved, first to the Atlantic (hence the importance of NATO) and, in the 21st century, to the Pacific.
The United States, as the first power since 1918, has experience in costly and dramatic fighting in both oceans. In the Atlantic, against Nazi Germany; in the Pacific, off Japan. Again, it is the Indo-Pacific area where hegemony or world coexistence will be played on the basis of the balance of powers in the coming decades. What the Russians called “peaceful coexistence”, a way of dressing the impossibility of an open war between East and West.
The recent military and technology agreement between the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia (AUKUS) is to indicate that Europe is not the main defensive concern of the Americans, and that they are going to shift their technological and military spending effort to a much broader scenario and will have other allies.
In this framework, France has remained like the bride planted at the altar. But its military capabilities and its bases in New Caledonia and French Polynesia suggest that in the more or less near future France will join the AUKUS entente.
And Europe, the European Union? The departure of the United Kingdom from the EU meant a weakening of its defensive capacity. On the other hand, NATO, supported on the budget by the United States, enters a period of hibernation in which the European states are going to be forced to finance a large part of the defensive device, which they have been doing to a very limited extent since the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty.
If in domestic politics making predictions is highly risky, in international politics it is even more uncertain due to the multiple factors and actors involved. What we can do is verify facts.
The dominant military power in Europe is Russia (which also has its eastern facade in the Pacific) and the economic, technological and industrial power is Germany. Chancellor Merkel made the follower mistake of closing all its nuclear power plants on the grounds of betting on renewable energies that have not been able to supply Germany’s demand. Result: massive import and dependent on Russian gas.
The Russian-German understanding has many precedents; the most recent, that of Ribbentrop-Molotov from 1939. Russia’s interest is to have hands free and dominance in the straight line that connects the Baltic Sea with the Black Sea, its maritime exits to the north and south, respectively, to the time that it constitutes a defensive glacis. In this the Baltic countries, Belarus and Ukraine lose out. But that is an asset that the Russians are not willing to give up and that it seems that Germany, in exchange for gas, is willing and obliged to grant.
If this vision is accurate, instead of a pax American, we are witnessing a new stage of Russian-German harmony in which EU members will have to find new elements of coordination and independence and the maintenance of their nation-state conditions.
Times of change and adaptation. And Spain, an Atlantic and Mediterranean country like France, how is it? A high-profile debate in Congress would not be bad. We Spaniards have the right to know where we are and where we are going.
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