Yesterday we talked about the objective of the European Union, economic integration and encouraging various countries to think of themselves as Europeans as well as their specific nationality. The challenges that todays political atmosphere present for different parts of Europe are undermining both objectives.
Russia is Impacting, and Being Impacted by the Crisis in Europe.
After the Soviet Union collapsed it took decade or two for Russia to figure out how to rebuild itself and re-establish centralized control. That centralized control has always been key for Russia to control the vast geographic areas. That included buffer countries heavily influenced by Russia.
A lot is made of Putin. It it had not been Putin it would have been someone else. Russia had to reinvent itself. Russia has always needed a strong leader who understood the historical role of centralized government in Russia.
Russia started to re-assert itself visibly with the war with Georgia. Then America’s sub-prime crisis happened. That started gradual fragmentation of the unity in Europe. All of a sudden the divergence in interests between various western European countries was magnified. Nationalism roared back.
While this is going on, the tier 2 countries in Eastern Europe continued to be supported by US through involvement with NATO. Russia has viewed Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and so extent Belarus and Ukraine as a buffer from Western Europe. Strategically very important, the last 2 world wars Germany and their allies attacked Russia through one or more of these countries. US and NATO involvement in these countries is very unsettling to Russia.
While above was occurring, Germany grew to the fourth largest economy in the world. That meant they are the giant in Europe. Whatever Germany does impacts rest of Europe. Germany needs Europe for their exports.
When economic crisis occur either the creditors or the debtors have to bear the burden. Germany is the creditor and Southern Europe the debtor. Germany can dictate austerity to other countries. Of course, financial institutions agreed with Germany.
Result? Europe was pulled in four directions. Germanic Europe, Mediterranean Europe, Europe’s eastern frontier, and northern Europe. While Germanic Europe is the economic engine that drives Europe. Without exports, heavily to rest of Europe, Germany’s economy slides into decline. Germany is not strong militarily, so it must reach out to others, including Russia. Russia isn’t the solution, but it can be part of the solution.
Southern Europe is just trying to escape massive austerity. Tough to do when Europe as a whole is not experiencing any real economic growth. That means that Southern Europe has to figure out whether it’s better to default on their debt or to continue trying to pay it. Germany isn’t forcing the hand, but things are coming to a head anyway. Germany wants a continuation of free trade but neither the German government nor the German people want to absorb the debt of Southern Europe. That means only alternative Southern Europe has is to reconsider whether free trade is worth it.
Insights for above from Stratfor Global Intelligence, Geopolitical Weekly May 26, 2015. Outstanding analysis on current political events and trends and what their implications are. Detailed information at Stratfor.com