Europe is quietly (so far as U.S. news reports are concerned) declining to improve economically. It remains Stuck in its Greatest Depression and can no more find its way out than can the U.S. But there is one very significant difference that is now coming from the rear to the fore and will prove troublesome in our changing world.
Post WWII as ultimately the lone “Superpower,” the U.S. has served via NATO as the guarantor of European peace. The last real threat vanished with the Soviets in 1991. NATO members guarantee to defend each other, with the U.S. seen as everybody’s big brother. And this has emboldened the European politicians to skimp on military spending in favor of social welfare that garners more votes. Why not? There has always been the big brother U.S. standing behind Europe as its bodyguard. But nothing i forever, right? And politicians are famously short-sighted. That equation doesn’t balance anymore.
We have three new world geopolitical realities or perhaps better, resurgent old ones. One: China is destabilizing Asia, Two: Russia is destabilizing Europe and Three: The U.S. has expended its wealth and reduced its ability to continue producing more of it. It can no longer serve as the ultimate peacemaker, leaving Europe and to an extent, Asia, inadequately defended.
This is obvious to China, that is now throwing its weight around past accepted international boundaries in the China Sea. It is clear to Russia, that is gnawing at Ukraine, drooling over Moldova and eyeing the Baltics, Finland and even scaring Kazakhstan and Poland. And if the Arabs have the oil, Russian gas heats much of western Europe in the winter.
China and Russia have been rebuilding and modernizing their military power. Europe has been strengthening its social welfare. And the U.S. is backing away from world policing for lack of money to perform it.
So the governors in Europe have decisions to make. They, as does the U.S, now must choose to spend more on military and less on social welfare, or continue with the opposite in the face of Russian and Chinese belligerence. Southern Europe is already suffering economically and has little to contribute to either military or decent living for mow. And the few mostly small northern countries in better shape are too small to matter in this.
So, will Europe lie down on the tracks in front of the oncoming trains, trying to keep their welfare societies going or will it divert resources from welfare into military defenses to replace the receding U.S? These seem to resemble the famous “rock and a hard place” between which are situated folks with only two choices, both unpleasant in consequence. Bibi Netanyahu in Israel, stuck between aggressive Arabs on one side and increasingly pro-Arab ‘supporters’ on the other, is not the only world leader facing unattractive choices.
In the U.S, the Obamafolk see a slightly different but no less troublesome reflection in their magic policy mirror. They are reducing both American military capability and the spending previously supporting its worldwide use because there is no money to continue. They are receiving increasing flak as this encourages regional bad boys to come out to play. The U.S. has spent more on its military than the next twelve largest spenders put together; it can well feel safe with substantial reductions in spending. But not so those who have been depending upon U.S. protection. They face choices.
European and smaller Asian countries that have been in the U.S. orbit, now must decide whether to build up their own military at the expense of disgruntling their welfare societies via reduced welfare budgets to pay for the military, or to cuddle up to the new local bully boys and flip off the U.S. as the price of keeping up the welfare. America seems likely to see fewer “friends” in the world as these changes progress. The geopolitical world is shifting. And the international financial system is a major part of this, but that’s another story. Author Francis Fukuyama wrote of “The End of History” in 1992 but it seems to us, that history will only end with the end of humankind.