08.05.2016 Author: Deena Stryker

Europe Twixt Phoney Wars and Spheres of Influence

65456546Europe is the birthplace of most of the ideas that gave Western Civilization its edge over the rest of the world, yet geographically it is a peninsula of Eurasia and Africa’s backyard.

Eurasia at its most extensive from North to South, is three times greater than its European peninsula, that just sort of dribbles away to the West. And Mare Nostrum makes clear that another immense continent is only a boat ride away – even if currently, many such rides end in tragedy.

Add the fact that ‘’Europe’ comprises a minimum of forty nationalities and languages, crammed into a space that is less than one tenth that of Eurasia for perhaps the same number of major nationalities, and it’s easy to see why it has historically been the scene of endless internecine squabbles, and even major wars.

Catholic and Protestant Europeans fought each other for a hundred and fifty years, from 1524 to 1648. But the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism, while seeming huge at the time, pales in comparison to that between Christianity and Islam. The religions of the book as they are known (the third being Judaism), acknowledge several of the same major figures (such as Abraham and Jesus), but that matters not a whit when compared to the cultural abyss between the ‘me’ revolution and underdevelopment.

Starting in 1950, with the importation of Coca Cola and jazz into the wine and beer drinking lands of Beethoven and Debussy, the Islamic world was brutally ushered into the modern age through wars, coups, and revolutions. In the end, and not surprisingly, Europe’s role, or at most its benign acquiescence, in this half century and more of destruction and chaos, bore its fruits.

While France and Germany each accumulated about 10% of Muslims through deliberate labor recruitment policies, the entire peninsula is currently being assaulted by waves of desperate Muslim refugees. Fifty-thousand Syrians being held in Greek refugee camps are about to be sent back to Turkey, many of them highly educated. After processing, most will be allowed into Europe legally, joining second-generation Muslims who are more educated than their parents, but feeling at home and fully accepted in neither world risk being recruited by ISIS.

The lead-up to World War II was called a ‘phony war’. For eight months following the German invasion, and notwithstanding the military alliances that required the United Kingdom and France to defend Poland, not until the Germans attacked France and the Low Countries did they swing into action.

After WW II, Europe was divided into a new set of ‘spheres of influence’, those of the Soviet Union and the US. sDuring the Cold War, the US tried to deter Europe from reuniting, but when the SU disintegrated, Eastern Europe was integrated into the Western-oriented European Union, and the US moved its military arm, NATO, right up to Russia’s frontiers, ignoring the agreement between Reagan and Gorbatchev.

Thus, almost ‘four score and seven years’ after the first, Europe is experiencing another phony war, in which Washington scolds Western Europeans for shirking their frontline role in its standoff with Russia, and Eastern Europeans are as reluctant to welcome Muslims as they had been Jews. Russian support of a separatist movement in Eastern Ukraine, where many ethnic Russians live, followed by a referendum that returned the Crimea to Russia after half a century, provided Washington with an excuse to launch an all-out propaganda war against Russia in general and its president Vladimir Putin in particular. Hardly a day goes by when US newscasters fail to accuse Moscow either of ‘invading’ Ukraine or ‘threatening’ the Baltics. A recent screed in the Wall Street Journal was designed to ensure that readers get the right message:

Russia, China and Iran have been racing ahead, stimulated by a disintegrating Europe that neither spends sufficiently on its defense, nor defends its borders… The US has allowed its nuclear forces to stagnate and decay into literal disarmament.” (How would spending more on NATO arms help solve Europe’s real problem, which is refugees from US-led wars?)

Meanwhile, however, Zbignieuw Brzezinski’s 1997 plan, outlined in The Grand Chessboard, to divide Russia into smaller, easier to control entities, led, in 2009, to an obedient Europe creating the Eastern Partnership, designed to draw former Soviet republics away from Russia. That having largely failed, in 2014, more drastic steps were taken in the form of a ‘popular’ coup against Ukraine’s president, backed by militias inspired by World War II fascists. (A strategy for dealing with China has yet to be forthcoming, but Washington tries to prevent it from having a sphere of influence by patrolling waters thousands of miles from its own shores.)

Globalization is the label for a world still caught between left and right, in which spheres of influence and blocs are replaced by a free-for-all whose rules will be invented as we go along if Donald Trump becomes the US President, or emphasize military action if Hillary wins.

As Russia’s air force taunts the US fleet just outside its territorial waters in the Baltic Sea, what will stop this phony war from becoming real?

Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years, exlusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook.”