Alwaght- During his speech in the WWI remembrance on Sunday, the French President Emmanuel Macron blasted the rising wave of nationalism. He also warned of rise in populism in Europe and the US. In his 20-minute speech, the French leader praised patriotism but denounced the nationalism as a dangerous phenomenon and “a betrayal of patriotism.”
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also talked to the audience and referred to the factors that ignited the First World War. He said that the world status is similar to the conditions that led to failure of a peace and consequently outbreak of the First World War.
How was the world status shortly before the WWI? How the pre-war world status was similar to today’s status? And why Macron and Guterres ring the alarm bells?
WWI grounds similarity to today’s conditions
The WWI sparked by an assassination on June 28, 1914, when a Bosnian Serb assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne in Sarajevo. But this incident had economic, political and social roots that were created years before the war. The young man, a nationalist, carried out the assassination in response to an order from the “Serbian Alliance.”
The killing raised territorial claims and nationalist tendencies. The tensions went so high that even the existing political and legal mechanism did not solve the problem and so they resorted to the military action. What started as a tension between two states less than a month later developed into a world war.
After years of war, the old powers had managed to reach a peace agreement in Vienna in 1815. The accord sustained the peace for the next century. However, rivalry between naval and economic powers like Britain and Germany, secret deals, and arms race cracked the new world order. The countries failed to watch the alarms and dangers and so two devastating world wars ensued, taking the lives of millions.
Nationalist and protectionism policies
What echoes the time before the First World War is the modern-day nationalism in politics and protectionism in economy. The US President Donald Trump started this trend.
For the first time, Trump raised “America first” slogan, strengthening nationalism and using the zero-sum game in his realization of the US interests. He closed the US dots to the migrants and embarked on an exceptionalization of the US nation over the other nations. His mindset was apparent in his diplomatic meetings and led him to clash with the journalists, humiliate the allies, and post controversial tweets.
His protectionist policies were marked by imposing tariffs on the Chinese goods imported to the US. Next moves were imposing levies on the European products. The targeted trade partners took retaliatory steps in response to Trump. The trade war triggered US tensions with China, Russia, and the EU. This confrontation was the first sign reminding of the situation that preceded the WWI and the agreed-upon world order gave place to the secret alliances and agreements.
Emergence of populism
The populists are politicians who die to their inability to enter to the higher layers of the politics try to put the masses face to face with the political elites for gain of power.
After the WWII, the rightist parties in Europe were weak and isolated, but over the past few years, they rejuvenated. For example, Austrian People’s Party, as a conservative party, made gains in past few years’ elections. Greece, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, France, and Hungary are European countries were the right-hand parties revived in recent years.
Hungary, where the rights gained over 60 percent of the election votes, is a leading European country in populism. Italy, one of the most important European countries, is also witnessing major populist politics rise. Jiuseppe Conte, the current Italian Prime Minister, joined the race to the post as a representative of the Lega Nord and Five State Movement, both far-right parties with populist slogans. His economic policies caused worries among other EU member states.
The neo-populism found ground for rise in countries with vulnerable economies as a result of change of the global security pattern after 9/11 attacks, EU invasion by influxes of refugees, and socio-economic crises.
The neo-colonialist and interventionist policies in West Asia and Africa had two consequences: First, crises and financial costs and second floods of migrants to Europe. Both helped the far-right groups in Europe to justify their agenda. In the US, Trump, though nominated by the Republican Party, attracted popularity using populist slogans. After assuming the power at the White House, Trump held close relationship with populist leaders in some countries.
Undermining international organizations
Following the WWII, the world countries created and supported the international organizations towards a sustainable global peace. Upon his entry to the office, Trump embarked on isolationist policy, claiming that the international organizations represented a financial burden on the US and served other countries’ interests. His behavior began to undermine the international organizations.
He pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and UNESCO, reduced UN organs’ funding, and threatened to withdraw from the World Trade Organization. He pressured the UN to introduce reforms serving the US interests. And then quitted the Human Right Council.
Although before the WWI there was no UN, but the international laws had already been mature and the contemporaneous world powers had set up a new security structure during the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
The revisionist countries’ disregard of interests of other players and a climate of pessimism overshadowing the relations between various powers came on the threshold of the WWI and have likes today. Trump even threatened the International Court Justice after the UN organ in early October ruled Washington to lift Iran sanctions. So, ignorance of the international law is another risk reminiscent of the pre-WWI era.
The 1929 economic crisis was one of the factors that fueled the WWII. The recession started from the US and gradually affected the whole world. Unemployment sharply rise and production fell 44 percent. The economic gloom allowed the fascist politicians to rise in Italy, Germany, and Japan.
At the time being, the US debt exceeds the $20 trillion. The accumulated debts are directly related to do with growing nationalism and aggressive realism policy and its spread from the US to the world. Crisis-making, war, and destabilization is part of the capitalism to live on, which habitually follows a period of economic gloom. Hardline policy and negligence of collective peace, kicked off by the US, pushes some powers to soft balancing of power using non-military ways. But if origins of crisis are disregarded, countries may go towards hard balancing which takes military actions. All these similarities draw warnings from the world leaders.