Alwaght- After the shock of the Brexit referendum in Britain and election of Donald J. Trump in US presidential race in 2016, the New Year is expected to be decisive for Europe. The upcoming parliamentary elections in France, Germany, Netherlands, and likely Italy will determine if the European Union will remain in unity or collapse as the neo-nationalist political wave is hitting the Western world.
With a consideration of Trump's campaign-time remarks about Europe and the way the US will deal with it under his administration, the Union has to brace itself for deep, upcoming shocks. Carrying a novel and neo-nationalist approach, the US president-elect does not believe that the EU should stay united. When it comes to holding ideas on the EU, Trump is an ally of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who for a long time has been doing his best to destabilize the European bloc through offering backing to the nationalist political forces and movements in the EU member states. If the incoming American leader backs Putin's efforts or at least turns a blind eye to them, the EU will be squeezed between strains coming from Russia on the one hand and the news about power gain of the European right-wing parties on the other hand, a situation in which the bloc will find itself in front of a substantial challenge to restore its morale.
The consequences could even be more serious for Europe than the present speculations if, in addition to rebuilding the US-Russian relations on an all-new base, Trump in his administration like his campaign speeches continues questioning the American security guarantees for the EU. Such a move will come very costly for the NATO, a military organization that has felt the US umbrella of security on its head for more than six decades. The Europeans all of a sudden will find themselves left alone in the face of Russia and its growing struggles to challenge European borders such as Ukraine and spread its sway– and perhaps its hegemony– in the Eastern Europe.
The world knows what NATO’s next steps are, but several troubles are showing face from now. The security guarantees are not about providing military hardware; they are about sending a valid message, announcing that whenever the need arises, the allies will be protected. Therefore, such contracts of security to large extent are dependent on the psychological aspects. They, in fact, determine trust or mistrust to a country, as a friend or enemy. When such credits are harmed, the threat of brewing provocations plays out. Such a threat can lead to intensification of the crises, growth of them, and even armed confrontations. Given this risk, the EU must enhance what is left for the NATO. The bloc must focus on protecting the military organization from the economic harms and legal mergers. At the same time, the NATO members should consider a replacement as a security choice.
The EU itself is founded on a soft power. It is not devised to guarantee the European countries' security, and at the current time, it is not in a position to mobilize a force to counter a hard power. To put it differently, the bloc is divided between Germany and France, two powerful and big EU-members, to bolster the European defensive foundations. Other countries like Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain, and Poland can also act but not as effectively as France and Germany.
Life in Europe, however, means having Russia as a neighbor. In general, a neighborhood relation must be based on peace, cooperation, and mutual respect, especially if the neighbor is a huge nuclear power like Russia. But the Europeans cannot fall into any illusion about the Russian goals and intentions. When it comes to Kremlin’s view in the foreign policy, the choice is a zero-sum game, namely the military and geopolitical power is always put ahead of cooperation in security agreement.
For Russia, the neighbors' having a weak spot or lacking any power to threat mean a call for Moscow to expand its territorial borders as well as political influence. Therefore, an imbalance of power in Eastern Europe only produces instability. If Europe seeks stability, a sustainable peace is the first thing it needs to make sure of its existence and take it serious, something apparently non-existent today. The EU can build up the credibility of its security only if France and Germany join forces and work together for an end. The opportunity for such a job will be provided after the current year’s elections.
The EU diplomats should quit the murmurs that despite different histories and cultures, Germany and France never confronted each other militarily and financially, because if things go worse than now, this issue will never matter. In fact, reaching a compromise in the two sides of the Rhine might not be that strenuous with a consideration of the French experience in defense leadership and the German experience in the financial matters.
If pursuing the choice of German-French united front to protect the European security leads to a renewal of the US security guarantees, it will be in best interest of Europe. Additionally, Europe should pursue and materialize its strategic partnership with Britain based on its geopolitical position and security of its interests, and leave it unchanged. The old EU developed economically because it was protected under a US security cover. But without such an assurance, in the current geopolitical conditions it should develop capacities with a consideration of the political and military power. Six decades after Treaty of Rome, or Treaty Establishing the European Economic Community, the history and the current developments are pushing France and Germany to reshape Europe's future.