Wolfgang Munchau of Euro Intelligence has been suggesting recently that the EU is making mistakes born from listening only to its own (like-minded) echo chamber. Munchau was referring to how – when Boris Johnson had sought for a deal “to be in sight” by this month’s EU summit, he was met with disdain. The Council said not only was there ‘no deal in sight’, but that there would be no acceleration of negotiations, and furthermore stuck rigidly to its three red-line, ‘non-negotiables’.
Angie, BoJo and Manu, as seen by Steve Bell, Aug. 2019
Macron haughtily afterwards stated that the UK had to “submit” to the bloc’s “conditions” – “We didn’t choose Brexit”.
To which Boris tartly retorted: ‘There’s no point then in talking’.
Munchau wryly noted that the biggest risk to any deal “is when you keep telling yourself that the other side needs ‘it’ more than you do”. Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, then made clear what the Council imagines ‘it’ to be: It is the EU’s majestic “huge and diversified markets”.
“The EU has a month to disabuse Emmanuel Macron of this intellectually lazy assertion. The EU should not base its negotiating strategy on [the]notion that Johnson will fold: Maybe he will, maybe not”, Munchau observed.
Well, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov clearly shares Munchau’s general analysis. Speaking at Valdai last week, Lavrov said, “When the European Union is speaking as a superior, Russia wants to know, can we do business with Europe?”
“… Those people in the West who are responsible for foreign policy and do not understand the necessity of mutually respectable conversation – well, we must simply stop for a while to communicate with them. Especially since Ursula von der Leyen states that geopolitical partnership with current Russia’s leadership is impossible. If this is the way they want it, so be it”, [he concluded].
Notably however, it was not Boris Yeltsin who made the greatest efforts to achieve Russia’s integration into the European space, but President Putin, during his first term in the early 2000s, until at least 2006. What Lavrov indirectly was acknowledging is how bad things have become. In effect, he simply stated what everyone already knew; namely, that the old framework for Russian-EU relations no longer exists. What’s there to talk about?
This is no small matter. If Merkel and the EU have shifted to integrating the Union, as a higher priority than attending to its relations with Russia, then all the old anti-Russian prejudices of East Europe – principally those of Poland – must be assuaged. This is what is happening, and it means the solidifying of Europe as ‘up and against’ Russia, China and their strategic partners. And with Germany again aspiring to its earlier prominence in and over Europe, tensions with Russia ( and therefore with China), will grow. Europe will be self-defining as the middle between two antagonistic poles to the East and West – a ‘friend’ of neither.
And – coincidentally, or not – on 14 October (a day later), President Xi symbolically visited, a micro-chip factory, and said that China will win the tech war, and will lead the world in multilateralism. Secondly, on the same day, President Xi visited a Marine Base, calling on the Chinese military to “put all (their) minds and energy on preparing for war”. China does not want war, he emphasised, but has accepted that it may happen. And finally, at Shenzhen economic zone’s 40th anniversary, Xi indicated that global changes are afoot: The status quo cannot continue, and “sometimes one needs to speak forcefully for the West to listen”.