Gwynne Dyer

The EU: Germany is the reason

In Brussels this week, the English-speaking journalists are all speculating about which way British prime minister Boris Johnson will jump.

However, the EU’s leaders aren’t really holding their breaths about this any more. A ‘no deal’ Brexit would cause minor damage to a couple of European economies too, but the presidents and prime ministers (who are meeting in Brussels this week) have bigger fish to fry.

Top of their agenda is Poland’s and Hungary’s threat to veto the EU’s $1.8 trillion euro budget ($2.2 trillion), which includes a desperately needed 750 billion euro ($900 billion) post-Covid recovery plan to rebuild Europe’s shattered economies.

The two Eastern European countries, both ruled by authoritarian governments on the extreme right-wing of politicsparties, are the ‘awkward squad’ of the EU. They face financial sanctions for their attacks on democracy in their own countries, so they are blackmailing the EU by vetoing the whole 7-year budget, including the recovery plan.

That’s what the EU summit in Brussels this week is really about, but the leaders are probably not going to solve the problem there. There is a plan on the table, however, put there by Portuguese prime minister António Costa, who assumes the EU presidency next month.

Costa’s suggestion is that they split the EU in order to save it. Let all the ‘awkward squads’ – the aspiring dictatorships, the other Eastern European states that just hate all migrants and refugees, and the so-called ‘frugal states’ (the Netherlands, Austria and the Nordic countries) that hate high spending and fiscal transfers to poorer EU members – just go off on their own.

There would still be an EU, but it would be a two-speed Europe and they’d be the slow-moving part. German, France, Italy, Spain and some others would stay in the core group, forging ahead with ambitious initiatives like the recovery plan and ‘ever closer union’.

Costa didn’t mention it, but this core group could also be the foundation for a more self-sufficient defence strategy as the United States gradually withdraws its old NATO security guarantee to Europe. (Trump might have done it eventually, Biden won’t do it, but it’s bound to happen eventually.)

Thanks, António, but no, thanks. Germany won’t play. It has a deep-rooted horror of having to underwrite the debts of other EU members, all of whom it sees as spendthrift and improvident, so ‘no’ to the two-speed Europe.

And ‘no’also to French president Emmanuel Macron’s ambition for a ‘global Europe’ with an independent European defence strategy that matches the clout of the United States and China. It would cost too much, the Germans think, and besides they’d rather go on clinging to America’s skirts.

In the words of Germany’s defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer: “The idea of strategic autonomy for Europe goes too far if it nurtures the illusion that we could ensure Europe’s security, stability and prosperity without Nato and the US. Germany and Europe cannot protect themselves without America’s nuclear and conventional power. This is simply a fact.”

The hell it is. In the mid-1980s NATO’s total population was about 675 million and the Warsaw Pact’s was around 390 million, but almost half of NATO’s population was far away across the Atlantic so each side did pose a plausible threat to the other in terms of the strength they had on the ground in Europe.

Now it’s 2020. The Warsaw Pact was long gone and all the former Eastern European satellites had joined NATO. Even the Soviet Union’s fifteen republics broke apart, leaving 145 million relatively impoverished Russians all alone to face a NATO alliance now drawing on the resources of 870 million people.

The NATO-Warsaw Pact population ratio used to be about three-to-two. Now the NATO-Russia ratio in population is more like five-to-one. In terms of wealth it’s around fifteen-to-one. Local and limited clashes here or there are still conceivable, but it is not possible to write a convincing scenario for a continent-spanning conventional war in Europe today.

As for a nuclear deterrent, the French one is big enough if you really feel you need one. It’s still a bit bigger than the Chinese one, and that seems to work. Grow up, guys.

Gwynne Dyer’s new book is ‘Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work).’

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Town of Ponoka and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) have ratified a new agreement, averting a strike. (File photo from Facebook)
Alberta gov’t ‘using pandemic as shield to lay off workers,’ says AUPE

The Government of Alberta’s “attacks on workers” is continuing with a new… Continue reading

Rocky Mountain House RCMP, EMS, Search and Rescue, STARS air ambulance and Alstrom Helicopters worked together to rescue a fallen ice climber Friday. (Photo contributed by Rocky Mountain House RCMP)
Rocky Mountain House RCMP help rescue fallen ice climber

Rocky Mountain RCMP helped assist a fallen ice climber Friday afternoon. At… Continue reading

Students Association of Red Deer College president Brittany Lausen says she’s pleased the college is offering students a choice to attend class in-person or remotely. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Red Deer College winter term enrolment dips

Enrolment down about six per cent but mix of online and in-person instruction is going over well

Brett Salomons, of Salomons Commercial, and Mark Jones, CEO of the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, in the CACAC's new temporary home. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre’s One Day Challenge returns

Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre has announced its One Day Challenge is… Continue reading

Dwayne Buckle, 40 of Red Deer finished a 1,638-kilometre walk, in honour of his family. The 12-week, 82 day-journey wrapped up in Port Hardy, B.C. on Monday. Facebook photo
Red Deer man completes 1,638 km hike for cancer research

Dwayne Buckle, a Red Deer firefighter returned home Friday after his 12-week journey

A Suncor logo is shown at the company's annual meeting in Calgary, Thursday, May 2, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Body of worker whose bulldozer fell through ice on inactive tailings pond recovered

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Oilpatch giant Suncor says the body of a… Continue reading

A restaurant manager in Orlando used a sign to secretly ask an 11-year-old boy if he needs help from his family after they were spotted withholding food from him. (Photo courtesy Orlando Police Department)
WATCH: Restaurant manager uses secret note to ‘rescue’ child, says Orlando Police

The manager of an Orlando restaurant is receiving praise from police after… Continue reading

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will cripple struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

VICTORIA — A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Quebec and Ontario, the two provinces hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic,… Continue reading

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police "E" Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday April 13, 2018. A young snowshoer who set out alone on a rugged mountain trail on Vancouver's north shore Thursday has died. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Snowshoer dies after overnight search on Vancouver-area mountain: RCMP

SQUAMISH, B.C. — A snowshoer who set out alone on a rugged… Continue reading

‘It was joyous:’ Sun returns to some Nunavut communities for first time in weeks

IQALUIT — A sliver of orange rose over Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, earlier… Continue reading

People take photos through the extensive security surrounding the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, ahead of the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh
Less pomp, very different circumstances as D.C. prepares to inaugurate Biden, Harris

WASHINGTON — Some pomp. Very different circumstances. Inauguration day is supposed to… Continue reading

Winnipeg Jets' Nathan Beaulieu (88) and Nikolaj Ehlers (27) defend against Jansen Harkins (12) during scrimmage at their NHL training camp practice in Winnipeg, Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Winnipeg Jets cancel practice due to possible COVID-19 exposure

WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets have cancelled their practice today due to… Continue reading

Most Read