Will Europe lead the world into an economic depression? From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:
The influential economic commentator on Europe, Ambrose Pritchard Evans, writes:
“German industry is in the deepest slump since the global financial crisis, and threatens to push Europe’s powerhouse economy into full-blown recession. The darkening outlook is forcing the European Central Bank to contemplate ever more perilous measures.
“The influential Ifo Institute in Munich said its business climate indicator for manufacturing went into “free fall” in July, as the delayed damage from global trade conflict takes its toll and confidence wilts. It goes far beyond the woes of the car industry. More than 80pc of Germany’s factories are in outright contraction.”
Why? What is going on here? It seems that, though other European member-states used to be Germany’s largest market, Germany’s first and third largest export destinations are now the US and China, respectively. Together, they account for more than 15% of all outbound German trade activity. More than 18% of Germany’s export goods ended up somewhere in Asia. Therefore, Germany’s industrial struggles in 2019 point the finger in the direction of its external focus, which means the US, China, and Asia – i.e. its largest marginal trade partners. And the principal assailants in today’s trade and tech wars.
Clemens Fuest, the Ifo president, says: “All the problems are coming together: It’s China, it’s increasing protectionism across the board, it’s disruption to global supply chains”.
But if Germany’s manufacturing woes were not sufficient in and of themselves, then combined with the threat of trade war with Trump, the prospect indeed is bleak for Europe: And the likelihood is that any of that ECB stimulus – promised for this autumn, as Mario Draghi warns that the European picture is getting “worse and worse” – will be very likely to meet with an angry response from Trump – castigated as blatant currency manipulation by the EU and its ECB. EU Relations with Washington seem set to sour (in more ways than one).
The EU will try to prevent its own demise by becoming more centralized and powerful. That may, however, result in its demise. Germany will be the key. From J. Hawk, Daniel Deiss, and Edwin Watson at southfront.org:
While the European Union is theoretically the world’s biggest economy using the world’s second most popular currency in international transactions, it remains to be seen whether in the future it will evolve into a genuine component of a multi-polar international system or become a satellite in someone else’s—most likely US—orbit. There still remain many obstacles toward achieving a certain “critical mass” of power and unity. While individual EU member states, most notably Germany and France, are capable of independent action in the international system, individually they are too weak to influence the actions of the United States or China or even Russia. In the past, individual European powers relied on overseas colonial empires to achieve great power status. In the 21st century, European greatness can only be achieved through eliminating not just economic but also political barriers on the continent. At present, European leaders are presented with both incentives and obstacles to such integration, though one may readily discern a number of potential future paths toward future integration.
United Europe or Fourth Reich?
The greatest obstacle toward further European integration is the dominant position of Germany within the Union, and it remains to be seen whether a unified German state is compatible with a united Europe. The most recent two attempts to establish a pan-European empire were done by the dominant European actors at the time, namely France in the early 19th century and Germany in the early 20th, and failed because the imposition of rules beneficial to the hegemon provoked resistance—though going to war with Russia in both cases proved to be the fatal mistake.
Today, Germany once again dominates the continent, though it does so using a velvet glove of the Eurozone and the European Central Bank rather than the iron fist of the Wehrmacht. While the German media are full of self-serving praise of their country’s economic prowess, it is unlikely in the extreme German economy would be enjoying export successes had its key trading partners, namely other European countries, not been prevented from engaging in self-defensive economic measures such as devaluations by the existence of the single currency. Consequently there is a strong anti-German sentiment within the EU which provides much of the fuel to the Euroskeptics. After all, many of the unpopular EU policies, starting with fiscal austerity, are backed by Germany whose economy benefits from a strong, low-inflation Euro.
Moreover, the current crop of German leaders, starting with Angela Merkel herself, view themselves as Germans first and Europeans second. Angela Merkel is an “alumna” of the German Democratic Republic where she never experienced European integration, and where revanchist nationalist sentiments re-emerged after reunification. Her political success had a lot to do with her desire to quietly promote “Germany First” policies under the guise of European integration. But what is good for a German is lethal to a European. If European integration is to have a future, it will have to start with an attitude change in Berlin. Fortunately, there are a number of factors encouraging Germany’s leaders to do so.
The battle over Nordstream 2 is yet another indication that the US empire is splintering. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
The Nordstream 2 pipeline represents the last stand of U.S. influence over the internal affairs of Europe.
Once finished it will stand as a testament to the fundamental split between the European Union and the United States.
Europe will this as its first successful defense of its newly-declared independence. And the U.S. will have to come to terms with no longer having control overseas.
This is a theme repeating itself all around the world right now.
Your view of Nordstream 2 depends on who you are.
If you are the U.S. it is a massive rebuke of the post-WWII institutional order mostly paid for by the U.S. to rebuild Europe and protecting it from the scourge of the U.S.S.R.
From Europe’s perspective it’s, “Job well done and all that but Russia isn’t a threat anymore and it is time for us to come out from underneath the U.S.’s shadow.”
And if you are Russia Nordtream 2 is the wedge driving these two adversaries apart while improving national security on your western border.
Europe has imperial ambitions of its own and Nordstream 2 is a very important part of that. Those ambitions, however, are not in line with those in the U.S., particularly under the “leadership” of Donald Trump.
Is Angela Merkel pulling Theresa May’s strings on Brexit? From John Petley at politicalite.com:
With contributions from Dr Niall McCrae, John Ashworth, Ariane Loening and Lawyers for Britain.
Cast your mind back to summer last year. The Cabinet gathered at the Prime Minister’s country retreat of Chequers, on the sylvan Chiltern downs. There was very important business: Theresa May, flanked by senior civil servant Olly Robbins, presented the draft agreement for Britain’s departure from the EU. For the first time, ministers (including Brexit secretary David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson) saw the proposed terms – and the extent to which May would abide by her pledge of ‘Brexit means Brexit’. The chief whip instructed that nobody could leave without consenting to the Withdrawal Agreement, unless they resigned – and must then find their way home without ministerial transport.
For Leavers in the Cabinet, it was a shocker. Scarcely anything appropriate for a renewed sovereign nation could be found in this document, which seemed an abject surrender to Messrs Barnier and Juncker. For Brexit voters, it was hard to believe that their government would consider such punitive clauses; their faith in Theresa May, until then buoyant, was shattered. And this document, we were told, was only the initial negotiating stance – it could get worse. In the morass since the referendum on 23rd June 2016, this has been the most significant subsequent event to date.
The two Mikes, Pence and Pompeo, recently made complete asses of themselves in Europe. From Patrick Lawrence at consortiumnews.com:
If the objective was to further isolate the U.S., the two officials could not have done a better job last week, writes Patrick Lawrence.
What a job Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did in Europe last week. If the objective was to worsen an already critical trans–Atlantic rift and further isolate the U.S., they could not have returned to Washington with a better result.
We might have to mark down this foray as among the clumsiest and most abject foreign policy failures since President Donald Trump took office two years ago.
Pence and Pompeo both spoke last Thursday at a U.S.–sponsored gathering in Warsaw supposedly focused on “peace and security in the Middle East.” That turned out to be a euphemism for recruiting the 60–plus nations in attendance into an anti–Iran alliance.
“You can’t achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran,” Pompeo said flatly. The only delegates this idea pleased were Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and officials from Gulf Arab nations who share an obsession with subverting the Islamic Republic.
Pompeo leaving Warsaw. (State Department photo by Ron Przysucha)
The Europeans are getting mighty tired of being US vassals, acceeding to US demands that are obviously not in their best interests. From Tom Luongo at strategic-culture.org:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speech at the Munich Security Conference this weekend was met with resounding approval from the gathering. Throwing barbs back at US Vice President Mike Pence over a myriad of issues Merkel expressed Europe’s dissatisfaction with the Trump administration’s belligerence and lack of diplomacy.
And that’s putting it mildly.
Trump’s pressuring Germany over the Nordstream 2 pipeline, withdrawing from the JCPOA and increasing NATO funding all have a common theme which even for an EU-firster like Merkel is a non-starter.
Trump is trying to make Germany’s economy uncompetitive by raising the cost of imported energy.
This is obvious when we look at the US’s opposition to Nordstream 2. Trump has made no bones about his distaste for the pipeline because he’d rather Germany, his ally, buy beautiful, clean LNG from Cheniere in Louisiana rather than from dirty, nasty gas from Russia, his enemy.
The other two issues, however, are just as energy-focused for Trump, or at least, economically-focused. Let’s start with Iran.
The JCPOA was signed in 2015 when it looked like the Operation to Blow Apart Syria for Fun and Profit was on the verge of victory. Giving Iran a lifeline to begin selling oil on the open market again was Europe’s ‘get’ in that war.
Salvini didn’t even have to build a wall. From Jon Hall at fmshooter.com:
During an awards acceptance speech on Monday, Germany’s Angela Merkel called on the international community to “stand up” to “excessive populism and nationalism”.
Merkel’s desperate plea to “stand up” to the frightening boogey-man of nationalism comes on the heels of news that Italy’s migration policy under Matteo Salvini, the interior minister, has dropped migration entry by 95%.
Being awarded the Fulbright Prize for International Understanding, Merkel took her acceptance speech as a chance to lambaste President Trump and attack the growing tide of populism sweeping over Europe.
She thanked Germany’s “American friends” who rebuilt the country, and Europe, after 1945 but jabbed at Trump’s America first domestic policies, claiming that with “all the differences that one has” countries “need to talk with one another, we need meetings, encounters, lines of communications” to solve international issues.
Merkel added that nationalism was working for “the vested interests of others”and that she would never “tire of making a case for the strength of a multilateral, rules-based and values-based global order”.