Building Europe to have peace. Such is the just and fine ambition that one must pursue relentlessly. Nevertheless, it is necessary to define ‘Europe’ and to specify the conditions for the peace that is desirable on our continent.
Europe is a continent. Only de Gaulle had envisaged Europe as a geopolitical ensemble composed of all the states participating in balance. François Mitterrand took up the idea in the form of a European confederation, but he too quickly abandoned it.
Since 1945, what is presented as ‘Europe’, in the West of the continent, is only a subset of countries incapable by themselves of ensuring peace. One regularly hides its powerlessness behind proud slogans. Such is the case with that which affirms ‘Europe means Peace’. As a historical reality and as promise it is false.
During the Cold War, it is not the organs of the Common Market, of the European Economic Community then of the European Union which have assured peace in Europe. It is well known that the equilibrium between the great powers has been maintained by nuclear dissuasion and, more precisely, by the potential for massive destruction possessed by the US, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and France.
NATO forces under American command offered Western Europe a fragile umbrella, since the US would not have put their very existence in jeopardy to prevent a very improbable land-based offensive by the Soviet Army. Ready for all possibilities but not prepared to pay the price of a classic confrontation, France, having left the integrated command of NATO in 1966, considered the territory of West Germany as a buffer zone for its Pluton nuclear-armed missiles.
The collapse of the Soviet Union has pushed into the background the debates on nuclear dissuasion, but it is still not possible to glorify a ‘Europe’ pacific and peace-making. For thirty years we have seen the « peace of cemeteries » established on our periphery, and under the responsibility of certain members states of the European Union.
The principal states of the EU carry an overwhelming responsibility in the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia. Germany, supported by the Vatican, unilaterally recognises Slovenia and Croatia on 23 December 1991, which pushes the then «Twelve » to follow this lethal route. France could have opposed this decision. It gives up this option because, on 15 December in Council, François Mitterrand reaffirms his conviction: it is more important to preserve the promises of Maastricht than to attempt to impose the French position on Yugoslavia. In other words, Yugoslavia has been deliberately sacrificed on the altar of « Franco-German friendship », when one could already see that Berlin lied, manoeuvred and imposed its will. The German ambition was to support Croatia, including by the delivery of arms, in a war that would be pursued with a comparable cruelty by all the camps.
The recognition of Slovenia and Croatia embroiled Bosnia-Herzegovina and provoked the extension of the conflict, then its internationalisation. Tears would be shed for Sarajevo while forgetting Mostar. Some Parisian intellectuals would demand, in the name of ‘Europe’, an attack on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, then comprising Serbia, Vojvodina, Kosovo and Montenegro. Their wish was granted in 1999 when NATO, under American commandment, bombed Yugoslav territory for 78 days, killing thousands of civilians. France, Germany, Italy, Belgium … participated in this military operation, in contempt of the UN Charter and of NATO statutes, an alliance theoretically defensive …
Let no one pretend that the principal member states of the EU were waging humanitarian wars and wanted to assure economic development and democracy. ‘Europe’ has protested against ethnic cleansing by Serbs but has left the Croats to force out 200,000 Serbs from Krajina. ‘Europe’ waxes indignant about massacres in Kosovo but it has supported extremist ethnic Albanians of the Kosovo Liberation Army who have committed multiple atrocities before and after their arrival to power in Pristina.
These Balkan wars occurred in the previous Century, but it is not ancient history. The countries devastated by war suffer henceforth the indifference of the powerful. In Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, one lives poorly, very poorly, if one is not involved in illegal business networks. Then one seeks work elsewhere, preferably in Germany, if one is not too old.
After having mistreated, pillaged then abandoned its peripheries, ‘peaceful’ Europe then goes to serve as an auxiliary force in American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is true that Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron were in the forefront in the bombardment of Libya, but the outcome is as disastrous as in the Middle East and Central Asia – graveyards, chaos, the hate of the West and, at Kabul, the return of the Taliban.
This brief review of the deadly inconsistencies of European pacificism cannot ignore Ukraine. The European Commission itself has encouraged the Ukrainian government in its quest for integration in the EU, before proposing a simple accord of association. The Ukrainian government, having declined to sign this accord, the pro-European groups allied to the ultranationalists have descended into the street in November 2013 with the support of Germany, Poland and the US. The Maidan movement, the eviction of President Yanukovych and the war of the Donbass have led, after the Minsk accords and a stalemate in the conflict to the situation that we have before our eyes in early January – the US and Russia discuss directly the Ukrainian crisis without the ‘Europe of peace’ being admitted to the negotiating table. The EU has totally subjugated itself to NATO and does not envisage leaving it.
It is therefore possible to note, once again, the vacuity of the discourse on the ‘European power’ and on ‘European sovereignty’. Thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we should acknowledge all the opportunities lost. After the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, France could have demanded the withdrawal of American forces installed in Europe and proposed a collective security treaty for the entirety of the continent, while pusuing its project for a European Confederation. From Right to Left, our governments have preferred to cultivate the myth of the « Franco-German friendship », leave the US to pursue its agenda after the upheaval of 2003, and then return to the integrated command of NATO.
They offer us not peace but submission to war-making forces that they have given up trying to control.
[This article appeared on Bertrand Renouvin's blog on 4 January 2022.]