The prospect of German, French and British companies being hit with US sanctions in the wake of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran Deal carries with it an element of poetic justice.
Over the past few years each of the aforementioned governments have been slavish in their support for sanctions against Russia, and therefore now that they are faced with being on the receiving end of sanctions themselves; well, let’s just say the opportunity to luxuriate in schadenfreude is hard to resist.
However, this being said, under the circumstances — what with the Middle East perched on the precipice of a full blown regional war; what with an administration in Washington more redolent in its actions of a mafia crime family than a government; and what with instability and escalation the new normal — schadenfreude at this juncture is an indulgence too far.
For if this enveloping crisis confirms anything it is that the time has come for Europe to wake up to the reality of its transatlantic alliance with Washington — an alliance in which they have invested so much political capital and which has now been exposed as a sham, a masquerade that has allowed dandified popinjays, such as Emmanuel Macron, to indulge their imperial pretensions — much like that snivelling boy you encountered in the playground when you were at school, who by dint of sucking up to the school bully was able to prance around as if his you-know-what didn’t stink.
In truth, the relationship between the US and Europe has never been a relationship of equals. In truth, it has always been a relationship between an imperial hegemon and its various satellites; one that has tethered Europe to the dead weight of unipolarity since the demise of the Soviet Union. The only difference now is that the Trump administration has removed the mask of propriety, civility, and democracy to reveal the snarling beast of hegemony that is the real driver of US foreign policy, and always has been.
In a tweet posted by newly installed US Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, Washington’s disdain for Europe was laid bare. Ambassador Grenell tweeted: “As @realDonaldTrump said, US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.”
This diktat, issued by a latter day Roman proconsul to one of European satellites, marks the nadir of an alliance that has impeded European unity and development rather than enabled it. Indeed the destabilizing factor in Europe is not and has never been Moscow; the destabilizing factor is and has always been Washington.
Thus Europe now has a very clear decision to make. Does it continue to tether itself to the mast of US hegemony, at the mercy of the caprice of a US president in Washington? Or does it join Russia and China in seeking an anti-hegemonic alternative, one rooted in the principles set out in the UN Charter — i.e. respect for national sovereignty, self-determination, and the universal application of international law.
It is arguable, in fact, that this decision has just been made for Europe, with the only thing left to ascertain whether those in power possess the requisite integrity to act accordingly and start the process of de-coupling from Washington’s coattails. If they do not — if France, Germany and the UK continue to champion this failed husk of a transatlantic alliance — then there can no longer be any equivocation: they are governing contrary to the interests of their own people.
So, yes, that Europe has arrived at a key juncture in its history is not in doubt. It is why resisting the temptation to ascribe this crisis to the machinations of one bad or vulgar president in the shape of Trump in the Oval Office is non-negotiable. Despite the claims of his liberal detractors in Washington and across Europe, Trump is not a departure from the status quo in Washington. Trump, instead, is merely its most crude and brazen exemplar.
And, too, in talking about US hegemony, we are dealing with its economic manifestation in the shape of neoliberalism, its cultural manifestation, and of course its military component; most emphatically reflected in NATO — a military alliance which now exists to deal with the crises that very existence creates.
The monstrous injustice involved in the Trump administration’s demarche over the Iran Deal, driven by a transparently geostrategic agenda in conjunction with Riyadh and Tel Aviv, moves the region, as mentioned, to the brink of a devastating conflict. It must also, in response, produce a sea change in European thinking when it comes to its relations with the United States — and also, by definition, with Russia.
Though operating as a de facto colony of Washington can be described as many things, honourable and strong are not among them. France’s most famous leader of modern times, Charles De Gaulle, said it best: “You may be sure that the Americans will commit all the stupidities they can think of, plus some that are beyond imagination.’
Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran Deal is the very epitome of a ‘stupidity beyond imagination’, leaving no hiding place for those who continue to believe in the verities America as that shining city on the hill.
Since the end of the Second World War US involvement in Europe has had a corrosive effect on the continent’s political, economic, and cultural life. Thus it is high time that Europe declared its independence and forged its own path as part of a multipolar world.