Monday, July 28, 2014

The Failure of European Economic Integration

Economic integration--intertwining the economies of nations--was supposed to promote economic efficiency, prosperity and ultimately peace.  The idea was that if nations need each other to keep their economies humming, they wouldn't start a shooting war.  Continental Europeans, having suffered tens of millions of deaths in two world wars, were particularly impassioned with this idea.  Who can blame them?  Arms races and wars hadn't solved their problems.  The League of Nations didn't solved their problems.  Why not give mutual dependence on each other for cheese, wine, sardines, sausage, and pasta a chance?

At first the idea seemed to work.  The EU prospered in its early years.  We now know those salad days resulted to a large degree from inexpensive borrowing by poorer EU nations, who snarfed up too much easy money and now struggle to avoid the death of a thousand budget cuts.  But optimism held sway in the early days of the EU, and economic kumbaya was extended to the nations of the former Soviet Union, including the big brown bear itself.

Economic integration provides leverage.  The proponents of the EU thought that the leverage would be used to restrain aggression. But leverage by itself is morally neutral, and can be used for good or evil.  Give leverage to a son of a ditch (sp), and he'll use it for evil.  This is what we see in Ukraine today, where Vlad the Invader has seized Crimea, and is sponsoring a "rebellion" in eastern Ukraine against the Kiev government, a war that is increasingly being conducted by Russian soldiers and Russian operatives.  As Russian personnel take over the fighting, the war is morphing into a clash between nations.  This is exactly what economic integration was supposed to prevent. 

Europe's response to Vlad's invasions has hardly gone beyond a tepid wrist slap, and talk of stronger sanctions is matched by behind the scenes maneuvering to prevent any economic consequences from the sanctions.  The horror of the shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 was quickly followed by France reaffirming its intention to deliver a Mistral class helicopter carrier to Russia, a substantial warship that Russia apparently could not itself build.  Economic integration, it would appear, trumps moral rectitude.

Putin is using economic integration as a weapon, and in his insidious hands, it's devilishly effective.  Europe is dependent on Russia for gas and oil, and can't easily substitute other suppliers for Russia.  Putin has apparently increased his support for the rebels in Ukraine since the Flight MH 17 atrocity. He has much to gain by doubling down.  His increased aggressiveness forces the U.S. and Europe to struggle to respond, and this struggle heightens the divisions between the New World and the Old. He renders NATO a hollow shell, something the Poles have publicly admitted.  Putin doesn't have to conquer Ukraine, or even eastern Ukraine.  All he has to do is keep stirring the pot, and in so doing highlights Europe's dependence on Russia and America's weakness.

Economic integration doesn't turn a monster into a nice kitty.  When done with a dastard (sp), he remains dastardly, and will look for opportunities to slip the knife between the ribs of his trading partners.  The Europeans have, through economic integration, delivered themselves unto evil, and they are now paying the price.

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