Author: Emanuel Pietrobon – 26/11/2020
It’s the world’s seventh-largest economy, the European Union’s second-largest economy, the NATO’s second-strongest army and it’s in the prestigious and limited club of the nuclear-weapon states. Its history is made of hegemonic efforts throughout the world, from Asia to Africa and even in Latin America (let’s remember the now-forgotten story of Maximilian I of Mexico and Napoleon III), and its leaders have almost never forgotten their past as shown by their recurring ambitions of grandeur; this country is France.
France is the only reason why the EU hasn’t turned completely into the United States’ 51st State. Indeed, every François Hollande will always be followed by a Charles de Gaulle-inspired statesman, as it is the case of Emmanuel Macron and his new-but-old Eurasian dreams.
France is Europe’s only opportunity to actually be great again, by using Donald Trump’s popular slogan, for the ensemble of the above-mentioned reasons and for something we did not explain yet and which is tied to Europe’s other great-power: Germany.
Germany, whose grand strategy has been analysed in detail by our think tank , lacks two very important elements, those elements which make it the an economic giant but a political dwarf, that France doesn’t: national identity and a nuclear-powered arsenal.
The importance of a nuclear-powered arsenal is not strictly tied to military affairs: it enables you to achieve a great-power status and it gives you negotiating power on a series of dossiers.
National identity is, possibly, even more important than the possession of nuclear weapons, because is the very basis of a country’s future: no identity means no forward-looking visions, no independence, and no protective shields against the annihilation-aiming powerful forces of globalisation and the homogenization forces of the American cultural hegemony.
Germany is an economic superpower, no one could ever doubt that, but it can’t lead Europe’s awakening for a mere fact of realpolitik: it lacks both the will and the power. France, conversely, has both of them but it lacks the economy and the infrastructures. That’s why the Franco-German axis is a true game-changer in international relations: its power derives from the perfect combination of its essential features, from what we could rename a <<biological complementarity>>.
There are no chances to see Germany overcome its limits in the next future; it simply can’t. The two world wars have changed Berlin’s own identity forever: its people speak German, but there is a little left of German culture and history in modern-day Germany. The world wars and de-nazification are the main causes for this very deep transformation whose effects are barely reversable; that’s why Germany is a self-hating semi-hegemon with no or scarce will to fight for Europe’s awakening.
Furthermore, the United States will never stop playing on Germany’s tormented past and self-hating attitude because it is a way to keep hegemonizing Europe. Germany, indeed, in 2020 like in 1945, it is what Henry Morgenthau dubbed “our problem”, that is America’s problem.
The US inherited from the United Kingdom a network of choke points to be protected, of alliances to be kept, and of countries to be dominated. From the UK, the US inherited also its forward-looking analyses about the state of world affairs and about geopolitics.
Sir Halford Mackinder’s theories on the so-called Heartland have been read, updated and enriched by the US in the aftermath of the World War II. The US knows that the only way to avoid the collapse of the Pax Americana, that is the mere continuation of the Pax Britannica, is to keep Eurasia fragmented and war-plagued. In this context must be read the endless pressures to keep the EU away from Russia, and more recently also from China. Indeed, one of Mackinder’s vital warnings for the posterity was about the imperative to avoid the birth of an Eurasian great power capable of ruling over the Heartland and to prevent any Europe–Asia alliances from being formed for the same purpose.
Mackinder’s obsession was the rise of Russo-German axis, and his obsession would later become Henry Kissinger’s and Zbigniew Brzezinski’s. Now the US fears a Sino-German connection, due to the New Silk Road’s development, and is working hard on convincing (and threatening) the EU to join the anti-Chinese front opened by the Trump administration.
Germany doesn’t possess the strength nor the will to resist to such pressures because its foreign agenda is mainly determined by economic calculations. And it is precisely in this context that France enters and plays a pivotal role; as we’ve said, the Franco-German axis is based on a biological complementarity. Let alone, nor France nor Germany have the force to lead Europe, but together they have the power and the resources to win every pressure.
That’s why Macron’s Eurasian dreams should be ours: in a land of conquest and plagued by the presence of US-serving fifth columns, especially in Eastern Europe, France is the EU’s only and last opportunity to overcome its inferiority complex – and it is also Germany’s only chance to circumvent its perennial status of semi-hegemony.
Macron has often spoken out in favour of restoring relations with Russia and of revisiting the modern-day European security architecture and the EU’s overall structure, from energy to trade, from technology sovereignty to space. If Macron is not having much success in turning his visions into reality it’s only because of his loneliness: France needs a continental support, but it has only a partial support from Germany.
Europe must start reflecting on its own future and this must be done by having France’s ideas as a starting point. National egoisms must be put aside for a while and for a greater goal: Macron’s so-called “strategic autonomy”. The strategic autonomy is the first step towards the making of the EU as a sole bloc of power with its own domestic and foreign agenda, an agenda that we, Europeans, often forget to have because we too focused on defending America’s interests – which not always converge with Europe’s.
Macron is right: we need a strategic autonomy, and we need to formulate a European agenda for our Near Abroad, that is Africa, the Middle East and Russia. But France cannot to do this alone and no one knows who is to follow Macron and Angela Merkel; the time to act is now and tomorrow may be too late. The founding pillars of a Europe extended from Lisbon to Vladivostok must be built today, because that is the first step towards our much-needed strategic autonomy.
The author: Emanuel Pietrobon, University of Turin (Italy)
This article is published within the Platform Europe Project:
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