Is Putin really orchestrating the disintegration of Europe?
I have just finished reading a report on Bloomberg News titled ‘From Rape Claim to Brexit, Putin Machine Tears at Europe’s Seams’ by Arne Delfs and Henry Meyer citing incidents such as the ‘Lisa Affair’ in Germany as evidence that Putin is orchestrating the disintegration of Europe. This claim is worth a little exploration.
There is no doubt that the paranoia that is Putin sees a strong Europe as a direct threat to Russia, especially along its borders – Ukraine being a prime example. As Russia is not in a position to rapidly grow in spite of its energy reserves then his strategy must be to weaken his perceived enemy – classic Sun Tzu. We have also witnessed his desire to be seen as a major influence in the World with his intervention in Syria. So can he manipulate the disintegration of Europe?
The evidence presented in the Bloomberg report would suggest that he can, and indeed, is exploiting the weakness in the EU system. But is he a primary mover, or just having a little mischievous fun exploiting the clear fault lines in the EU model as retaliation for the embargo imposed on Russia for past mischief?
For anyone to exploit a large system such as the EU in this way there must be inherent weaknesses that can be exploited. We saw during the Ukraine crisis that the response by the West had to be tempered because of the overwhelming reliance on energy supplies from Russia by Germany (some 84% against the UK 4%). Why would a so-called major economy allow itself to engage in an energy policy which left them so vulnerable? Why should the West allow such an economy to influence its response?
What I have observed over many years is that every time a closed system tries to impose itself on other systems the oppressor fails, e.g. Germany on Europe, Russia on USSR. Even the Romans, during their expansionism, knew that that had to befriend the conquered and only impose changes regarding the needs of Rome in exchange for protection. They knew that they could not possibly hold the line of their empire if they tried to completely impose their will over the oppressed. Indeed, they used a philosophy that made it an honour to elevate the compliant to the status of a Roman citizen – probably the first peoples honours system.
Putin appears to be exploiting the clear divisions in the EU regarding the attempted imposition of the German way, albeit under the Brussels umbrella, on the other EU members. Of course, as with all such closed States, they believe that they have a successful model which they would like to share (impose) on others to allow them to indulge in the prosperity of their system. I have argued in previous blogs that there are inherently fatal flaws in the incestuous German closed system akin to Japan in the 1980’s and thus will ultimately fail. The nearest closed system to that of Germany within the EU is France albeit that the closed system in France consists of nationalised industries and banks – the topical example being EdF – and France is technically bankrupt.
But Germany has shown itself to be flawed, notably in its handling of the refugee crisis. Their double-edged sword of appearing to act with compassion as a cover for their desperate need for some one million skilled people to replace the erosion of its own workforce since 2012 through emigration to the likes of the UK, Switzerland, the USA, and Australia, has backfired. The Lisa Affair appears to be a ploy to further add to the woes of Angela Merkel as she loses popularity as the usually compliant German population now regularly take to the streets in defiance.
So, assuming Putin is playing games, should we be concerned? Politicians play games most of the time. Look at the upcoming intervention of the USA in the BREXIT debate. Is the USA really concerned about the UK, or their own influence in the EU for which they use the UK as their gateway? Would the USA ever consider surrendering any form of sovereignty to another nation to engage with it? I fully understand both the short-term geo-political and geo-economic consequences of a BREXIT – and it is not good. But everyone appears to be asking the UK to sacrifice itself for the sake of global stability. Why don’t these interlopers focus their concerns towards the mandarins in Brussels, and who could still save the day if vital EU reform is agreed? How many more times in history do the British people have to sacrifice themselves to save the World? If Putin wants to play games with Germany to accelerate realisation then so be it. If he is successful, the unintended consequences (on his part) might be the tonic that Europe so desperately needs.