EU and Anglo-American Interests Differ: Peter Hitchens Was Right

Two years ago, as a fresh doctoral researcher in the United Kingdom, I wrote an essay called “The Grand Strategy Debate London is Avoiding,” and submitted it to a top tier center-right newspaper in London. Needless to mention, it was rejected. No one would believe at that time that the European Union could act hegemonic. I then submitted the same article in a more academic form, with citations and references, to another top-tier journal in London that is affiliated with one of the premier foreign affairs think tanks. I had been published in that journal before, so it was not unreasonable to suppose I might be again.. Unfortunately, this time also, it was politely rejected. The reason given was curious. My essay was arguably too provocative, “it was too early to speculate a conflict between EU and UK.” I still have the email of rejection, though I decline to name the publications, out of common and professional courtesy.

Obviously I did not predict a conflict between UK and EU. All I said was that the signs of rift are unmistakable. EU, like any other major expanding and internationalist union, sooner or later, will grapple with a fundamental dilemma. What to do with dissent within the union? The idea of EU was predicated on the contradictory principle of limited sovereignty. This concept may be good in theory, but sooner or later, it was bound to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. Independence is but a myth, when you lack sovereignty. You either control your borders and laws, or you do not. If you do not, you are not a sovereign, but a vassal state to an empire. Freedom isn’t just waving a flag. It is the capacity to raise that flag atop a wall, guarded by stern men in uniforms, against forces of darkness massing on the outside.

What happens when the opposing social forces within a political institution clash? That institution either dissolves, or it takes on an imperial character, crushing opposition within. The signs were all around us. EU had by then crushed Greece, steamrolled opposition of David Cameron with regards to mass migration ahead of the Brexit vote, and was supremely confident of an ever-closing union. I wrote, (something which I have elaborated in these pages, since) that it was inevitable the EU would become a kind of empire, and result in the potential of maritime powers balancing against a continental European hegemon, as we have often seen in the past.

The rest as they say, is history. British people, flawed they might be, but proud as they are, voted to leave the EU. My article was published around the same time, in the Centre for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi, and I watched a lecture by Peter Hitchens at Keele University, on the same topic. This occasioned our meeting and a discussion about EU in person.

Today, is a good day to admit Peter Hitchens was right all along, and he had the foresight and fortitude to say what many wouldn’t dare utter in civilized circles. The EU is an empire, a German led empire specifically, and a push for a United States of Europe, with a European army, an ultra-liberal borderless ideology, and immense trade power will start. Just this morning, EU took Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic to court, over refusal to take in migrants pouring into Europe, after Germany unilaterally opened the gates in 2015 and dictated all countries to redistribute and alter their demographics. Nothing could be more Soviet than forcibly altering the demographics of a vassal state. This week, the German Social Democrat leader declared, that Germany would push for a United States of Europe, with full control to Brussels on financial matters, as well as human rights, and those countries which would refuse to agree on this ever closing rule by unelected elites and bureaucrats, would be kicked out of EU. A couple of days back, the German foreign minister warned that United States and EU interests are now permanently drifting apart, and the cleavage is prominent. Also, EU predictably opposed the U.S. move on Jerusalem.

This rift has beens a long time coming. The fundamental question of Europe was always that Europe is too big and diverse to be ruled by any great power, without use of force or without turning to an empire. But the moment Europe turns to an empire, it automatically comes into clash with other great powers and empires, in this case, the United Kingdom, United States and Russia.

Unless the EU collapses, unless it is torn apart—as all empires tend to meet a grisly end due to opposing centrifugal forces from within—this is the new normal. There will be trade wars in the future, and the question of a European Germany or a German Europe will gain more prominence in policy circles. Germany, Sweden and Northern European countries and the EU will continue to look down upon American and British administrations, while hypocritically opposing sanctions on Russia, and align with China on trade against the U.S. The EU will continue to impose their own version of the Versailles treaty on Britain for daring to go out of Brussels rule, as much as it will attempt crush resistance from Eastern Europe on mass migration.

The truth remains that the EU thinks Americans ultimately will give in, or are too gullible, as Germany always will continue to look after German interests. This has been the situation ever since Volker Rühe coaxed Bill Clinton to move German frontiers away further to the east, with NATO as a vehicle of spreading the German led EU eastward. This happened despite repeated opposition from almost everyone in the foreign policy community in U.S. at that time, including the father of Soviet containment, George Kennan. Germany also didn’t blink twice to oppose the Iraq war, or at the NATO spending hike to 2 percent, which has been the cause of contention between D.C. and Brussels for decades now.  And German interests and Anglo-American interests will continue to differ.

So, as the structural forces of great power politics return, the only German word I can think of watching the lament of the liberal commentariat, is schadenfreude.

And the only thing I can offer Peter Hitchens is a toast, preferably of a cup of orange juice, which I saw him order when we met in London. He was right then. And he is right now.

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About Sumantra Maitra

Sumantra Maitra is a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, and a member of Centre for Conflict, Security, and Terrorism. He is also a regular analyst for Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi, and a regular essayist for various publications, including The National Interest, The Federalist, and Quillette Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @MrMaitra.