The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Europe, America and the Tectonic Plates

An earthquake in EU / US relations

19th November 2016
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For those who decry the United States, its politics and political culture comes straight out of the European enlightenment and Anglo-Celtic notions of economic, religious and political liberty. The system of governance, based on classical ideas from Sparta, owes an equal amount to Lycurgus as it does to Locke. It is of European origin.

Slowly, however, just like the tectonic plates which created the Atlantic, there was a growing separation between Europe and America. In the case of the Republic of Ireland, this divide never emerged. The Irish economy was more linked to America than continental Europe. It was on the same economic cycle as the United States, that is until the Eurozone crisis. With regards to Britain, despite the best efforts of Barrack Hussein Obama, the UK and the US remain close.

There have been times when superficially there seemed to be a gulf between the EU and the USA. At times, some elements in the EU seemed to take an anti-American position. That however was just a brief period and has long since been forgotten. The close relationship that has existed between the EU and the USA goes back an extraordinary way. In some respects, the EU is the creature of the United States of America and its foreign policy. The student has become the master.

There will soon, however, be a major shift taking place. One of seismic proportions. There will soon be a President in the Oval Office, and New York, that supported Brexit and correctly called the referendum result. This caused consternation in Brussels. President Trump will also support the UK in its post-EU future.

The shift is enormous. If President-Elect Trump continues with his scepticism of the EU it will mean much more in geopolitical terms than the end of an effectively dead trade deal, the much-reviled Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

It is worth here looking at the change, by looking at what had gone before and the important supporter which the EU will soon be missing.

The USA was the first modern supra-national state. Merging together separate, albeit similar, states and commonwealths. The idea of overarching federal institutions ruling over once democratic nation states was imposed on many countries in Western Europe. Even Britain was pushed to join. Kennedy was behind Harold Macmillan’s failed application to join in 1961.

The United States originally saw the EU as a bulwark against Soviet Communism. Since the collapse of the USSR, which cannot be attributed to the EU, Russia’s former satellite states have either become part of the European Union or Brussels’ Eastern Partnership.

Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State, is reported as saying “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” In fact, he has denied that he said this.[i] Yet the EU is indeed slowly developing one voice and regional influence.

This has the support of the American government. The US President, Barack Hussein Obama, certainly supported the UK’s continued membership of the European Union. In fact he saw it as a guarantee of American interests. On 13th May 2013 the US President said in answer to a question from the BBC’s James Landale during a discussion on Britain’s continued EU membership that we believe that our capacity to partner with a United Kingdom that is active, robust, outward-looking and engaged with the world is hugely important to our own interests as well as the world.[ii]

 

This expanded on a statement by the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Dr Philip H Gordon, who on 9th January 2013 said that Britain’s “voice within the European Union is essential and critical for the United States… ”[iii]

 

The United States of America also supports the Single Market. This is perhaps not surprising as American firms export more to the EU than the UK does. Its total EU exports in goods alone amounted to more than $265 billion, with a further $9.9 billion coming in terms of the sale of agricultural products. In terms of services the figure is $194 billion. Clearly the US sees the EU to be in its commercial as well as its geopolitical interests. It is noteworthy that both the EU and the European Central Bank have followed and enforced US sanctions against Iran.

The EU’s myth of origin: All States and aspiring States have their “myth of origin” – that is, a story, true or false, of how they came into being. The myth of origin of the  European Union is that it is essentially a peace project to prevent wars between Germany and France, as if a collective tendency to go to war were somehow genetically inherited.  In reality the EU’s origins lie in war preparations – at the start of the Cold War which followed the end of World War 2 and the possibility of that developing into a “hot war”, a real military conflict between the two victorious post-war superpowers, the USA and USSR.

These two had been allies in defeating German Nazism and Italian Fascism but became bitter rivals after the World War ended in 1945. Europe was then divided between East and West. As fear of communism internally and externally stalked war-ravaged Europe, American policy was to push the continent’s former imperial powers towards closer economic and political integration with one another, pressurising them at the same time to abandon their colonies. US interests could then move in on these.

In 1947 the two Houses of the US Congress passed a resolution that “Congress favours the creation of a United States of Europe”. That same year US economic aid to revive Western Europe under the Marshall Plan was premised on the recipients supporting economic and political integration. In 1948 the American Committee on United Europe was established. For years this body channeled CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) money to the European Movement. That Movement’s national sections in each country became the main non-governmental propagandists for further EU integration and have remained so to this day.

In 1949 the USA wanted a rearmed West Germany inside NATO on that military alliance’s foundation. This greatly alarmed France, which had been occupied by the Germans just five years before. Jean Monnet, who was America’s man in the affair, came up with the solution. He and other technocrats had been pushing schemes of federal-style supranationalism for Europe since the end of World War 1. These had had no effect in preventing World War 2, but in the new situation post-1945, with the USA now supporting Euro-federalism as a bulwark against communism in Europe, Monnet and his colleagues saw their opportunity. To assuage France's fears of German rearmament Monnet drafted the Schuman Declaration, called after France’s Foreign Minister, proposing to put the coal and steel industries of France, Germany and the Benelux under a supranational High Authority as “the first step in the federation of Europe”.  This led to the European Coal and Steel Community Treaty of 1951.

A federation is a State, so the political aim of establishing a European State or quasi-superstate under Franco-German hegemony has been there from the start. The preamble to the German Constitution, adopted in 1949, speaks of Germany as “an equal partner in a united Europe”. Far from European integration being a peace project, therefore, the truth is that the first step towards supranationalism in Europe, the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951, was advocated and supported by the USA to facilitate German rearmament in the early years of the Cold War, and to reconcile France to that fact. 

The EU celebrates 9th May 1950, the date of this Schuman Declaration, as “Europe Day” each year. Jean Monnet became secretary of the supranational High Authority which ran the Coal and Steel Community. This was the predecessor of today’s Brussels Commission.

Following the Coal and Steel Community Treaty and against the background of the Korean War, the French Government, again pushed by the Americans, produced an ambitious plan for a European Defence Community (EDC). As Monnet put it in his Memoirs,1 ”Now the federation of Europe would have to become an immediate objective. The army, its weapons and basic production, would all have to be placed simultaneously under joint sovereignty. We could no longer wait, as we had once planned, for political Europe to be the culminating point of a gradual process, since its joint defence was inconceivable without a joint political authority from the start.”  This proposed Defence Community was to have a European Army, a European Defence Minister, a Council of Ministers, a common budget and common arms procurement under the overall aegis of a European Political Community. The treaty establishing the EDC was ratified by the German Bundestag, but it caused a political storm on both Right and Left in France and the French National Assembly narrowly rejected it.

Alerted by this setback the Euro-federalists decided henceforth to play down their ultimate goal of political integration and from then on to stress economic integration as the supposed route to prosperity. From 1954 onward “building Europe” was to be presented to Europe’s peoples as essentially a matter of economic growth and jobs. This would make political supranationalism more easily sellable to the different national publics. Supranationalism is the essence of the EU’s ideology.

A spin-off from the Cold War: Historically therefore the EU is a spin-off of the Cold War, which was pushed by the USA and its allies in the 1950s and subsequently to provide an economic underpinning in Europe for the NATO military alliance.  Following the 1956 Suez debacle, when the USA foiled the attempt of the British, French and Israelis to overthrow the Egyptian government by force, the Americans urged British Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s government to apply to join the EEC. By doing that Britain would regain America’s favour, as well as obtain from America the guided missiles which alone would enable her to continue as the world’s third thermonuclear power. Britain had detonated her first H-bomb in 1957, but had no independent means of delivering atomic weapons to possible targets.

Pressed by the Americans, Britain applied to join the EEC in 1961. Ireland and Denmark applied to join simultaneously because of their dependence at the time on British trade.  As a major food exporter France wanted the Common Agricultural Policy to be fully in place, with its big subsidies for French farmers, before admitting food-importing Britain, which would want lower food prices, not higher ones.  This led French President Charles de Gaulle to veto British membership of the EEC in 1963 and again in 1967. Britain did not finally join the EEC, together with Ireland and Denmark, until 1973. American proponents of Euro-federalism also advocated a European monetary union from an early date.  In 1965 a US State Department memo advised the then Commission Vice-President Robert Marjolin to pursue a common European currency by stealth. It recommended suppressing debate until the point at which “adoption of such proposals would become virtually inescapable”.

In those years of the Cold War between the West and Russia “Euro-federalism” became the creed of a host of intellectuals on the Right and Left across the continent, disillusioned with the failed ideologies of the 20th century. On the political Right fear of communism made people comply with American advocacy of integration. On the Left traditional antagonism to “nationalism”, identifying that with imperialism and chauvinism, provided the rationale for theories which proclaimed capitalist supranationalism to be the forerunner of supranational socialism. In the meantime, there were lucrative careers to be made in pushing the integration “project”.

The euro as a response to German Reunification:  Forty years after the 1951 Coal and Steel Community and the 1957 Treaty of Rome setting up the European Economic Community(EEC) which followed, another major shift occurred in Franco-German power. This was Germany's reunification as a side-effect of the collapse of the USSR in 1991. It led these two countries to establish EU Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and its single currency, the euro. Eurofederalist circles had for years been canvassing a currency union to give the EU bloc this essential features of statehood. West Germany’s absorption of East Germany and the establishment of a unified German State now gave the political opportunity.

This would give Germany a central role in running a potential EU world power. France in turn hoped that the euro would give it a political lock on Germany.  A Franco-German army brigade with joint officers and a joint command was simultaneously established as symbol and prototype of the European army of the future. Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain have since joined this common “Eurocorps”.   American support for German reunification was contingent on the reunified Germany remaining a member of Nato, even though Nato’s counterpart, the communist-bloc Warsaw Pact, had vanished with the dissolution of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. America’s involvement in European affairs was thus continued through Nato, and its continued support for further EU integration. The US pushed Nato military bases into the former Warsaw Pact countries.

The election of Donald J Trump could well be of earthquake proportions in EU / US relations. Separation has begun. No more will Washington and Brussels be as thick as thieves stealing our democracy. A new administration will be more favourable to Britain than to Germany. The US State Department may well be instructed to support emerging independent nation-states in Europe, the first of which will be the UK. The decades of American support for European integration is at an end.

Arguably it was always inevitable that this break would happen. The EU has pretentions for military power that will undermine Nato. And as American power retreats from its post-World War II zenith there would have been growing resistance to those who see the EU as a collective junior partner of the USA in world politics. People no longer want their country to be subsumed in an inward-looking out-of-date bureaucratic bloc whose post-Second World War raison d’etre has long passed into history. The shock of there being an anti-EU American President is nonetheless still great. The EU may soon loose its biggest and most influential supporter, the United States of America.

Research courtesy of Professor Anthony Coughlan from Tackling the EU Empire: Basic critical facts on the EU/Eurozone

 


[i] http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-06-27/kissinger-says-calling-europe-quote-not-likely-his

[ii] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/05/13/remarks-president-obama-and-prime-minister-cameron-united-kingdom-joint-

[iii] http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/rm/2013/jan/202650.htm

 

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