PATRICK LAWRENCE: Europe Going Its Own Way

Events of the past week show the Continent restoring some of its pre-1945 independence from U.S. hegemony.     

Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, from plane. (kallerna, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

Those who come after us will look back and conclude we lived in a time of great moment. This is true in all sorts of ways, of course, and high among these is the gradual but now-unmistakable corrosion of the trans–Atlantic alliance, the many-sided institution by which the U.S. has to date controlled Western Europe and asserted its claim to “global leadership.”

Events this past week make it plain that Europeans are learning the necessity and wisdom of going their own way — of making the Continent the independent pole of power it long was but ceased to be after the 1945 victory. At last, one might say, but we can do better: Hallelujah! En fin! Vive l’Europe!

We, or those of us aspiring to a world without a hegemony, a world wherein the West’s claim of superiority over the non–West passes into history, have waited so long.

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It is always difficult to understand time present as history for the simple reason we live within it, and seeing how our moment arises from the past and indicates the future comes only with conscious effort. Let’s make the effort. The truth of any given time lies well beyond the fence posts corporate media plant to restrict our understanding of events and what the illiterate mediocrities who prevail in Washington are capable of grasping themselves.

Last Thursday Denmark gave permission for the consortium of companies managing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines to operate in Danish waters. This is minor news, a fleck, but it is of considerable import.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivering remarks to the virtual Copenhagen Democracy Summit, June 19, 2020. (State Department, Flickr)

The geopolitically contentious Nord Stream 2 project, which is on the brink of completion, will transport 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas yearly under the Baltic Sea to German ports, which will then supply other European markets.

A year ago the Danish Energy Agency approved a 147-km route that runs through a short stretch of sea over Denmark’s continental shelf. What just happened amounts to a formality. 

It is the timing of the peaceable Danes’ announcement that matters. Washington recently launched a desperate, last-ditch campaign to scuttle the project, the centerpiece of which is the ridiculous charade involving the alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny, Russia’s grandstanding, popular-but-not-very, oppositionist.

This was intended to alienate Berlin from Moscow, so prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel to bail on the Nord Stream 2 agreement in the name of good old-fashioned East–West animosity.  

Alexei Navalny, center, in Moscow protest, 2017. (Evgeny Feldman, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

This transparent trickery now appears to have failed. Merkel parried briefly on this question but signaled two weeks ago that, as she has long argued, Nord Stream 2 is a commercial undertaking that is not available for geopolitical manipulation. And now Copenhagen pointedly casts its vote: In its larger context it is a vote against Washington, a refusal to reenlist in a new Cold War just where the first left off. Prediction: The rest of Europe will now follow.  

Macron’s Clarity 

No one has been clearer than Emmanuel Macron in resisting Washington’s insistence that Europe must once again line up against the Rrrrrrrussians. Just before the Danes approved the Nord Stream 2 route, the French president spoke in Vilnius, where he once again rejected “a bipolar world” and asserted that Europe must find its own way in its relations with Russia and China alike.

“We, some countries more than others, gave up our strategic independence by depending on American weapons systems,” Macron said. “We cannot accept to live in a bipolar world made up of the U.S. and China.”

It is remarkable that Macron chose the Lithuanian capital to make these assertions. And remarkable again that, next day, he continued during a visit to Riga, the Latvian capital. “We are conscious of your neighborhood, and it is in this spirit of mutual understanding and transparency and of protection of your security that we wanted to contribute to relaunching a strategic dialogue with Russia,” Macron said this time. “This dialogue doesn’t deny any parts of our European histories but wants to face our history and geography.”

In simpler English: We must take a stand against the U.S. at this moment because we are better off getting along with Russia than not, and this includes you who were previously in the Soviet sphere.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron at Normandy summit, Dec. 9, 2019. (President of Russia)

Macron has been at this stuff at least since he hosted the Group of 7 summit in Biarritz the summer before the one just past, when President Donald Trump suggested Russia be readmitted to a reconstituted G–8. “Pushing Russia away from Europe is a profound strategic mistake,” the French president told an assembly of French ambassadors in Paris shortly afterward. “We are living the end of Western hegemony.”

Macron has since said in an interview with The Economist, “What we are witnessing is the brain death of NATO.”

This is Europe speaking in a French accent, in my read. Other European leaders, notably Merkel, have signaled their resentment of Macron as an incautious upstart who talks out of turn and whose large, de Gaulle-like vision of Europe they find grandiose. I do not much buy this. Resentment of Macron in other European capitals is made mostly of envy because he has the youthful nerve (he is 42) to articulate forthrightly what others think but are only now finding the guts to say  even mutedly.  

Let’s not forget Europe’s reaction when Trump made his famous messes at the G–7 and NATO summits in 2017, signaling U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and browbeating the Europeans on NATO contributions.

The Europeans were already on edge over the Russia sanctions that former President Barack Obama force-marched them into after Moscow re-annexed Crimea in response to the U.S.–cultivated coup in Ukraine. “Europe without the USA?” Corriere della Sera asked anxiously.

Merkel, ever the cautious Atlanticist, put it this way: “Recent days have shown me that the times when we could rely completely on others are over to a certain extent.”

G-7 leaders gather for group photo, Aug. 25, 2019, Biarritz, France. (White House/Shealah Craighead)

There are plenty of reasons now to disapprove of Macron, a neoliberal to the core who rarely misses a chance to tighten the screws of austerity in an effort to dismantle what remains of French social democracy. But he is absolutely right in his implicit invocations of de Gaulle, who, in the name of European independence, withdrew from NATO in 1966 and forced U.S. troops off French soil.

The Pope & Pompeo  

We have, finally, the Pope’s outstanding performance at the Vatican last week. In so many words, Pope Francis told Mike Pompeo to perform the love act on himself when the American secretary of state opportunistically requested an audience as part of his campaign to draw the world into his Sinophobic paranoia.

One cannot approve more strenuously: It is not short of disgusting that a man who stirs hatred everywhere he goes, and who is responsible for the murder and starvation of millions, purports to do so while thumping the New Testament every virtue-signaling chance he gets.

On Saturday, Francis took things usefully further when he issued an encyclical laying into everything from the fraud of “trickle-down” economics to “this dogma of neoliberal faith,” income inequality, scandalously neglected health care systems, sequestered elites, and “the destructive effects of the empire of money.”

Citing early Christian teachings, he said, “If one person lacks what is necessary to live with dignity, it is because another person is detaining it.” Francis’s encyclical named no nations but didn’t have to. There are few innocents among us, but some nations are more guilty than others. 

Rock ’n’ roll, Papa Francisco.

The Vatican has little immediate sway in European politics, but let us not miss the moral import of Francis’ energetic week. In his dismissal of the egregious Pompeo and his full-strength attack on the American-sponsored economic ethos prevalent in the West, he reflects European impatience with the U.S. while simultaneously clearing more ground for Europeans to stand independently from it.

In his remarks last week in Riga, Macron mentioned geography. There is a large point to be grasped here.

Europe’s eastern flank borders the non–West’s western flank. It shares a landmass that stretches from Shanghai to Lisbon. Across a small pond lies the Islamic world. Macron’s topic was destiny: If Europe is to (re)forge an identity for itself in the 21st century, it will be as the space where West and non–West meet and coexist by way of day-in, day-out negotiation in an infinitude of forms — political, diplomatic, commercial, cultural.

Why has it taken Europeans so long to find their feet and their voices? Why, why, why, one has asked in frustration over many years.

The best answer I have ever had came from Perry Anderson, the noted British writer and publisher, during an interview I conducted five years ago. (The two parts of our exchange are here.)

The last Europeans with any experience of an independent Europe, Anderson observed, were those who came of age and to office before World War II. This was the Churchill–de Gaulle generation. Postwar leaders, beginning with Konrad Adenauer and on through the long line of European presidents and prime ministers to follow, knew no condition other than dependence on Washington. Britain chose lap-dog status after the Suez debacle in 1956.

The Brits are pleased enough to continue debasing themselves, for reasons one cannot altogether fathom. But Europe now comes into a generation of leaders who knew little of the Cold War, just as their predecessors knew little of anything else. It is just as well Britain formally breaks from Europe this year, for the Continent seems to be “waking up,” gradually and with sleep in its eyes yet, but just as Macron has urged.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century (Yale). Follow him on Twitter @thefloutistHis web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site. 

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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25 comments for “PATRICK LAWRENCE: Europe Going Its Own Way

  1. Robert Sinuhe
    October 8, 2020 at 09:40

    Thank you, Mr. Lawrence! I’ve lived and worked in Europe. I decry the American influence I saw there. Czech students invited me to talk to them about the United States. At that time I was privy to only a little of our dirty underwear. A more complete knowledge has made me morally sick to the point of a desire to emigrate.

  2. peter mcloughlin
    October 8, 2020 at 09:32

    “But Europe now comes into a generation of leaders who knew little of the Cold War, just as their predecessors knew little of anything else.”
    Yet neither generation sees the pattern of history and how it is leading to yet another world war, for Europe cannot separate from the approaching war between the US and China; different theaters are interconnected. This needs to be realized, because time is running out.

  3. Mighty Drunken
    October 7, 2020 at 12:47

    For each step that Europe goes its own way, the UK takes a giant leap towards the US. The why is somewhat nebulous but I think it is the same why which has captivated the political right in the UK and US for 40 years.
    A world of laissez faire market capitalism where the elite will be unbounded in their potential for profit making. Lesser concerns like the workers, the environment and human rights can be ignored for the greater good of larger profits. Brexit was a large step on this path, now the UK Right want to free themselves from the law and tax.
    In their mind the biggest threat is probably China as they are the one country with the size and technology to threaten their extreme form of Globalisation. The only competitor.

  4. Fred Mc
    October 7, 2020 at 11:37

    Well spoken, Mr. Lawrence.

  5. Brian
    October 7, 2020 at 11:31

    Hmmm . . . Denmark take note : NED opened a local office in Nuuk (capital of Greenland) earlier this year. I wonder how long it will be for the inevitable colour revolution will appear, demanding “democracy” for Greenlanders and Greenland’s independence from Denmark? (Or, to join the US, per Trumps’s idea of buying it from Denmark.)

  6. AnneR
    October 7, 2020 at 09:38

    One can but hope for Europe’s coming to their senses and entering into a relationship of comity – political, economic at least – with Russia, rather than continuing to follow their historical and present day NATO track of antagonism, hatred and refusal to admit they are closer to Russia (and China) than to the USA.

    But – there remains a deep seated antagonistic sentiment toward Russia across western Europe, particularly in Germany (I would bet still tinged with a deep anti-Slavism). The European attitude (general) toward Russia is inexplicable – after all Russia was the victim of invasions by France, Germany and then after 1917 Revolution, the US & UK combined with the White Russians, not the other way round.

    This attitude, view of Russia is manifested by such as Maas – up to today with his arrogant demands that Russia demonstrate that they are investigating Navalny’s purported poisoning (a western, CIA-MI6 put up job just like the Skripals, to which the German govt has clearly signed onto), that Russia provide Germany with evidence/proof. And do so without any reciprocation. Of course. The west is in charge.

    Frankly, while I agree that NS2 is the obvious target so that the US can sell its more expensive (and environmentally more destructive) LNG to Germany; that the attempted color revolution in Belarus (last stretch of Russia’s western border) was/is a further attempt to return to the Russia under Yeltsin – a land for plunder by the west, there is another perhaps more fundamental motivation. Taken together with the growing antagonism toward China (begun by Obama), there seems to be a real effort by the US and UK to prevent Eurasian relations of comity: Mackinder’s warnings…because such a continental (the largest and all together most populous) political-economic-cultural cooperation would most definitely end Anglo-American global dominance.

    Thus any and every game in the underhanded, duplicitous secret agency, NED and militarily belligerent handbook of the US-UK is and will be brought into play to prevent any such cooperative relations. And it doesn’t seem to matter at all that the tales the US-UK create (Skripals, Navalny) are as full of holes and improbabilities as a sieve…so long as they achieve their goals.

    • Dave P.
      October 7, 2020 at 19:22

      Great comments, AnnR. In the first place, I do not understand why the Russians have to explain anything to any country about this staged incident regarding their own private citizen in their land? How many are being shot on the streets of cities here in the U.S. by Police every day. Russians do not ask America (or U.K., Germany . . . ) to explain when it happens in their land.

      I agree completely with John Chuckman’s very farsighted comments. Very dangerous times for the World lie ahead. Probably you read them, there were these very two good articles during the last week.

      “The Double Decoupling” by Alastair Crooke – in Strategic Culture Foundation, Oct. 5, 2020

      “The Mortal Battle of The Perfidious Albion” By Katerina in The Saker Blog. It is not the complete historical accuracy which is important, but the main thesis of this article is true. I understand somewhat more of “English Supremacy” and the City of London – The World Banking Capitol. I entered the first grade the year British left India. The whole curriculum of my education was still British. Compulsory British History, and British Literature papers in High School Final Exams. British Magazines, Newspapers , books in the libraries, and American magazines and books too of course. I think it is true for all the countries in British Empire.

  7. Skip Scott
    October 7, 2020 at 09:35

    I don’t watch television, but I can’t imagine that any of this got much attention on the major networks in the USA. Hopefully the EU will continue to ignore Pompeo. There is virtually no chance that he will “see the light.” I’m sure Pope Francis sees that as well, but maybe he can change the minds of some of his followers. We must learn to wage peace in a multi-polar world or we are doomed as a species. There is no future for Empire.

  8. yves beigbeder
    October 7, 2020 at 04:17

    I agree and fully support the prospect of a more independent and strong European Union, but keeping links with the USA, hoping it will get rid of Trump. I have however no trust in Poutine who remains a threat against the Baltic countries and other Eastern European countries, and tries to weaken the EU and democracy.Yves Beigbeder, WHO retiree, in Sauveterre de Béarn, France

  9. Allan P.-E. Tolentino
    October 7, 2020 at 02:42

    Europeans attempt to break free from US dictation but adopt and exercise their master’s evil habits of domination and plunder of weaker nations. Filthy habits that lead to war and misery. What’s so great about that? How about European social elites exercising genuine solidarity and social justice with working people in their countries? And doing the same with working people all over the world? Now that will lead to genuine peace and prosperity. Inshallah. Self-serving protestations of independence are simply YADDA YADDA YADDA to the rest of humanity.

  10. geeyp
    October 7, 2020 at 02:20

    My constant hope is Pompass will not get elected to the Senate after removal from his current position. Then he can go home and do the laundry. The devil came from Kansas, indeed.

  11. KiwiAntz
    October 6, 2020 at 22:48

    Pompous Pompeo, the Man with the smug, self satisfied look & perpetual grin on his face, smiling like he just left a “all you can eat buffet table” is streaking around the World, lying & cajoling other Nations to try & get them to bend the knee to American Hegemony? After being humiliated by the Pope & his slap down of him, I guess sanctions are coming to Argentina, the Popes home Country, for the insult to the US? Pompeo has no comprehension that a Multipolar World has emerged & that everyone, including the Pope & every Nation on Earth, bar England & Australia, is thoroughly sick of American threats, Bullying, chaos, disfunction & disorder! America is a dying, collapsing, declining Empire, self destructing in Real-time, accelerated by the Lunatic Presidency of a Orange Clown, Donald Trump! Europe’s had enough of being told what to do & who to do business with by a Tyrant & his Rogue Nation called America! With its shambolic Leadership & Divided Politics resulting in its hopeless COVID 19 response & with it’s Economy in ruins & the End in sight of the US dollar, Pompeo can’t see the Writing that’s clearly on the Wall of a National in Terminal decline! A Nation that’s sinking faster than the Titanic!

  12. Bob Herrschaft
    October 6, 2020 at 22:01

    Well said, Patrick! Macron is a pivotal figure, and let’s hope he continues to pivot in the right direction.

  13. ranney
    October 6, 2020 at 19:37

    Wonderful article by an experienced elder journalist. Although I am not a catholic, I was pleased to see his recounting of the pope’s contribution which I thought was extraordinary (and I loved his adorable description of how the pope told Pompeo to “f—” himself). The pope, astonishingly, understands that the world is beautiful and capable of extraordinary things that are not attached to the search for money, profit or power. Since Churchill and De Gaulle, Europe has been run by leaders who don’t know what to do unless the US tells them, and now they are just waking up to the realization that this is a crock. I wish I were going to be around to see it.

    • Fred Mc
      October 7, 2020 at 11:41

      Well spoken, yourself. I loved the same wording of the Pope’s flip off to Pompeo. I sincerely hope you will “be around to see it” – I plan to!

  14. October 6, 2020 at 17:49

    Would be great if the UK made an independent statement of action by refusing extradition of Julian Assange and setting him free, guaranteeing his safety…

  15. Jeff Harrison
    October 6, 2020 at 17:22

    The only thing I can really offer is: “Alexei Navalny, Russia’s grandstanding, popular-but-not-very, oppositionist.” should really be: “Alexei Navalny, Russia’s grandstanding, not particularly popular, opposition figurehead”. We need to remember that, regardless of how much is made of him here in the West, if he was playing to American election rules, he wouldn’t be on the ballot. But so much has to happen to make your vision happen! Frau Merkle has to hold off Herr Maas who is just itching to sanction Russia and actually let Nordstream II happen. The Europeans also need to ease the US military out of Europe. And… they need to stop using the US$.

  16. Linda J
    October 6, 2020 at 16:22

    Thank you, Mr. Lawrence. This is some good news! As an USian, I find myself identifying with a peace-seeking Israeli (I know there are a few), calling on the outside world to save my nation (and therefore, the globe) from its immoral leaders and its sheepish population.

  17. Ed Rickert
    October 6, 2020 at 15:54

    To use to bullying, threating and destroying those who challenge its demands the Empire will not go quietly. I agree with Chuckman that the next decade is perilous for all of us. I see no understanding or leadership from the banal mediocrities that currently govern nor from their opponents. Dark times indeed. The only sliver of hope is a future generation with some knowledge of history, sense of humility and recognition and acknowledgement of living on a multipolar world.

  18. Oregoncharles
    October 6, 2020 at 15:46

    Rare good news. We can only hope he’s right. Certainly it makes geographic sense; and who wants to be dependent on a country in such obvious decline?

  19. JB
    October 6, 2020 at 15:17

    I do not agree with this analysis. Nothing in the actions of European capitals and the EU demonstrates any relevant distancing let alone departure or independence from US interests and dictates. Words are cheap, deeds matter. The actions of European governments and the EU bodies are becoming more and more despicable, shaming all Europeans. Nothing has changed in the support for and participation in US wars and warmongering; nothing has changed in Europe’s neocolonial plundering of the world; nothing has changed in the vicious class war on the European working class; nothing has changed in European racism; nothing has changed in the relentless use of the corporate lie machine – the media- in the service of ruling class interests even if it is bringing us on the verge of nuclear, or WMD holocaust; nothing has changed in the relentless surveillance of European citizens including for the benefit of US interests; nothing has changed in the complicity of European governments and the EU in the utterly criminal and evil persecution of Julian Assange right before all our noses, o tempora o mores! And for whom – the US; I guess the death of Assange will make the US Great Again! And the completely irrational ganging up on Russia as never before, contrary to the best interests of all Europeans and world peace and stability: just remember the Skripals, and now Navalny as the most miserable, filthy tricks, an insult to common sense and human decency. How low can these European states, ‘leaders’ and the EU go!!! So, no, I do not agree with this piece.

    • AnneR
      October 7, 2020 at 09:48

      I would agree with you JB, that Mr Lawrence is rather more optimistic than the apparent facts on the ground should give room for. From Syria (the false flag chlorine OPCW “report”), to the Skripals, to Ukraine and MH17 (same tactics in many ways now being applied to the Navalny charade), to Belarus, possibly to Kyrghistan, and Navalny – color revolutions funded by the US, fake poisonings by so-called deadliest nerve agent…And Merkel, the EU council, and others in western Europe all on board with these despicable moves, efforts at destroying Russia, preventing western European-Russian (and Chinese) comity, while doing nothing to send the US military and its weaponry home. (At least France has not got any US military bases on its soil, unlike Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Greece and the UK.)

  20. olivio
    October 6, 2020 at 13:14


    “It does not want Europe to be a real competitor, anymore than China. America’s establishment does not like competition from anywhere.”

    Very very well said. On the Nordstream, my understanding is that those seeking to kill are far from conceding. I am surprised by the level of resolve and backbone Merkel has shown on this. She has resisted a lot of pressure from various quarters. I realize it is a national economic policy issue and should be no brainer, but the Europeans are often forced into self harm or risk for the sake of transatlantic ‘solidarity’.

  21. October 6, 2020 at 13:03

    Fantastic commentary! Lawrence at his wise and witty best. Thank you Mr. Lawrence, Joe Lauria and Consortium News!!

    And now I’ll be making my fall contribution.

  22. October 6, 2020 at 12:26

    I do hope the author is right.

    I know he is in some long-term sense, for sure. Europe will return to its own interests eventually and become one of the poles of a multi-polar globe.

    There is ultimately great promise in that.

    Macron, while saying something encouraging now and then, is not a heroic figure. Light years from de Gaulle.

    Frequently, he is quite the opposite.

    And America’s now openly-hostile government retains a lot of powerful levers to pull. It does not want Europe to be a real competitor, anymore than China. America’s establishment does not like competition from anywhere.

    And the idea of Russia expanding its relationship with Europe – so natural, if you look at a map – is anathema. Russia is America’s Carthage.

    With China and Russia growing ever more connected in response to their treatment from America and a servile Europe, as they very much are, the idea of economic powerhouse Germany in any way joining them in future is an American establishment nightmare.

    I do often fear with events tending the way they are, America’s establishment is quite capable of starting a war at some point rather than letting its privileged position in the world evaporate.

    Trump’s efforts with China are so blundering, short-sighted, and destructive, and they are largely unopposed by others in Washington, they really make me think even the darkest outcome is possible.

    I think there are some very dangerous times for years ahead because there are some very huge interests intertwined.

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