COMMENT

A new geopolitical poker game

By Alexis Papachelas

Just as the Americans were about to scale back their involvement in Europe they realized this would prove harder than originally thought. The Ukrainian crisis vividly demonstrates that Europe is unable to deal with security issues on its own. The European Union is relatively capable when it comes to handling soft power issues, but completely incapable when having to deal with hard power matters.

It’s hard to imagine that in the case of Ukraine, for instance, Europe failed to see that it was playing with fire when wishing the country a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). At the same time, it appeared to ally with extremist elements that had nothing to do with the notion of safeguarding democracy and a western way of life.

Europe has other structural issues, however, when compared to the way that the US and Russia operate. The European decision-making process is painstakingly slow, requiring lengthy negotiations and broad consensus. This is even more apparent today with the absence of gifted leaders such as Charles de Gaulle, Helmut Kohl or Margaret Thatcher. In contrast, the bloc’s current leaders are more preoccupied with finance – often missing the bigger, geopolitical picture – and rarely seem to back major initiatives.

Consider recent events and the shallow approach of certain Europeans. Nicolas Sarkozy led the West into a war against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, a conflict without a clear geopolitical goal, which eventually led to the complete destabilization of the region and to reinforcing Al Qaeda’s power.

The possibility of a new cold war is tangible. Russia’s Vladimir Putin seems determined to keep Ukraine under his influence. Some predict he will even use military force in order to achieve this. He has the tactical advantage of being able to take decisions without having to account for them, in the short-term at least.

The Americans are anxiously keeping track of the situation, especially in light the Europeans’ inability to get into the game. This is because if we do enter a new cold war, the EU does not have the basic defense mechanisms, intelligence and so on that would enable it to cover a void left by the US. Washington is trying to get the Europeans to wake up, while weighing its interests on various fronts so as not to leave Europe in the lurch. For some time now, Washington has been trying to make Berlin think more geopolitically and as a major power, instead of focusing on finance.

How is Greece supposed to behave within this explosive and fluid situation? We’ll have to wait and see whether developments will make Germany realize how dangerous it would be if Greece were to be destabilized. We will also have to take a good look at our cards because the cards have already been dealt.

Online