OPINION

Poker for grownups

poker-for-grownups

Many European governments are complaining because Washington and Moscow have left them out of talks about the Ukraine issue, which is, in fact, extraordinary, because the subject of talks is Europe’s new security architecture. 

However, before complaining, the Europeans should first think about their own responsibilities. Let’s say that a person lives in a dodgy neighborhood with a lot of violent incidents. And let’s also say, for the sake of reasoning, that the neighborhood is overrun by nasty bullies who carry guns, who speak the language of power and who engage in turf wars. It makes sense that you will sit at the negotiating table with the right equipment, with clear objectives and without hiding your real intentions.

We Europeans live in such a neighborhood. But we neither have a European army nor meaningful operational capabilities. We do not even have a common foreign policy. So why should the big guys take us seriously? What makes us think that we can sit down for a game of poker with them? It’s a classic case of “where do you think you are going?”

You might think I am exaggerating. Europe, you may say, is a major economic power and it can play a role in global affairs. Sure, it can play a role; but not a prominent one. And any leverage is restricted to the leaders of Germany and, less so, France.

However, the EU is fortunate in the sense that geopolitical circumstance has elevated the continent into an apple of discord. Washington has turned its focus to Asia but it knows that it will have to depend on its European allies if it wants to win the arm wrestling match against Russia. Not for practical, operational reasons but in order to keep alive the idea of the “Western alliance.” Moscow knows well the importance of Europe and is excellent at playing the divide-and-rule game in the EU.

Europe cannot claim a seat at the table. It can only hope that Washington and Moscow will try to win it over as an ally. This alone will lend it certain influence and leverage. Perhaps one day it will grow mature enough to survive in the jungle of the nascent global environment.