“The West is winning!” U.S. leaders proclaimed at the high-level Annual Security Conference held in Munich last weekend.
Not everybody was quite so sure.
There was a lot of insecurity displayed at a conference billed as “the West’s family meeting” – enlarged to 70 participating nations, including U.S. -designated “losers”.
Trump’s crude Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made nobody feel particular secure by treating the world as a huge video game which “we are winning”. Thanks to our “values”, he proclaimed, the West is winning against the other players that Washington has forced into its zero-sum game: Russia and China, whose alleged desires for “empire” are being thwarted.
The Munich Security Conference (MSC) is a private gathering founded in 1963 by Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, a member of the aristocratic Wehrmacht officer class who plotted to get rid of Hitler when their estates in Eastern Germany were already being lost to the Red Army (to become part of Poland). The conference was evidently conceived as a means to enable Germans to get a word into strategic discussions from which they had been excluded by defeat in World War II.
The Munich conference knew its greatest hour of glory in February 2007, when Russian president Vladimir Putin shocked the assemblage by declaring his opposition to a “unipolar world” as “not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world.” Putin declared that NATO expansion up to Russian borders had nothing to do with ensuring security in Europe.
Russia, he said then, “would like to interact with responsible and independent partners with whom we could work together in constructing a fair and democratic world order that would ensure security and prosperity not only for a select few, but for all.”
This speech was taken as a major challenge, redefining capitalist Russia as the new enemy of the West and its “values”.
What is ‘The West?’
The term “the West” could mean a number of things. The conference organizers define it by “values” that are supposed to be essentially Western: democracy, human rights, a market-based economy and “international cooperation in international institutions”. In fact, what is meant is a particular interpretation of all those “values”, an interpretation based on Anglo-American history. And indeed, in historic terms, this particular “West” is essentially the heir and continuation of the British empire, centered in Washington after London was obliged to abdicate after World War II, while retaining its role as imperial tutor and closest partner.
It implies the worldwide hegemony of the English language and English ideas of “liberalism” and is “multicultural” as empires always are. While the United States is the power center, many of the most ardent subjects of this empire are not American but European, starting with the Norwegian secretary general of NATO. Its imperial power is expressed by military bases all around the world offering “protection” to its subjects.
As for protection, the United States is currently shipping 20,000 military personnel to reinvade Germany on their way to unprecedented military manoeuvers next month in ten countries right up to Russia’s borders. Some 40,000 troops will take part in this exercise, on the totally imaginary pretext of a “Russian threat” to invade neighboring countries.
This delights Washington’s enthusiastic vassals in Poland and the Baltic States but is making many people nervous in Germany itself and other core European Union countries, wondering where this provocation of Russia may lead. But they hardly dare say so in violation of “western solidarity”. The only complaint allowed is that the United States might not defend us enough, when the greater danger comes from being defended too much.
Opening this year’s conference, the President of the German Federal Republic Frank-Walter Steinmeier, expressed Germany’s strategic frustration more openly than usual. Steinmeier accused Washington, Beijing and Moscow of “great power competition” leading to more mistrust, more armament, more insecurity, leading “all the way to a new nuclear arms race.” He didn’t specify who started all that.
Overwhelming establishment distaste for Trump has provided a novel opportunity for leaders of U.S.-occupied countries to criticize Washington, or at least the White House. Steinmeier dared say that “our closest ally, the United States of America, under the present administration, rejects the idea of an international community.” But he made up for this by accusing Russia of “making military violence and the violent change of borders on the European continent a political tool once again” by annexing Crimea – forgetting the NATO violent detachment of Kosovo from Serbia and ignoring the referendum in which an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to return to Russia, without a shot fired.
“The only complaint allowed is that the United States might not defend us enough, when the greater danger comes from being defended too much.”
French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed frustration at Europe’s dependence on Washington. He would like the European Union to develop its own military defense and security policy. “We cannot be the United States’ junior partner,” he said, although that is certainly what Europe is. While repeating the usual NATO line about the Russian threat, he noted that the policy of threats and sanctions against Russia had accomplished nothing and called for a “closer dialogue” to resolve problems. In that, he was surely echoing the consensus of the French elite which sees absolutely no French interest in the ongoing U.S.-inspired feud with Moscow.
Macron openly aspires to building a more independent EU military defense. The first obstacle lies in EU Treaties, which tie the Union to NATO. With the UK out of the EU, France is its strongest military power and its sole possessor of nuclear arms. There are indications that some German leaders might like to absorb France’s nuclear arsenal into a joint European force – which would surely arouse a “nationalist” uproar in France.
Playing the Game
Aside from providing protection, the Empire calls on everybody to play the game of international trade – so long as they consent to lose.
On Saturday in Munich, both Nancy Pelosi and Defense Secretary Mark Esper lit into China for daring to emerge as a trade giant and technological center. “China is seeking to export its digital autocracy through its telecommunication giant Huawei,” Pelosi warned.