A new book was published 25th January 2021 by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) and his interlocutor history Prof. Gregor Schöllgen. The book under the title “Last chance – Why we need a new World Order now” (Letzte Chance, Warum wir jetzt eine neue Weltordnung brauchen, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2021) outlines a potential future for Europe. It is based on a survey in respect to Europe, the US, Russia, China, the Mideast and Africa and describes the challenges which the world is facing: Epidemies and the need to fight Covid 19 pandemic that has overthrown all parameters, climate change, shrinkage of resources, global conflicts and a widening gap between rich and poor. The authors reflect about a future Europe and by trying to learn the lessons that need to be learned after the end of the Cold War, they identify an essential “paradox”, which is represented by NATO in its present from.
30 years after the end of the Cold War (1989), the authors state, Europe is essentially incapable to keep together a political, economic and military union. The recent fights within NATO between Turkey and France in the Mediterranean is only one example among many, as well as disputes between EU members such as Hungary, Poland and some Western EU countries. According to the authors’ thesis instead of a “deployable European Army” Europe is totally “dependent on the USA”, when it comes to organizing bigger military actions by NATO. They identify an obvious “Paradox”: On the one side “NATO which was founded at the end of World War II and marking the beginning of the Cold War (1949), was based on the specific challenges of the epoch at that time. Within four decades it was one of the most successful alliances of all times – since on the one side it never had to invoke the mutual defense act and on the other side the “global adversary – the Soviet Union and its allies – left the world stage almost silently” after 1989. Even though NATO’s purpose was fulfilled, it not only continued to exist also after 1991 (the collapse of the S.U.), but extended even further geographically and militarily. This had wide ranging consequences. The US kept its military supremacy and “guardianship” over Europe. All presidents since 1991 stuck to this principle. Even if the new US President Joe Biden may choose a more conciliatory language towards Europe – he may for example return to a more multilateral approach etc. – his Europe policy will be corrected a bit, but his general approach will be the same. Hence the authors conclude that “as long as NATO exists in its present form, it makes no sense for America to change its perception in respect to Europe and that means: Russia remains the potential adversary for the West, which it was until it began to dissolve in 1991.”
President Macron’s challenging interview in the Economist (2019)
An important reference point for the authors’ reflections in the book was the interview, which was given in autumn 2019 by French President Emmanuel Macron. “It was French President Emmanuel Macron who in an interview with Economist 2019 pointed to the serious consequences if NATO were to continue in its present form. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, a leading representative of the West pointed to this fact,” the book states.
In the interview with the British magazine “Economist” in autumn 2019, Macron had qualified NATO in its present form as “brain dead” which led to a storm of protest among many NATO countries. In a press conference with Jens Stoltenberg at the Elysée, beginning December 2019, Macron qualified his remarks in the Economist as a “wake up call” and made clear that he had wanted to call for a “clear sighted and robust dialogue with Russia in order to guarantee peace and stability in Europe i.e. develop together with Russia a new “security architecture for Europe.” A major aspect in the “Economist” interview was Macron’s focus on the need to help Europe to “regain its military sovereignty.” He warned that NATO is essentially “brain dead” given that “essentially no coordination exists whatsoever in the strategic decision making between the US and its NATO allies.” Macron called upon Europe 1.to become autonomous in terms of military strategy and capability; 2. He demanded the opening of a “strategic dialogue with Russia.” In the interview he pointed to a fact which was directly picked up in the new book by Schröder, that “originally NATO was created as a response to the Warsaw Pact and in the 1990ies we didn’t reassess this geopolitical project in the slightest when our initial enemy vanished (…) What instead remained was the unarticulated assumption that the enemy is still Russia (…) So the present purpose of NATO is a real question that needs to be asked, particularly from the United States: Europe has to think of itself as a balancing power, where a lot of investment and expansion should be made.” In respect to Russia Macron emphasized that in the long term he sees the option for Russia to develop a “partnership project with Europe. If we want to build peace in Europe to rebuild European strategic autonomy, we need to reconsider our position with Russia.”
Tour d’horizon concerning Europe, US, Russia and China
The book offers an interesting tour d’horizon by analyzing where we stand at the moment in Europe, USA, Russia, China as well as in the Mideast, Africa and in respect to the problems of resources. The book reminds the reader that NATO was founded April 4 1949 by the USA, Canada and 10 European states – to defend the freedom and independence of each member in a defined area. As Baron Ismay – General Secretary of NATO (1952-57) had stated at the time, the purpose of NATO was: “To keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.” Germany joined NATO on the 9th of May 1955. According to the authors of the book de facto the NATO allies were kept under “guardianship” of the US (one particular side aspect was that France and Great Britain wanted the American armed forces to stay in Europe after 1989 as a precondition to have them agree on Germany’s reunification). 1993 the American diplomat George Kennan had pleaded for the withdrawal of American troops from Europe and he considered it the most “disastrous mistake of American policy since the end of World War II, that NATO on the contrary expanded to the East” the book states. A similar reflection was echoed, according to the authors, by French President Emmanuel Macron who in 2019 declared “NATO was developed as a response to an enemy: the Warsaw Pact. When our enemy disappeared 1990, we even didn’t evaluate this geopolitical project in a new way. The unspoken and implicit assumption is still up to this point, that Russia is our enemy.”
Russia is described as a “giant at a crossroad”: The biggest country on earth with 17 million square km surface, 11 time zones, has the largest amount of raw materials. With 144 Mio inhabitants, it is a most thinly populated country. Nobody ever succeeded to militarily penetrate deeper into Russia – neither Napoleon nor Hitler’s armies in Russia, whose offensive against Russia was a “military offensive of conquest, looting and a racist motivated campaign of destruction, unseen in modern history, leaving 70.000 villages, 1700 cities, 100.000 big agricultural enterprises, 2900 Machines and tractor stations and 65.000 railway tracks destroyed, aside 30 Mio people dead.” The German offensive was without any precedent and Stalin after the war created a cordon sanitaire, consisting of European Soviet satellite states, forcing a conventional and nuclear rearmament and using an offensive rhetoric, the authors report. As Putin had stated in a speech 2018, at the end of the Cold War Russia lost 23,1 % of its territory, 48,5% of its population, 41% of its GDP, 39,4% of its industrial potential, 44,6% of its military potential in terms of split up of Russian armed forces. And the fact that several Warsaw Pact states looked for joining NATO and the EU made the situation even worse. The book at several points underlines that Russia which -contrary to international law- took the Crimea and engages in a war in Eastern Ukraine, is in defensive position, which however nobody wants to understand.
The series of sanctions imposed since 2014 on Russia, the call for stationing troops on a rotational basis in the Baltic countries and Poland, all this amounts to a situation where Russia is relatively weak and the US superior in all areas. Meanwhile China is rising as a word leader, the book states. Due to the West’s reaction both to China and Russia, the two countries have got together in an unprecedented way. Since 2019 a Russian- Chinese pipeline with 38 billion cubic meter gas to the South, is operating; since 2009 both countries engage in joint sea- maneuvers. Russia delivers the S 400 air defense system to China and China supported Russia during the war in Syria. China with its “One Belt One Road” policy is expanding. When Covid 19 erupted for the first time in China, the country after an initial period of hesitation, reacted quickly and it now builds “a new silk road of health,” the book states. A good example was that in April 2020 China hermetically sealed off Wuhan with 12 Mio people and from zero it built three reserve hospitals with 3400 beds each, while also helping other countries in the fight against the pandemic.
The authors conclude with an epilogue, which emphasizes that the “West had its time. But this time which was successful, is over now: NATO and the EU were born at a time which has passed. It was the specific response from the side of the US and some western Europeans states to specific challenges that were arising during the Cold War.” The authors qualify the present situation as “anachronistic and dangerous.” If NATO wants to escape that trap, it needs above all “restructuration.” They see a “structural deficiency” which on the one hand is due to the “one sided dependency of Europe from America which lost its legitimacy with the end of the Cold War.” The fact that 140 US atomic bombs are situated in Europe- 20 in Germany- in order to keep NATO together is “anachronistic and dangerous. (…) Hence the future has started without NATO in its present form. As Macron correctly diagnosed, NATO in its present form is ‘brain dead.’ And this offers the chance, to politically dissolve NATO; which on the other side does not imply that it loses its technical or logistical structures. The 1998 founded “Euro Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center” which was discovered during the pandemic, has stood the test,” the authors write. What is needed according to them is “a new perspective for Europe. Europe must get out of the guardianship of the US.” This does not mean getting rid of the partnership with the USA, but it means to “share a vital partnership with own resources and an integrated European Army.” The pandemic offers a chance to move in this direction. It also includes Russia and a dialogue with Russia, which is still the biggest country on earth and which is a bridge to Asia, including China as well as to the Near and Middle East. The dialogue could only function if the partner (Russia) is not denounced and treated with arrogance.”
The benefit of a multilateral world order
A look around the world shows that due to the global Corona pandemic it often seems that world leaders are sitting in a rudderless boat and all certainties of the past seem to break apart. Many just try to fight for themselves. On January 25 an important contribution was made by Chinese President Xi Jinping in a video address to the World Economic Forum (Davos). Unfortunately, this address was portrayed quite cynically by many leading western European media. Xi Jinping identified the Corona pandemic as the most important challenge world –wide and as a chance. Being confident that “humanity will prevail over the virus and emerge even stronger from this disaster,” he outlined 4 major tasks that should be tackled: 1. This means setting the pace for a long term, sound and stable growth of the world economy (which since world war II is in the worst recession, Xi Jinping stressed). 2. Abandon ideological prejudices and jointly follow a “path of peaceful coexistence and mutual benefit.” In this context he strongly criticized the attempts by some countries to “impose arrogantly hierarchy on human civilization.” 3. Close the divide between developed and developing countries and jointly bring about growth. “Equal rights, equal opportunities and equal rules should be strengthened, so that all countries will benefit from the opportunities and fruits of development.” 4. Come together again the global challenges and jointly create a better future for humanity.
Xi Jinping pleaded for a strong “multilateral approach” to the world economy, underlining that “we should strengthen the G 20 (which Italy chairs this year) as the premier forum for global economic governance, engage in closer macroeconomic policy coordination, and keep the global industrial and supply chains stable and open.” He also called for an enhanced role of the WHO and announced that China will follow a “new development philosophy” and foster a new development paradigm both domestically and internationally. “It is especially important to scale up cooperation on the R&D, production and distribution of vaccines and make them public goods that are truly accessible and affordable to people in all countries. By now China has provided assistance to over 150 countries and 13 international organizations, sent 36 medical teams to countries in need, and stayed strongly supportive and actively engaged in international cooperation on COVID vaccines.” According to Xi Jinping, “scientific and technological advance should benefit all humanity rather than be used to curb and contain other countries development.”