by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 5, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1443)
As the war in Ukraine grinds on, the essential geopolitical strategy for Russia will be to continue to create divergences between Europe and the US. For Washington, the primary geopolitical angle of its proxy-war in Ukraine against Russia is to retain Europe within its framework of how to deal with Russia.
Moscow’s approach is widely discussed in the western media but Washington’s relations with Europe are not analyzed fully. It is necessary to analyze the general contours of US-Europe relations in the context of the war in Ukraine.
It should be noted that neither Russia nor the NATO regimes expected the war to drag on for so long. Thus, both sides are forced to improvise their political, economic and military moves. There appears no clearly thought-out long-term strategy on either side. However, both sides will have to consider that when the military phase of the war is over, the political and economic fallout from it will linger on for a decade or more. Based on this scenario, how the western regimes manage to contain their declining influence will depend on Europe and the US synchronizing their political, security and most importantly economic moves against Russia.
In military, social and economic terms, the war’s burden is borne primarily by Europe. This was not the case in the past. Western regimes are accustomed to a different reality. Hitherto, they went into foreign lands, destabilized the countries and the region had to deal with the economic, political, social, and military consequences of such destruction.
In the new reality, European regimes must take into account the repercussions of every move they take against Russia. These are not confined to only external political issues, but affect their internal policies as well.
During the latest parliamentary elections in France, the two political parties which gained substantial numbers of parliamentary seats are the ones whose leaders did not reflexively take an anti-Russian position. Their position is much more nuanced. In the case of Marine Le Pen—France’s leading right-wing politician—a Russian bank gave her party a significant amount of money as loan several years ago.
In Hungary and Serbia, pro-Russian political parties won elections amid the war in Ukraine.
These facts are important indicators of the ground realities. European regimes that attempt to fit into the media narrative that they and the US are fully united against Russia, are likely to experience internal obstacles.
While technical and political issues relating to uniformity of dealing with Russia are already obvious even to West-centric analysts, the ideological landscape will be reshaped by the US approach to Russia. This will have a far more lasting impact on the internal political dynamic in western countries.
Until the war in Ukraine erupted, the political establishment in most NATO countries nudged their societies towards the liberal center, attempting to marginalize the so-called conservative or right-wing narrative and its elites. This was partly because of Donald Trump during whose era this ideological spectrum did not conceal some degree of empathy and connection towards Russia. Also, since the right’s narrative and energy were channeled against Muslims and Islam, this allowed other ideological spectrums in the west to plead innocence on this issue.
It should be noted that Moscow also mistakenly assumed for close to a decade that to weaken the EU and the US internally, its best bet is to politically support the right-wing narrative in the west. This approach did pay some political dividends in a few European countries. But as the war in Ukraine grinds on, the right-wing spectrum is being mobilized against Russia in most western countries by forces controlling the media narrative.
It is no accident that some fascist leaning military formations in Ukraine have attracted support from hard core right-wing political movements and militants based in the west. While Moscow’s past short sightedness is now haunting it, the short sightedness of the western political establishment will be no less costly.
It can be reasonably surmised that western political elites do not see it as a problem if right-wing groups in their societies channel their energy toward battling Russia in Ukraine. The assumption is that once the military phase is over, western state institutions will be able to reign in the right-wing groups and bring them into the fold. This resembles the strategy western regimes used vis-à-vis the Salafis in Afghanistan in the 1980s and in Syria 10 years ago.
Regressive Salafi militias were allowed to form and destabilize Syria, on the assumption that the blowback would be shouldered by mainly the Muslim world as was the case in the 1990s. This turned out to be only partly correct, as terrorist groups in Syria turned against their masters.
The consequences of internationalization and organization of western right-wing groups on the battlefields in Ukraine will be felt in Europe and America politically. It is not clearly evident as the military phase of the conflict continues, but once it subsides, there is likely to emerge much stronger right-left dichotomy within the western ideological political landscape. In the US this dichotomy has been morphing into a nasty political rift.
In a milder form, it has existed in the US for at least two decades. Europe is not ready for its Trumpian moment which will be utilized by Russia as internal leverage.
Considering that Europe’s historical track record is rooted in a brutal political culture, resurgence of militarized right-wing trends will be a recipe for destabilization of Europe.
The American political establishment is unlikely to take the resurgence of militant right-wing groups in Europe seriously. For US policymakers, in their political culture, armed militias and radical white supremacists are the norm.
Thus, Washington’s “know it all” policy-makers will approach this issue through a purely American perspective. This is likely to set Europe on a course of internal political friction and conflict unseen in the past decade.
The western corporate media deliberately paints a simplistic picture of Europe being on the same page with the US on a determined force-based approach to Russia. The reality is different. This will increasingly come to the fore because the US policy of containing and defeating Russia is unlikely to take Europe’s concerns into account.
Just as the war in Ukraine has changed the geopolitical balance of power globally, prolonged, military-focused approach to Russia will also begin reshaping Europe’s internal dynamics. If Europe does not muster enough political courage to confront America’s traditional jingoism on foreign policy issues, it will end up paying a heavy price.