No one who was paying attention to Greece’s predicament three years ago should be surprised by the position that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Europe find themselves in today. But only a dangerous fool would celebrate.
.. today’s defenders of the European status quomust fight on two fronts: against Trump’s encroachments and, within Europe, against the likes of Matteo Salvini and Luigi di Maio, the rising stars of Italian politics who, despite their parliamentary majority, were denied the right to form a government by the country’s besieged pro-establishment president... Just as it is Trump’s aim to overturn the global system from which Germany has benefited for decades, Salvini and di Maio see the disintegration of the euro as a welcome development and a boon to their anti-immigration campaign... If you insist on policies that condemn whole populations to a combination of permanent stagnation and humiliation, you will soon have to deal not with Europeanist leftists like us but, instead, with anti-Europeanist xenophobes who see it as their vocation to disintegrate the European Union.”.. Germany’s establishment media are now referring to the Italian economist whose appointment as finance minister was vetoed by the president as “Italy’s Varoufakis.” That moniker obscures a fundamental difference: I wanted to keep Greece in the eurozone sustainably and was clashing with Germany’s leaders in favor of the debt restructuring that would make this possible. By crushing our Europeanist government in the summer of 2015, Germany sowed the seeds of today’s bitter harvest: a majority in Italy’s parliament that dreams of exiting the euro... Trump understands one thing well: Germany and the eurozone are at his mercy, owing to their increasing dependence on large net exports to the US and the rest of the world. And this dependence has grown inexorably as a result of the austerity policies that were first tried out in Greece and then implemented in Italy and elsewhere... a condition of agreeing to bailout loans for distressed governments and banks. Then note that this pan-European austerity drive took place against the backdrop of massive excess savings over investment... large excess savings and balanced government budgets necessarily mean large trade surpluses – and thus the increasing reliance of Germany, and Europe, on massive net exports to the United States and Asia... In other words, the same incompetent policies that gave rise to the xenophobic, anti-Europeanist Italian government also bolstered Trump’s power over Merkel... the US will aim to force China to deregulate its financial and tech sectors. If it succeeds, at least 15% of China’s national income will gush out of the country, adding to the deflationary forces that are breeding political monsters in Europe and in the US.
Europe’s dismay could only have deepened when Congress seemed to cheer Mr. Trump on. Republicans, who once prided themselves as stewards of national security, have shown little concern about the way Mr. Trump treated NATO members or the links between Mr. Trump’s aides and Russia. In a statement, Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gushed over Mr. Trump’s trip to Europe and the Middle East, saying it was “executed to near perfection.”
.. These new stresses in the alliance come at a bad time.
- Europe has been battered by the Greek financial crisis;
- the rise of authoritarianism in Turkey, Hungary and Poland;
- Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union;
- and the flow of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.
Mr. Putin, always eager to expand Russian influence, has exploited every weakness and crisis, along with instigating a few of his own.
- Russia invaded Ukraine and has
- interfered in electoral campaigns in the United States, France and Germany.
- Mr. Putin has meddled in the Baltic States,
- cultivated far-right-wing allies in Hungary and
- wooed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on NATO’s eastern flank.
- He is now courting Italy with a savvy ambassador to Rome and financing for anti-establishment parties.
There are some bright spots.
- One is that Ms. Merkel seems committed to playing a lead role as the United States pulls back; another is
- France’s election of President Emmanuel Macron, who has demonstrated a willingness to work in partnership with Ms. Merkel. The two won’t always see eye-to-eye, but
- Germany needs France and Mr. Macron is a good fit.
.. Mr. Macron gave Mr. Putin full honors but did not mince words on Russia’s destructive role in the Syrian conflict, in Ukraine and in its dissemination of fake news.