Our Flemish correspondent ProFlandria uses Brussels Journal as a jumping-off point for an essay about the ramifications of Kosovar independence.
The EU Straitjacket
Paul Belien has an interesting take on what the Kosovo independence issue may mean for European international alignment with the U.S. and Russia:
During the past two centuries three major European continental nations have tried to impose their will on the rest of the continent, indeed, on the globe. First France in the early 19th century, then Germany in the first half of the 20th century, and finally Russia. […] The willingness of Britain, and later also of America, to stand up against continental Europe’s bullies made London and later Washington into the natural allies of the smaller European countries, who feel threatened by their big neighbors.
That is a good description of how European countries have, in the past, compared in power and how that affected their relations. Mr. Belien goes on to explain that the earlier failures of France and Germany to fulfill their ambitions for domination of the continent, as well as global influence, led them to use the European Union as an alternate vehicle to achieve the same goal. The smaller countries’ position is as weak within the EU as it was during the preceding centuries; they perceive the European Union to be a joint Franco-German effort at dominating Europe. In addition, there is the complication of the third big player on the block:
Eastern European nations such as the Baltic states and Poland, fear that one day the Franco-German axis might be enlarged by bringing in Russia. This fear was very tangible three years ago, when the friendship between then German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian leader Vladimir Putin was observed with suspicion in the capital cities that lie between Berlin and Moscow.
The article goes on to explain that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the smaller former Soviet states sought EU membership as protection against Russia (the Russian saber-rattling in response to the independence of the Baltic States certainly provided a good incentive). However, their trust may have been misplaced:
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Last year, when Nicolas Sarkozy became president of France, one of the first things he did was to signal to Russia that France was looking for closer cooperation. This, [in addition to the German-Russian gas pipeline plan], sent warning signals across the continent… [A]ll nations, small and middle-sized, in Europe realize that the biggest threat to their independence is a Franco-German-Russian axis. If one day Paris, Berlin and Moscow decide to join forces the rest of Europe will have to do as they are told.
All of this served to reinforce the sense of alliance with the United States and Britain; this was borne out by the participation of many of the smaller European states in the “coalition of the willing” in Iraq. The Kosovo issue has put Russia in opposition to the U.S. and Britain, but also France and Germany (because of their recognition of an independent Kosovo). While that should cool any efforts at “closer cooperation” between France/Germany and Russia, there is a subset of Europeans who may be forced to reconsider their heretofore solid alliances:
[P]ro-American European conservatives, who backed Bush’s “war against terror” and defend national sovereignty against the EU’s attempts to restrict it, are asking themselves a hitherto taboo question: Might Russia not be a better ally than America to preserve Europe from an Islam-friendly Franco-German dominance?
We don’t know how many “pro-American European conservatives” have actually voiced this question or what nations they may hail from — and it may not matter. When the Lisbon Treaty goes into effect next year, it becomes a moot point: the member nations will surrender foreign policy to the EU (that is to say, France and Germany).
This creates a Catch-22 situation: France and Germany have made overtures to Russia, which is bad for the smaller countries from the standpoint of democracy and sovereignty (what little remains). On the other hand, both countries appear remarkably unconcerned about the advance of Islam on the continent while Russia has acted with a heavy hand in this regard. While Kosovo may be a shorter-term impediment to a France-Germany-Russia axis, French and German official negligence in dealing with the “Muslim problem” will be an obstacle for the long term. This means the smaller countries will be caught in the EU straitjacket, which is bad for them from the Islamization standpoint — unless they renounce their EU membership.