Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Unwinding Europe

Largely unnoticed and unremarked, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, otherwise known as the Visegrad Group, have decided to develop an independent military force, or battle group, under the command of Poland.  The fact that this event passed unnoticed last week is perhaps the result of the Libyan intervention by NATO and upheavals in Syria and the riots in and around Israel by Palestinians with the usual over the top reaction of the IDF. Oh, yes, there was this little OBL thing as well.

The timing  for the creation of the battle group could not be better for flying under the radar (although probably not lost on certain people to the north and east).   This small event may be more significant than the lack of news coverage it has generated.
I’ve previously noted that the Russian invasion of Georgia and its aggressive remarks regarding the Baltics shortly thereafter would ring the alarm bells in Warsaw, as well as in Bucharest, Prague, Riga and Tallin among others. Those alarms have become real now that it is abundantly clear that the Germans have adopted the somewhat incoherent foreign policy of abandoning Europe and the United States for mother Russia and openly challenging the stability of the Eurozone with intemperate remarks by, among others, its na├»ve and inexperienced Foreign Minister.  The French, for reasons still murky, sold a close support vessel - useful for invading countries by sea – to the Russians and the US has been so pre-occupied with winding down its ill-conceived Iraq adventure and continuing involvement in unappreciative Afghanistan that Eastern Europe has all but vanished from the foreign policy agenda. Further, given the financial woes in Europe, rumblings about when to join the Eurozone by the Visegrad Group have turned to questions of whether.
HIstorically, when Germany and Russia get close, bad things happen to those sandwiched between.  Clearly, a repetition of 1914 and 1939 is remote, to say the least.  However, Poland and the other Visegrad members have long memories of Russian dictatorship and the Kremlin’s proclivity for bullying it’s near abroad – not to mention what happened to Georgia.  The abandonment of the idea of “Europe” by the Germans while embracing Russian offers of investment possibilities and, lately, taking Russia’s side regarding the no-fly zone vote in the UN imposed on Libya, has now resulted in the first steps of a defensive coalition mirroring the similar organization to Poland’s north. 

There is no European defense force and NATO is increasingly irrelevant as it searches for a reason to be.  Furthermore, NATO depends on unanimity – something the Poles are well aware of as a member.  They are unsure as to what Europe’s response would be if Poland called for aid in the event the Russian empire seeks to become ever more aggressive. 
So, slight as it appears, the creation of this new military force may be the tipping point for European political unity, much less integration.

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