Analysis by Ronald Barazon*, in Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten
The EU has failed on the stage of world politics
Europe is learning at the G-7 summit that the folklore of a European Union, not really a union, no longer plays a major role on the world stage.
Europe, to be more precise the European Union, has — hopefully not finally — fallen into insignificance. This is clearly demonstrated at the G-7 summit in Canada, where the US and Donald Trump dominate. But the Europeans can console themselves: the hyped-up threat, supposed world power Russia, is currently suffering a similar fate. At the same time as the G-7 meeting, a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is taking place in China, where representatives from Moscow act like the poor relatives of rich China, though China’s leader Xi welcomed Vladimir Putin as a friend.
In the Chinese port city of Qingdao, another country that would like to move up to world power was represented: Iran. Beijing and Moscow are considering how to use Iran for their own purposes, and so President Rouhani, arriving there from Teheran hears only kind words. World politics does not take place at the G-7 meeting.
The EU is helpless against the US
Europe’s weakness shows up in the EU’s lame reaction to US President Donald Trump’s trade policy. Instead of responding immediately to the announcements, people were begging for leniency, and now that the punitive tariffs have actually been imposed, they are still incapable of prompt reaction. Maybe there will be countermeasures in July. In the case of punitive tariffs, only the prompt imposition of counter-duties is effective. This creates the basis for negotiations and the condition for a fair agreement taking into account the interests of both sides.
But instead in the room there is heard only the vague accusations of Trump against Europe, and the lamentations from Brussels.
The representation of Europe at the G-7 summit already shows the absurd situation of the EU. The Union is represented by three and, if you want to count Britain, four states:
1. Italy, which has just installed an EU-critical government,France, which President Emmanuel 2. Macron presents as a world power, but is economically weak,
3. Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel would like to conclude her own trade agreements worldwide, but is bound by the EU Customs Union, and
4. Britain, which is leaving the EU.
An EU spokesman may still sit at the table as a guest representing the remaining 24 EU states.
No convincing demonstration of power.
The other three G-7 members are Japan and Canada, who go their separate ways, and the US. Economic history has shown many times, and even in the USA in the thirties, that protectionism has catastrophic consequences. The US will suffer from Trump’s policy and because of the mass of the US, the entire global economy will get hurt. At the moment, however, Trump dominates and the EU is helpless.
The days when the G-7 understood themselves as a kind of “association to control the destiny of the world” are over. Not only because the members represent only about 40 percent of the global economic performance, but because they are politically weak and even Trump’s stomping is based only conditionally on actual power.
The conflict with Russia does not stop at sanctions
But not only in La Malbaie, Canada, must Europeans realize that they are not steering the fate of the world. The conflict with Russia, triggered by Europe with the participation of the USA, has negative consequences.
The dispute was launched in 2014 to move Russia to abandon the Crimean peninsula. It is not mentioned that NATO and the EU wanted to tie Ukraine to themselves and that the Russian Black Sea Fleet stationed in the Crimea would find itself in a NATO state.
Only: The Crimea is still Russian.
On top of that. Recently, a bridge connects the Crimea with the Russian mainland.
For years, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has been diligently building up a threat scenario that claims Russia is a risk for Europe. With success: NATO’s military installations on the EU’s eastern border have already reached a considerable extent.
The people in Moscow have been reminded of the traditional defense maxim: If danger threatens from the west, Russia must be present also in the Mediterranean, which is stated in the textbooks of the Russian military academy.
As a result, Syria’s President Assad is supported as Russian naval units are stationed in the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean, and since 2015, a Russian military airbase has also been in operation in Hmeimim.
In the event of a crisis, it is also planned that the Russian Black Sea Fleet stationed in the Crimea should become active in the Mediterranean. But it would have to have free travel through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, which are controlled by Turkey. Which also explains Putin’s interest in turning the NATO member state Turkey toward Russia.
This development is not noted in the EU. Regardless, the sanctions against Russia, which are damaging to all, will be extended and lawsuits will be filed against the change of Crimea to Russia. Turkey is struggling to maintain an arrangement to run problematic camps for refugees. And Syria seems to be very far from Brussels.
Iran has world power ambitions
Yet, beyond the murderous war of terror in the country, Syria is currently centrally important for world politics. Here, the view of the map must be directed a little further east. Iran wants to move up to become a world power, pursuing a clear concept: it wants to connect Iran to neighboring countries in the west. Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are all In a row.
Iraq was an indomitable opponent of Iran under Saddam Hussein. Iraq, through the US intervention, lost its brutal leader and seemed to fall to Iran.
For years now, the terrorist organization Islamic State, which was not accidentally built up militarily by a general from the ranks of Saddam, is slowing down here. Iran is currently waiting for ISIS to be destroyed by the US and Russia. Then the way to Iraq would be free again.
In Syria, President Assad is closely associated with Iran and is seen as a partner in Teheran.
In Lebanon, the powerful terrorist organization Hezbollah sees itself as an outpost of Iran and calls the Iranian leader Khamenei as its chief.
The EU does not take note of Iran’s aspirations.
Therefore, the agreement was concluded in 2015, in which Iran pledged not to build atomic bombs. In return, the hitherto existing economic sanctions have been lifted and now in the EU they have hopes of orders in the billions.
In view of this perspective, the United States is getting sharply criicized from Brussels for their canceling of the agreement.
In Brussels, one overlooks the Iranian ambitions of power as well as their oft repeated announcements that Israel needs to be destroyed.
The non-existent European foreign policy also does not take note of the different trends in the region and therefore does not become active.
President Assad can not question the relationship with Iran, but does not want to become Teheran’s vassal.
He is supported by President Putin, who is interested in a strong partner on the Mediterranean.
Putin has a multi-faceted policy towards Iran.
On the one hand, Iran is celebrated as a friend of Russia and is supplied with nuclear power plants that can facilitate material for nuclear weapons easier than Western types.
Even when trying to keep the price of oil as high as possible, one pulls together.
Last but not least, the Russian leadership wants to show the dominant Islamic and often extremist population in the south of the country that they have the best relations with the islamic state [Lower case! Iran is meant — Tr].
On the other hand, Putin does not want Iran to dominate Iraq and Syria. A new world power in the south of Russia, which could instrumentalize the Muslims in Russia, would burden the domestic political situation of Russia.
China’s complex relationship with Iran
Iran not only looks to the West, focusing on Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, but also to the East, where China is just becoming a world power.
China has been buying oil and gas from Iran for a long time and is building large infrastructure projects in Iran.
Iran plays a key role in the powerfully launched “New Silk Road” project, which aims to connect China with Europe.
The termination of the US nuclear deal entails sanctions against European companies that have interests in the US and continue to cooperate with Iran. Therefore, engagement in Iran is no longer possible for many European companies and banks. A gap that Chinese partners are now stepping up to fill.
At the current meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is dominated by President Xi, Iran’s President Rouhani is present as a guest. In Europe, Qingdao is little known, although the beer brewed there, Tsingtao, is drunk worldwide.
Close economic cooperation with Russia and China is of key importance to Teheran, especially after the termination of the US nuclear agreement. The country, which is heavily dependent on oil exports and, moreover, economically a developing country, can only successfully operate its global political ambitions if it gains economic strength. In Moscow and Beijing, however there is no interest in Iran becoming a world power. Even in these shifts, Europe is not present.
Europe’s politicians are becoming managers of a tourist folklore.
If Europe’s representatives return from the G-7 summit to their state chancelleries after this weekend, they should realize that the 28, soon 27 small states, play no role in world politics. Perhaps the seemingly powerful will wake up and realize that only a truly united Europe can shape the development of the globe. The chances for this are bad as one EU Member State after another is rediscovering nationalism and wanting to continue a supposedly glorious past, which at best is still interesting as a folklore for tourists. So the world is dominated by the US and China. Russia would like to be the third world power, but is economically too weak to hold this position. Although India is on the upswing, but at least for the time being, it has to content itself with criticizing China’s arrogance at the Shanghai Summit.
Ronald Barazon was for many years editor in chief of the Salzburger Nachrichten. He is one of the most regarded business journalists in Europe and current editor in chief of the newspaper Der Volkswirt. He also is a moderator on the Austrian Public Radio.