On Monday, March 13, 2017, the Brookings Institution held a distinguished panel to discuss the book written by James Kirchick – “The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age.”

Panelists: James Kirchick (Foreign Policy Initiative), Constanze Selzenmuller (Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center on the United States and Europe) Leon Wieseltier (Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Foreign Policy) Robert Kagan (Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Project on International Order and Strategy)

James Kirchick argues that a specter of populist nationalism is upon Europe, especially in France, Germany, and Italy. The parties are anti-establishment, from the European Union and hostile towards America. The speaker sustains that there are economic and security threats, and there is a need to consider Russian expansionism. The speaker maintains that Donald Trump has a 19th-century view of the world. He believes that President Trump wants Russian help regarding the Middle East which can pose threats to Europe.

The book “The End of Europe” regards, the slow deterioration of European integrity. The author perceives a reset of the continents security order as a result of the Kremlin meddling in other foreign governments, to install them to supplant the values driven rules bases system which Lavrov considers a Post – West world order. The speaker expresses that EU and NATO are obstacles for Moscow’s interests, and Russia’s long-term ideology is to break these institutions from within. The Kremlin’s outcome is the Finlandizing of Western Europe, in which countries want to join Russia, and the motherland will not need to move any soldiers, by pushing on open doors, exploiting fears of terrorism and economic issues. Russian narratives find fertile ground in Europe as there are fears and revelation’s that continue to breed discontent.

The author underlines that Victor Orban underwent a transformation from a liberal anti-communist narrative to Putin’s biggest ally. The embrace of Trump represents a change to the global right. As fears of demographics and societal change have taken hold in Europe, Russia has insinuated itself in Western Policy as much as it has not been seen since the Soviet Union. He believes that protectionism is wrong and that NATO is the backbone of our security. The speaker stresses that it is imperative for the US to pivot back to Europe. The threat Russia poses today is higher than that in the Cold War because now it is more dissolute, not stuck behind the Iron Wall. Russia is skilled at fighting asymmetrically.

Kirchick underlines that Europe needs to support more political cohesion and that there is a needs to depart from the US thinking that the European integration is not a threat to the US but an ally, a force multiplier. He states that nothing the US has done throughout history has been done without Europe. During the Obama administration, there was a delegation of a larger power to individual EU countries, which could be seen as wrong.

 Constanze Selzenmuller opinionates that Trump administration sees Europe through the metaphor of a “trainer bicycle” where he is taking the training wheels off and letting the states be on their own. She supports the idea that Europe had started becoming too depended on the US, and she underlines that Berlin understood the message.

Seltzenmuller sustains that in Germany, they are actively supporting the sanctions put on Russia. The refugee crisis she sees it as doomed either way as for whether or not they took the refugees in it would have looked bad for the country. There are increases in German defense budget (8%). People are angry at Russia because they are meddling in the German political space, and with the European project. The Russians do not create vulnerabilities, but the European countries let them happen. There is a need to address those weaknesses.

Leon Wieseltier thinks that the new US administration’s foreign policy plans are incoherent and incompetent. He sustains his argument by exemplifying the fact that Trump had been dismissive regarding NATO throughout the campaign, but once the President was asked by Angela Merkel, he not only backed the US’s support for NATO but also for the European Union. Everything that President Trump is currently doing is assuring allies, as a business person assures clients of markets, as he just wants everybody to calm down.

Further, the speaker saw the Obama administration as damaging. He thinks that he put a pink bubble over the perception of people by which war was no longer a problem and that the Cold War was over. The former President put it that the only Foreign policy issues were regarding climate change. The speaker things that Europe has always had its dark sides. European nationalism lacked any natural sense of multi-ethnicity, as a demographic constitution for a democratic equality. The old question of sameness and difference of Europe is at play due to all the immigrants and refugees. The speaker believes that there are only two options: There is a need for Europe to breaks through to a genuine sense to the legitimacy of multi-ethnicity as the social composition of the democratic state. The second option being a resurgence of fascism. Only after these problems are dealt with does the speaker think that Europe will be able to deal with Russian Expansionism.

 Constanza Selzenmuller responds by arguing there is a Hapsburg empire and the Roman empire. Multi-ethnicity and tolerance of religion have been a factor in European history. In the 19th and 20th century they had a disastrous revision, and most horrifically by the Nazi’s.

She is analyzing that the West was happy with the liberal world, and a rising middle class. Now the West thinks that they underestimated historical and geographic threats within Europe and around it. Suddenly they were surrounded by friends since 1989, and they didn’t realize they pushed out the security issues to the periphery. It is impossible to ignore today. He does not see this particular Russian government and the elites that underpin it as our friends. Unlike the Americans, they don’t have the luxury of choosing who they can be friends with. She is as scared of Russian disintegration, and what immigration flows it may bring to Europe as much as she is worried about expansionism. She believes that the Germans came to terms with the ideas of Trump and other administrations to back the European Project.

Moreover, Constanza is scared by a Le Pen victory. Germany has not been the leader of Europe in a long time. Now that is very wobbly for a variety of reasons and London has had an enormous influence. The politics of France are the tipping points for Europe. She thinks that may lead to a reassurance of European nationalism.

Eastern Europe

The speaker exemplifies that in 1989 after the right of self-determination was given back to Germany; one can understand why the German people will stand up for self-determination and for nations to choose their alliances. The NATO membership process for Georgia and Ukraine were problematic because as a framework it was not sufficiently encouraging on democratic and economic transformation and there was too much focus on military contribution e.g. for the Iraq war, which resulted in a skewed the of individual countries.

She perceives that that in regions of Eastern Europe, the EU membership process, worked only for countries that had well established national state structures, but that it was harder and undermining for countries that have no vital state structures. The speaker exemplifies Romania and Bulgaria as countries that have struggled in adopting all the EU rules.

James Kirchick stresses that a country to watch is the Check Republic because the President has called for a referendum regarding the EU. Russia has an enormous influence in the country, a lot of investment, and far more diplomats occupying the Embassies in the state. There is a lot of hostility to migrants in the Check Republic. People don’t understand that they are fed this information. Further other countries to watch would be Slovenia and Poland. The government in Poland works to Russia’s advantage because the relationship with Germany has deteriorated. Poland was the only country to oppose one of its members being re-elected. It is confusion in Europe to have this power. It is the four Visegrad countries to watch.

Synthesis by: Patricia Besciu – all opinions are those of speaker – no personal ideas included

For more information, visit: https://www.brookings.edu/events/the-end-of-europe-dictators-demagogues-and-the-coming-dark-age/