Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson tried to show Americans how Washington exploited Western Europe
Tucker Carlson, famous on Fox News, recently met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Budapest, Hungary. The journalist pointed out that the destruction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline had put a strain on the economy of the European Union and mentioned that the world was “reset” in response to the conflict in Ukraine and the support promised by the West to Kyiv.
Carlson raises some good questions, and an important one to elaborate on is the fact that the EU economy has lagged considerably since the outbreak of war last year. A June Financial Times article titled “Europe has fallen behind America and the gap is widening‘ details how the EU is now significantly dependent on the United States for its technological, security and economic needs.
In terms of hard numbers, Jeremy Shapiro and Jana Puglierin of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank said: “In 2008, the EU economy was slightly larger than that of the United States: 16.2 billion dollars against 14.7 billion dollars. By 2022, the US economy had reached $25 billion, while the EU and UK combined had only reached $19.8 billion. The US economy is now almost a third larger. It’s over 50% bigger than the EU without the UK.
The article goes on to describe a European Union that lags far behind the United States and China in terms of quality universities, a less than pristine start-up environment, and one that lacks the key advantages of its transatlantic counterpart – namely an energy cheap. The conflict in Ukraine has had an impact on the latter to the point that European companies pay three or four times more than their American competitors, Washington being independent in energy and benefiting from a large domestic supply. Meanwhile, Russia’s energy is declining, European factories are closing en masse, and industry executives are worried about the region’s future competitiveness.
The ECFR has published its own report on the matter in April, which is much more direct in describing the situation as a kind of “vassalization”. The summary of this report notes that the war in Ukraine has revealed the EU’s main dependencies on the United States, that over the course of a decade the bloc has fallen behind the United States. in virtually all key metrics he is deadlocked by disagreements and is looking to Washington for leadership.
The ECFR identified two causes for this situation. First, despite the widely understood decline of the United States relative to the rise of China, the transatlantic relationship has been skewed in favor of Washington over the past 15 years since the 2008 financial crisis. The Biden administration holds to exploit this and assert itself in the face of a disjointed Europe. Second, no one in the EU knows what greater strategic autonomy might look like – let alone agree to it if they did. There is no process to decide the future of the EU autonomously given the current status quo, which means US leadership is needed.
That paints a pretty interesting picture. Many commentators, myself included, have long documented the decline of the United States and attribute it to a number of factors: less attractive environment for foreign direct investment (FDI), financial instability, corruption, and domestic political unrest. This is, of course, relativized to China, which has experienced immense economic growth since the founding of the People’s Republic and particularly over the past four decades. But under the smokescreen of a fumbling America and a growing China, the EU has also lost its stature.
As for the two causes identified by the ECFR, they seem to overlap. Many of the key issues the EU has faced, from migration to the banking crisis to Covid-19, stem directly from the non-federal nature of the EU. And the current political crises are the result of Euroscepticism, that is, a reaction against what is perceived as Brussels excess by certain political organizations within the bloc. The EU is a complicated and sometimes cumbersome bureaucracy that is cherished by some, vilified by others and, according to these assumptions, is an obstacle to strategic autonomy.
The ECFR essentially advocates for the EU and Western European capitals to look into the transatlantic partnership, but on terms that are favorable to them. This includes the creation of an independent security architecture within and complementary to NATO, the creation of a sort of economic NATO and even the pursuit of a European nuclear weapons programme. At least the first two are acceptable, because abandoning the US altogether would be politically insane for the EU at this stage. It must certainly develop a transatlantic free trade agreement that puts an end to American trade protectionism.
However, the obvious point to help diversify Western Europe’s economic portfolio, reduce genuinely problematic dependencies and fuel growth is for the EU to develop peer-to-peer relations with the Global South. On the one hand, the European Parliament could now ratify the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) to help their companies access the Chinese market and tap into one of the largest consumer bases in the world. . I would also say, as I have done in the past, that the EU and China could cooperate – rather than compete – on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Global South because Europe’s historical ties, due to its colonialist past.
What is clear is that the EU must diversify and withdraw from the transatlantic relationship. With much talk about “de-risking”, or even “decoupling”, from China, Western Europe has actually found itself in a position where it is strategically dependent on Washington to the point of being downright vassalized. . This is a grim situation for the EU’s growth model and its hopes for strategic autonomy.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.