Operation «European Union»: the Cost of Freedom
Elena PUSTOVOITOVA | 25.06.2012 | WORLD / Europe

Operation «European Union»: the Cost of Freedom

The hysteria currently surrounding the global economic problems serves to divert the public attention from the arising trends in the US foreign policy. One gets an impression that in the foreseeable future the five countries seeking to shake off Washington's pervasive dictate – China, Brazil, India, Turkey, and, of course, Russia – will top the list of the US foes.

Long accustomed to dominating the international politics, Washington will not tolerate other countries' eating away at its international status simply because they are about to catch up with the US in terms of the economic output or somehow have managed to preserve serious ambitions rooted in their respective histories. The US, a totally business-minded nation, runs the world with the help of the US dollar, a currency made completely nominal by the Bretton Woods accord, and is equipped with a military force of unsurpassed proportions whose mission is to maintain the last empire's global grip, with no regard for national borders. At the moment, US mercenaries are building bastions of American influence in the Balkan region, the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, while Europe obsessed with globalism readily sacrifices its sovereignty to institutions like the IMF. 

On inception, the EU was a conglomerate of countries where the economic potentials and socioeconomic conditions varied widely across the ensemble. The Europeans used to be responsible borrowers and, at the time, did not dream of evening out the disparities – Germans lived in a country with the living standards far superior to those in Greece but, accordingly, paid more in taxes, while the Greeks could count on pensions which were higher than elsewhere in Europe. Pooling the resources could not make all the best – the living standards and the pensions combined, for example - available uniformly. Rather, the consent to jointly build the EU implied that every one of the partners involved was to give away a fair share of its resources. In no time, the arrangement proved to be a trap.  

Transnational corporations invested heavily in higher production volumes and swelled on convincing returns as the European common market – free of borders and custom dues – came into being, but the new sales niches mostly opened in the relatively weak economies such as Greece, Spain, and Portugal. As a result, the EU largely owed its initial economic growth to the underdevelopment of a part of its membership. The European integration reinforced economic imbalances, making the strong stronger and further depressing the small. Biggest European market players virtually bulldozed modestly proportioned companies in peripheral countries, unemployment climbed, but when the whole picture with the deficits popping up uncontrollably became impossible to ignore, the only prescription Brussels was able to invent was to ruthlessly cut social spending. In other words, the Greek pensioners are supposed to agree to survive on less to keep the European grands afloat. The public opposition to such a strategy is absolutely explainable, and it should be taken into account that the weakest who fell victims to Eurointegration are, in the above sense, all Greeks. Lured into the EU with pledges of unprecedented prosperity, within a historically short period of time they had to wake up to bitter disappointments.

The rising opposition in Greece must be a headache to the EU top brass, considering that, if Greece opts out of Euro, relaunches the Drachma, and starts to plant and market olives and like with no quotas in sight – and if a few others follow the lead – major European companies will be confronted with unwelcome competition, the myth of the beneficialness of Eurointegration for all will crumble, and the EU project will suffer a heavy blow. 

It is clear in this light that nothing less than the future of the EU is at stake in today's struggle over Greece. In the meantime, the financial heavyweights who take no interest in philosophy are panicked by the spill of Greek protests into fleeing from the country's market, and also cautiously stay clear of those of Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and, as it seems, even France. The corresponding governments have to turn to Brussels for financial assistance, which, in practice, means, bowing to Germany where, as noted in a recent Der Spiegel paper, retirement and investment funds are busily guessing where it is best to invest, with the German treasury being the eventual winner. Norges Bank Investment Management CEO Yngve Slyngstad, whose occupation is to decide what to do with a total of Euro 450b, says that in the past investors sought out risk-free assets with healthy returns but are currently confronted with masses of assets which are risky while promising no returns. The annual gains from investments as posted by Norway's state fund measured 6% in 1999-2007 to subsequently sink to 1%. According to Der Spiegel, the reasons why things turned that bad are that the withdrawal of Greece from the currency union is already almost real, Spain fights desperately for financial independence, and masses of clients are zeroing their bank accounts in South European countries. Given such a background, the relocation of capitals to Germany, Europe's safest heaven, is gaining momentum – last May the German finance minister took out two-year loans which were, simply put, interest-free. These days lenders feeding money to the German treasury in ten-year loans are happy with 1.2% rates. The returns on US and Japanese bonds, by the way, are similarly miserable. Der Spiegel therefore arrives at the frightening conclusion that, absent the bulk of rewarding assets, investing quickly mutates into money annihilation. 

One is tempted to ask in the context, who the professional investors currently known to sit on over Euro 60 trillion are? The truth is that the financial parasites are a faceless breed, not to mention that neither of them has nationality or homeland. Returns being their only concern, they need not worry, say, about the plight of pensioners in Athens. Europe's unraveling financial crisis is a triumph of the financial capital, and ordinary Europeans are offered no choice but to pick up the tab. 

Clueless as to where to put to work the billions of Euro flowing into the country, Volker Blau, a financial officer with the Pacific Investment Management Company which handles the funds of Allianz and Europe's other top insurers complains that the insurance business in Germany is like a Porsche with only one gear – in Germany, life insurance alone absorbs Euro 734b. For today's Greece, it must be noted, the cost of freedom is a fraction of the above – Euro 130b.

It appears likely that Athens will be given the amount, but, if the Greek national bank can be trusted on that, the bailout terms will cause the country to shed 6% of its GDP already next year. Calculated on a four-year basis, the internationally assisted decline will reach 19% against the backdrop of the shocking 24% unemployment. On the other hand, if money from the EU does not come, Greece will be unable to hand out paychecks to the state sector employees and will slide into a messy default internationally. Overall, the cost of freedom is rising, and that must be the real objective behind the operation codenamed the European Union. 

The US reaction to the problems facing the EU, which is Washington's main partner in trade and in every considerable international pursuit, is, shall we say, curious. An opinion piece in The National Interest stresses that the collapse of the Westphalian system of sovereign nation-states, brought about mostly by the US efforts and manifest in the demise of the regimes of late S. Milosevic, S. Hussein, and M. Gaddafi, “is not a bad thing at all” for the US interventionists, regardless of political creed. Nor does the crisis in Europe provoked by the Euro-Atlantist corporate lobby bother the US as the world's number one problem. The National Interest cites as the key issue the “the growing triumphalism of several empires manqué” in various parts of the world. China predictably ranks highest among the trouble-makers: “In East Asia, China is increasingly flexing its political, economic and military muscles as a commanding power to which others must perform the kowtow ritual of subservience”. Furthermore, “In the Middle East and Central Asia, Turkey is exploiting its newfound economic and political prowess to extend its influence over the many states that once constituted the Ottoman Empire. And Russia is drawing upon the power and influence it derives from its energy resources to pursue a neo-czarist policy in Europe and in the outlying regions of the old Russian Empire. Nor should one overlook the influence in South Asia of India, whose economy dwarfs that of its neighbors and where the Moghuls once were the dominant force, and Brazil’s inheritance of the Portuguese Empire’s mantle in Africa, facilitated by its own increasing economic clout. The imperial legacies of these states have provided impetus to their nations to cut a greater figure not only within their regions but also on the world stage”. Alarmingly for The National Interest, “all believe that the United States, and even more so Europe, no longer should monopolize decision making for the international community. They reject the post-World War II settlement as outdated and will not automatically accept American leadership on any given issue”. By the way, “the post-World War II settlement” in question denied the former Soviet Union the right to exist, as it currently denies the aforementioned five countries the right to greater international visibility: “There is no indication that the sense of empire, and of the entitlement that accompanies it, is waning in any of these five countries. On the contrary, it seems to get stronger with each passing year. Washington policy makers, currently obsessed with that other imperial legatee, Iran, would do well to recognize that there is more to these states than impressive economic growth, military expansion and political influence. Americans are known for their lack of historical sensitivity. They will need all the sensitivity they can muster in order to deal successfully with states whose claim to a greater role on the world stage is motivated as much by past glory as by present success.”

Implicitly, that reflects the central point – the cost of breaking free from the US dictate is going to be even higher than that of outliving the consequences of the operation codenamed the European Union.