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Europe, The Naive Power

Standing alone against the United States and China, Europe must wake up in 2019. And come together.

Brussels morning
Brussels morning
Nicolas Barré

PARIS — Europe is alone. Alone strategically and militarily, as demonstrated once again by President Trump's end-of-year decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, leaving a large void in the Middle East. Alone economically as well, against two blocs — the United States and China — which, each in its own way, systematically target Europe's industrial forces (aeronautics, automotive, pharmaceuticals, steel, chemicals) and have undertaken the digital colonization of the Old Continent with a dual objective: data control and payment control.

This great lesson of the past year, if not decade, calls for a strategic and political awakening. Does Europe have the capacity to do so? There's no doubt about that. Does it have the means to do so? Whether it's on the military, economic or financial front, the answer is no. Still, this should be the next generation's great project. Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, after all, are powerful mobilizing agents: If we don't wake up now to the provocations of one or to the new roads of expansion of the other, when will we?

Europe must acquire its autonomy in terms of security. "It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in the spring of 2018. "We need a Europe which can defend itself better alone, without just depending on the United States, in a more sovereign manner," Emmanuel Macron said during the 100th-anniversary commemorations of World War I. Sure. But there can be no sovereign security policy at European level if you only devote 1.3% of your GDP to it. Our leaders know this. What are they doing?

Industrial power is key to strategic autonomy. Do we know that?

Faced with two major economic powers who are doing their utmost to protect their vital interests, Europe is a naive power. The evidence for this is abundant. Six European countries — Belgium, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands and perhaps soon Finland — have chosen American combat aircraft (the F35 developed by Lockheed Martin) for their defense rather than European aircraft ... which have no chance of ever being sold to the United States or to countries that are exclusive domain of the U.S., such as Japan or Israel.

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II — Photo: U.S. Air Force

Another example is the fact that one of Brussels' first decisions in 2019 could be to ban the merger between Alstom and Siemens, which, if it were to happen, would create a rail champion capable of competing with the two Chinese giants. Industrial power is one of the keys to strategic autonomy. The United States and China know this. Do we?

As for financial sovereignty, the Iranian sanctions case has shown that Europe has none, despite the success of the euro. The dollar's spider web irresistibly brings us back under the influence of the American legal system, again depriving Europe of its autonomy. What are we doing to resist?

Let us hope that, in 2019, Europe will wake up and come together on these issues of sovereignty. And that the peoples of Europe realize that our rivals dream of one thing only: that the populists win the next European elections in May.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

After Abbas: Here Are The Three Frontrunners To Be The Next Palestinian Leader

Israel and the West have often asked: Where is the Palestinian Mandela? The divided regimes between Gaza and the West Bank continues to make it difficult to imagine the future Palestinian leader. Still, these three names are worth considering.

Photo of Mahmoud Abbas speaking into microphone

Abbas is 88, and has been the leading Palestinian political figure since 2005

Thaer Ganaim/APA Images via ZUMA
Elias Kassem

Updated Dec. 5, 2023 at 12:05 a.m.

Israel has set two goals for its Gaza war: destroying Hamas and releasing hostages.

But it has no answer to, nor is even asking the question: What comes next?

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the return of the current Palestinian Authority to govern post-war Gaza. That stance seems opposed to the U.S. Administration’s call to revitalize the Palestinian Authority (PA) to assume power in the coastal enclave.

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But neither Israel nor the U.S. put a detailed plan for a governing body in post-war Gaza, let alone offering a vision for a bonafide Palestinian state that would also encompass the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority, which administers much of the occupied West Bank, was created in1994 as part of the Oslo Accords peace agreement. It’s now led by President Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded Yasser Arafat in 2005. Over the past few years, the question of who would succeed Abbas, now 88 years old, has largely dominated internal Palestinian politics.

But that question has gained new urgency — and was fundamentally altered — with the war in Gaza.

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