Given the ever-increasing turbulence in the euro-amerikan alliance, it would not be unrealistic to entertain the idea that a tipping point could soon be reached, and europe may soon be done with their long-standing imperial partner for good. Increasingly important infrastructure, trade and investment deals with China and Russia, the largest competitors to the united $tates in the realm of worldwide imperial hegemony, are forcing a rift in the western imperial bloc. Emmanuel Macron, the sitting french president and once thought to be a loyal companion candidate to the united $tates, has attended a “groundbreaking” summit with Putin on the questions of development and foreign relations. The summit ended with the a 1 billion dollar investment pledge on behalf of the french government to the Russian economy, a significant contribution to a “former” competitor’s future financial development.
In addition to this, the Chinese “Belt and Road” initiative has roped in several other high-profile european players, including germany, whose role as co-patriarch of the european union (along with france) holds incredible influence over lesser partners. This is by no means a one-sided endeavor, either. China and Russia are also making concerted efforts at times to expand these relationships, often to the detriment of the united $tates. Russia, just before Putin’s meeting with Macron, abandoned the u.$. dollar in international trade in favor of the euro, giving european finance in an incredibly powerful position if other BRICS countries were to follow suit. Naturally, this all spells disaster for the united $tates, which is being pushed further to the side with every new summit and comprehensive deal that they initially refused to take part in, but now are not even invited to.
But what does this mean for the european imperialists? Are they finding new all-weather friends in Beijing and Moscow? That is highly unlikely. The very nature of imperialism, especially in the new multipolar world, demands competition and sharpens contradictions between those with the means as the general crisis deepens. European states enter these agreements on a “patriotic” platform. Not necessarily one that recognizes national interest, or that even particularly advances it, but which advances the interests of those monopoly capitalists to whom the state is ultimately responsible. On this front, europe, Russia or China can only be good-weather friends, and given europe’s independent development since the formation of the european union, it is looking to reestablish itself formally as a primary contender in the world, out from under the shadow of increasingly unpredictable u.$. hegemony.
Moreover, the internal consistency of the european bloc is also in jeopardy, as national contradictions within the union sharpen as well. This is not only an issue between the greater and lesser imperial partners, such as greece and germany, but also the hegemons, such as germany and france. These contradictions are responsible for one of the largest economies in europe, the united kingdom, voting to leave the union altogether. It is difficult to reason that while national exceptionalism in the age of imperialism is once again rearing its head in a time of crisis, that they would be simultaneously considering long-term, equally sincere relations with countries they have a longstanding competitive relationship with. At the current moment, the great imperialist blocs are tending toward disintegration, rather than rapid integration.
Crisis is pushing all available competitors into alliances of expedience, not out of any fundamental realization on the basis of long-term interests. France breaks bread with Russia today, but certainly will opt out once they feel they have a better option, or if they feel that Russia’s influence in europe is deleterious to their own expansionist aims. It is reasonable to assume there is a degree of irrationality in the foreign relations of the major powers at this moment (for instance, at the time of writing, it was just announced that the u.$. Would indeed go ahead with steel tariff on mexico, kanada and the eu). But beneath the noise, there is an undeniable logic: the concentration of capital into the hands of the few, in a time where competition and crisis has risen to an all-time high, does not dispose itself well to the interests of peace and cooperation. In fact, as Lenin observed in WWI, these conditions propose only a comprehensive redivision of the world, not the peaceful success of one imperial bloc over the other by means of smooth talk and free trade.
Moreover, the disintegration of international institutions, such as the UN, have also lessened the likelihood of a peaceful transition in world leadership. The competition between the great powers happens largely outside its sphere of diplomacy, and therefore its ability to stop the metastasis of conflict. Even while europe takes advantage of deals it views as immediately beneficial with China and Russia, it refuses to recognize the Russian claim on Crimea, or the Chinese claim in the South China Sea. Russia nor China have given any new thought to their positions in either area due to these new relationships, and will not in the future. Russia continues to support calls for eu disintegration while continuing to form alliances and make deals on the basis of its continued existence. China uses europe’s periphery, in countries like Greece and Hungary, to make its ins in europe, while strengthening anti-russian and anti-eu sentiments in the process in places like the Hungary and the baltics. The militarization of the eastern frontier continues on, unimpeded, and the bipolar nature of foreign policy persists.
What we can gather from these new trade deals and warm relations, however, is that they give further evidence to a disintegration of international unity among western monopoly capital, as finance across the atlantic slides slowly into an absolute schism. On the one hand, this kind of multipolarity is good, as it lessens the overall weight of the imperial machinery resting on the shoulders of the Third World at any given moment, and gives new historic openings for seismic shifts in favor of proletarian politics. Yet, on the other hand, it also increases the likelihood of devastating inter-imperialist warfare. As a result we sit on the edge of immense possibility and equally immense danger. Europe’s “eastern pivot” is evidence not of a “new stability” in the world system, but its current spiraling instability.