President Obama’s foreign policy is so confused and convoluted that it’s time for new leadership to take the reins of the Free World. It can’t be Germany because of its history, and it can’t be the UK because it is not a central player on the European continent. That leaves only France. Charles De Gaulle, your moment has finally arrived.
De Gaulle never trusted American leadership (especially under the Democratic Party) and desired an independent French military to go with an independent European policy. But the Russian Soviets feared that De Gaulle (in the decade of the 1960’s) would side with the Atlantic alliance in case of war with NATO and Germany. And the Russian Soviets were not about to leave central Europe without the demilitarization of Germany and the withdrawal of US troops from the continent. So De Gaulle’s aspiration for French leadership of an independent Europe fell by the wayside. It lay victim to a bipolar Cold War which was eventually won by the US.
Now, however, a new cold war has arisen over the unipolar American-European architecture constructed by NATO in the wake of the Soviet collapse. NATO’s complete takeover of the Warsaw Pact and its potential encroachment in the Ukraine (on Moscow’s doorstep) have created conditions ripe for a serious breach of European security and peace. But solving the Ukraine crisis would mean solving the new division in Europe. In this respect, the NATO alliance offers little in the way of leadership directed toward a new security regime. How could it be otherwise, without either bringing the Russians into the alliance or for the alliance to go out of business altogether? When faced with these two choices, the Obama administration seems to be like a deer caught in the geopolitical headlights.
A second cold war on the European continent will be nothing like the first one. In fact, it will be far more dangerous. Already, hundreds of US military advisers have been positioned in the Ukraine to assist that country’s military endeavors against pro-Russian forces in the east. Meanwhile the pressure mounts from the US Congress to supply Ukraine with the weaponry it needs to defend itself from Moscow- reinforced rebels. The rebels’ aim is to create far greater autonomy (or federation) within the Russian-speaking provinces of the Ukraine. This has all the makings of a far greater disaster than anything that occurred in the four-decade aftermath of WWII. Like the Cuban missile crisis, which brought Soviet nuclear forces within ninety miles of US territory, a proxy war (or worse, a direct conflict on Russia’s border) could quickly escalate to include intermediate nuclear forces. And such a war could spread to include the Baltic states and even Poland, or beyond.
So the issue is much, much broader than just autonomy in the Ukraine. It involves all of Europe and the Middle East as well. Russia will keep the US and NATO pinned down with as much trouble-making policies in the Near East as can be conjured up within the offices of the Kremlin. Moscow knows that Obama will do next to nothing to stop Iran in Syria, and the same appears true in Iraq. But unlike the Obama administration, Russia also knows that Iran will not readjust its behavior once a weak nuclear deal is achieved. Moscow’s relationship with Tehran strengthens, as Washington has compartmentalized its nuclear negotiations under the delusion that such a deal will somehow lead to the prospect of Iranian normalization. Now, after its announced S-300 missile deal, Russia appears to be using the Ayatollahs as a hedge against NATO policy in Europe. Could Iran be brought into an anti-Western camp led by advanced Russian weapon systems and its own potential nuclear arsenal? Moscow, looking at NATO on its doorstep, might just find such a provocative Iranian policy to its advantage. But if Obama isn’t worried about this policy, the Europeans should be. Events appear to be careening out of control. Under US leadership, without a Middle East vision and with a European policy trapped between militancy and isolationism, Charles De Gaulle must be turning over in his grave.
Indeed all of these recent geopolitical happenings in Europe and the Middle East greatly worry France. Paris has never had good relations with Islamic Iran. In fact, on the P5+1 nuclear negotiations, it has been France (and not the US) who have taken a hard line on achieving the best deal. And if a good deal is not possible, Paris would toughen the sanction regime against Tehran. Meanwhile France understands that on the question of NATO expansion and the Baltic states (and whether or not Obama must stand up to Putin over the war in the Ukraine) time is running very short. The pressures for action on the American President — coming from Centrists in his own party (Hilary included), Independents and the most of the Republican Right — are definitely Cold War-like. But Paris still plays second fiddle to the US on both Europe and the Middle East. Could that relationship change? Why not what does the French leadership have to lose? These new times are getting very dangerous.
But bringing Russia into NATO is out of the question. That would simply mean the isolation of China and a replay of the mistake made toward the Kremlin after the Soviet Union fell. What good would pushing a new cold war onto China’s doorstep do? So Paris would be in an enormous quandary to explain what would replace NATO in order to fix the brinkmanship current on the European continent. But something must replace it. Also, France could hardly take leadership of the Free World while a vast Sunni-Shia-Israeli nuclear arms race plays itself out in the Middle East. With Obama’s short sunset clause on his framework nuclear agreement, and within the broader context of a conventional regional proxy war in the Middle East, the new cold war divisions in Europe have now fallen directly on Jerusalem’s doorstep as well. Ironic as it might seem, the future of Israel and the future of a new Europe appear linked. The Middle East is tangled enough without European redlines intruding. But that is exactly what appears to be going on, as Obama’s leadership has led us to a new cold war in Europe and a potential nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
In order to secure both Europe and the Middle East, Paris and Moscow must work together toward a Europe free of offensive conventional forces and a Middle East within a nuclear-weapons-free zone. This, of course, will require Jerusalem’s cooperation. France and Russia need an international project to boost their world leadership credentials, and Israel needs a solution to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Since Obama offers nothing but the vanity of his own dubious legacy, it is up to Jerusalem to show the way toward the complete and total isolation of Iran (and its North Korea style nuclear weapons program). Only a proposed nuclear-weapons-free zone could alter the current dynamic and achieve the international support needed to establish Paris and Moscow as the responsible leaders of the G-5 and the P5+1. With a major project in the Middle East, France and Russia could begin to sow the seeds necessary to construct an all-European, defensively integrated, reduced conventional arms architecture to replace NATO. This new military structure would be devoid of US troops and would encompass a Europe from the Urals to the Atlantic. Charles De Gaulle’s vision might yet become a reality.
As both Europe and the Middle East drift, the status quo simply cannot hold. The US has been, and remains, a status quo power. Only international cooperation leading to UN Security Council coordination will suffice to bring order to the present chaos. A second Cold War and a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is a status quo nightmare scenario. It is past time for some out-of-the-box diplomatic thinking. It is time for new international leadership and a new global peace paradigm. The status quo ante of military power and national anarchy will simply not hold. The defensive military integration of Europe — without US participation, and directed as an internal defense of the European continent only — is a workable alternative to the current and fast-eroding Russia-NATO deadlock.
The same is true for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. Without such a structure, the Middle East will go nuclear within a decade. We have an additional Democratic Party administration to thank for this. Remember, it was just twenty short years ago that another Democratic Party leader, President Bill Clinton, thought he had a nuclear legacy deal with North Korea. Now China is telling the world that the rogue regime in Pyongyang (with close ties to Iran) is in possession of probably twenty nuclear bombs. Twenty years is twice as long as Obama’s short framework deal. As the saying goes: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me! Paris, Moscow and Jerusalem — who else is going to lead?