We have just lived through a momentous day in European and world history, which has gone completely unnoticed.
Early this morning the eurozone states led by Germany agreed a plan for the eurozone. All the focus has been on the plan and whether or not it will succeed. For various reasons I doubt it will succeed. However that is not what is important about today.
For the first time since the First World War a crisis in Europe has played out and the US has played no part in it. The eurozone states agreed their plan without reference to Washington. Britain, Washington’s key European ally, was excluded from the part of the meeting where the plan was agreed. Instead the French President told the British Prime Minister in the crudest language to get lost. As soon as the eurozone agreed its plan the French President on behalf of the eurozone states telephoned not his counterpart in Washington but his counterpart in Beijing. Where at any time following the end of the First World War European states looking for financial aid would have sent a representative to Washington they are now sending one to Beijing.
If China contributes to the European stabilisation fund as it is being asked to do then that automatically makes Beijing a partner in the euro project. The same applies to China’s ally Russia if it is asked to contribute as well. It is surely not a coincidence that at the same time that a eurozone representative is flying to China the German Chancellor is flying not to Washington but Moscow. The eurozone states are turning to China and Russia not because they want to but because they have to. The shift in the balance of world economic power means that for the first time since 1920 Washington no longer has money to help them whilst Beijing and Moscow do.
All of this would have been completely inconceivable only a few years ago. On major international issues Germany, the undisputed leader of the eurozone, has over the last decade repeatedly aligned itself with Beijing and Moscow and against Washington and London. Germany opposed the wars against Iraq and Libya, is lukewarm in its support for sanctions against Iran and strongly opposes further NATO expansion in the former Soviet space. In other words Germany’s international stance is starting to mirror its economic interests and is converging with that of Beijing and Moscow and of the other BRICS states. In the light of what has just happened at the eurozone summit this trend will now surely intensify with Germany drifting further towards Beijing and Moscow to the point where Germany effectively becomes the sixth BRICS state.
The US’s dominant position in Europe has been key to its status as the world’s leading power. As of today that position has never looked weaker. Today may one day be remembered as a key day in the process whereby Europe broke away.