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Janus-Faced Europe

Fuck the EU. These were the words uttered in February by the US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland during a secretly monitored conversation she had with the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R Pyatt. Most of the media attention which followed focused on the undiplomatic language. However, the substance of the recorded conversation was actually more embarrassing. The two diplomats were casually discussing who they intended to see comprise the proposed Ukrainian coalition and how they would ensure that their preferences were realised. One method they mentioned, and agreed on, was harnessing the UN to their cause. The UN was preferred to the EU. Indeed they spoke of its general secretary, Ban Ki-moon as if he were a lowly official whom they could direct as they saw fit. No bad language for Mr Ban! But the most interesting question is why exactly Ms Nuland felt hostile to the EU and what her hostility reveals. The hostility is surprising in that the EU was engaged in a campaign to bring Ukraine into its orbit. And isn’t that what the Americans would want? The explanation is that the EU speaks with a forked tongue. Over the past decade the union has not taken the trouble of resolving the reality that its vital interests and those of its longtime US ally are not identical into forging a coherent foreign policy. The Americans, who have been left on more than one occasion to deal with messy European contradictions, have sometimes responded with irritation. One can have a certain sympathy. As it happens the Americans are now also struggling for foreign policy coherence. This is largely because earlier comforting certainties have become unstuck. Before questions arose around the effective reach of the US military and its capacity to engineer satisfactory regime change, America aspired to what was sometimes referred to as “full spectrum dominance”, which means being the boss of everyone. Things were certainly simpler in those days. Under Clinton and Bush this simple strategy, as applied in Europe, involved Nato expansion eastwards in a partnership with the EU designed to extend western political culture and keep Russia down in the hole. This, in large measure, explains why the US has favoured further EU integration and has been hostile to Britain’s blocking tactics. The EU was not to be, as Japan had been during the Cold War, merely an economic power. It was to…

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