Tripod with no legs
by Sandhya Jain on 26 Oct 2010 12 Comments
Even as the government probes the multiple scams associated with the recent Commonwealth Games, New Delhi would do well to reconsider our continued participation in this colonial relic. International power dynamics are rapidly changing and at least three organisations have simply lost their raison d’etre, viz., the Commonwealth, the European Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Thus, the political architecture erected by the colonial-capitalist west after World War II has crumbled; New Delhi has no stake in putting any of the Humpty Dumpties together again.


Eternal vigilance is the price of national sovereignty. Just weeks ago, as stone-pelting youth menaced the security forces maintaining law and order in Jammu & Kashmir, supercilious British commentators insisted that UK had a stake in the Indian state because Mirpuris (Muslims from Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan, who have been encouraged to be viciously anti-India) were British citizens. Does that mean every ethnic-religious diaspora group ensconced in the British bosom can stake claim to territory across the globe?


Clearly Britain wants to reinvent the Commonwealth as a political platform for some kind of hegemony in the international arena, as Germany’s domination of Europe and the European Union is growing, and changing European (read German) attitudes towards Russia have rendered NATO defunct.


The real British attitude towards the Commonwealth showed when Queen Elizabeth II decided on May 30 to skip the Games opening ceremony on the pretext of heavy workload, though the schedule is known years in advance. The crisis in Kashmir became full blown in June. Now, the petering out of the agitation on account of New Delhi’s tightening the noose has triggered nostalgia to revive Commonwealth ties. London wistfully acknowledges that Europe is in terminal decline, while former colonies like India, Malaysia, Singapore (in Asia), and Canada (North America) are rising economies.


Obviously, a course correction is in order because the European Union has failed to evolve into a European super-state, and Germany calls the shots in Europe. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had dubbed the EU “an unnecessary and irrational project” and British participation “a political error of the first magnitude.”


When the EU expanded from 15 members to 25 in 2004, the new constitution had to be ratified by all members to become operational in November 2006. In May 2005, France voted against the EU constitution; The Netherlands followed in June, while Britain decided not to vote at all. Thus, the EU fizzled out in 2005 itself, but the falsehood was perpetuated by including Bulgaria and Romania in the organisation in January 2007. The powers behind the idea of the European Union dumped the constitution and amended two existing treaties which were signed by the heads of state in Lisbon in December 2007, though this also had to be ratified by all 27 member nations. It finally became law in December 2009.


But the EU has no raison d’etre for precisely the same reason that NATO has become defunct, namely, the rise of Germany in the twenty-first century. Under Chancellor Angela Merkel, Berlin is determined not to fall into the old traps that led to its decimation in two world wars, and made it the potential battleground of the Cold War. Hence, Germany will not unite with island-powers like Britain and America against land-powers and near-neighbours like Russia. Her dependence on Russian natural gas to meet energy needs is critical to Berlin’s decision to defang NATO. That leaves Britain, the traditional ‘honest broker’ in Europe, without a role in the international arena.


Ironically, Germany benefitted most from the European Union and NATO. It gained economic and military security, and friendship with France. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 ended the Cold War; unified Germany, and nixed possible threats from the east.


Two decades after unity, Germany has emerged as the dominant power in Europe, to the discomfort of France and Britain, which can no longer manipulate it to assume the burden of hostility to France and Russia. In this interregnum, the former Soviet Union has revived as Russia and is returning to its old sphere of influence (what Moscow calls its ‘near abroad.’) Germany views this as inevitable and not unacceptable, to the mutual dismay of London and Washington.


This has ruptured NATO as a military force in Europe, as NATO was created precisely to contain Russian power. This became evident in 2008 when Germany opposed NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia, in Moscow’s backyard, as this was anathema to Moscow. Then, in the August 2008 Russo-Georgian war, Berlin remained aloof from US-UK-France hostility towards Russia.


The effective containment of Russian power on the European landmass requires ensuring the security of the Baltic nations and Poland. This means stationing NATO forces in the Baltics and in Poland, for which Germany is the natural logistical base and obvious source of manpower. But contemporary Germany has no appetite for fighting for Poland and the Baltics.


NATO is hollow without the German input, and Germany is unwilling to pay the economic and human price of keeping the organisation going. Under Angela Merkel, Germany has decided that the Russians can do what they like in the former Soviet Union, and Germany will not be crushed again between the ambitions of Britain and America on one hand, and Russian power and geo-strategic compulsions on the other. Without the cooperation of a land power in the vicinity of Russia, the Anglo-American challenge to Russia will wither away. With America tied down in Afghanistan, and not yet out of Iraq, NATO is effectively over.


As America mulls the fallout for its current impasse with Iran, London realises that Germany, crushed in two world wars, has finally surpassed it in peacetime by dominating Europe, nullifying NATO, and allying with an ascendant Russia. On Oct. 18, a self-assured President Dmitri Medvedev met France and Germany in Paris and urged a new European security framework with Russia as a security partner. Paris and Berlin are expected to promote this revolutionary idea at the forthcoming NATO Summit in Lisbon in November, even as the unhappy Central Eastern Europeans struggle to assert NATO’s Article 5 on collective self-defense.


Worked out of all the emerging power equations in this unforeseen new world order, London is desperate to rediscover the Commonwealth. New Delhi would do well to pull the plug.


The author is Editor,

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