George Soros Warns the European Union

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George Soros issued a frank warning in an op-ed piece  published yesterday. The billionaire activist, and financial supporter of leftwing  progressive political causes around the world, urged Europeans to “please wake up” and recognize the internal and external threats facing the European Union. He compared the situation facing the EU today to the Soviet Union in 1991. The supra-national organization is facing a revolutionary moment that could pave the way to an uncertain future. Sadly, Soros points out, Europe’s leaders, and citizens seem not to recognize the dangerous territory which the EU is entering.

For a politically-involved wealthy private citizen to be publicly sounding the general alarm, it speaks volumes on the present state of the EU. Soros has long been a staunch supporter of the European experiment. However, unlike  many officials in Brussels, the Hungarian billionaire is also a realist.  The messy Brexit situation, unrest in France, Angela Merkel’s declining influence, and of course, the continuing rise of  populism, and nationalism have come together to form a perfect storm. Soros is obviously hoping his words will motivate Europhiles to take action before it is too late. Yet even he suggests it possible that the union is past the point of rescue.

European Parliament elections are coming in May. Soros is hoping his call will rally the EU and its supporters before then, and perhaps prevent the anticipated antiestablishment surge from becoming a reality. Fears of what the upcoming elections could bring are already circulating around the continent, and many view the May election as being a referendum on the entire 60-year old European Union experiment. There is a very real chance that anti-EU parties can win enough seats to severely disrupt legislative affairs. If Britain is still an EU member come May, it will send representatives to the European Parliament. An awkward scenario at best, a potential political storm at worst.

How the Soros warning is digested will become known as May draws nearer. Can his words rally EU leaders, and supporters in time, or is the European Union destined to meet the same fate as the Soviet Union?

Thursday 15 March, 2018 Update: Western Leaders Stand With Britain as UK-Russia Crisis Moves to the Next Stage

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Western leaders have accused Russia of being responsible for being behind the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter at their home in the United Kingdom. In a rare, yet encouraging show of unity, the leaders of the United States, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom released a joint statement condemning the attack and calling upon Russia to live up to uphold peace and security. The statement was released one day after Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the nerve agent attack. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov labeled the allegations as ‘unacceptable.’ Moscow is expected to respond by ordering the expulsion of British diplomats from Russia in the coming days. Putin will possibly go beyond that and attempt to prod Britain in another way. Do not be surprised to hear about increased Russian air activity in close proximity to the British Isles over the coming days. Business might be about to pick up for the RAF Typhoons on QRA.

 

Author’s Note: Apologies for the shortness of this update. Scheduling conflicts have minimized the time I have available to write today.

Friday 16 June, 2017 Update: EU Takes Action Against Eastern Europe

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The European Commission has begun legal proceedings against three EU member-states who have not taken in refugees as per the 2015 plan to relocate migrants then located in Italy and Greece. The governments of Poland and Hungary have refused to take refugees in. The Czech Republic initially accepted 12 people, then informed the EU it would not accept any more.  The EU plan was intended to relocate 120,000 refugees, but so far less than 20,000 have been moved. The plan was opposed bitterly by some EU members in 2015, yet ended up being pushed through. Not surprisingly, the strongest resistance came from central and eastern European member-states.

The actions announced by Brussels are infringement proceedings. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic will face large fines if they are found in fault, or cuts in EU funding. Whether or not the three nations pay the fines is another matter entirely. Poland especially has been outspoken in defense of its migration policies. Polish government officials have confirmed more than once that it will fight the legal proceedings. It does not appear that Poland is prepared to back down from the EU action. Hungary and the Czechs have also remained staunch in the face of threats and action by Brussels.

This matter has the potential to expand into a major issue as the year goes on. With Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron coming together and expanding their influence in all things EU, Eastern Europe’s defiance could be a challenge for them to confront. Although the nations of Eastern Europe are all EU members, most are aligned more closely Washington than they are to Berlin, Paris, or Brussels. The ‘Old Europe-New Europe’ argument that was sparked by comments by then-US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2003 has long simmered below the surface of US-EU relations. Merkel and Macron could decide to use Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic’s reluctance to accept refugees as justification to attempt and reassert the power and influence of Brussels and highlight Washington’s inability to influence matters that are strictly EU in nature.

This is certainly a situation to keep an eye in the future.

 

Tuesday 20 December, 2016 Update: Merkel’s Murky Future

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An apparent terrorist attack in the heart of Berlin days before Christmas. Berlin police have launched a new manhunt for the person responsible for the truck attack on a Berlin market that killed twelve and injured nearly fifty. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack as Berliners face the reality that there is a terrorist roaming armed and free in their city.

While all of this is taking place, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy is coming under renewed attack. Hours after the attack, a leading nationalist politician was referring to the victims as “Merkel’s dead.” This morning Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer, a close ally of Merkel, said the time has come to rethink the chancellor’s immigration policy. In nine months she will be up for re-election and despite a comfortable 57% approval rating, yesterday’s attack showcased her vulnerability.

As a wave of nationalist populism surges across Europe and rearranges the political landscape in a number of nations, Merkel is aware that one false move could unleash that wave in Germany. Her handling of the refugee crisis has polarized German voters and set the nation’s politics into a period of uncertainty. Merkel’s center-right party has been losing ground in state elections to the nationalist Alternative for Germany party. While the chancellor has hardened her refugee policy in the second half of 2016, resulting in climbing approval numbers, the prevailing political winds, and this latest terrorist attack could be a menacing combination for Merkel to hurdle.

The general consensus in Berlin has been that Merkel is poised to win re-election in 2017. A terrorist attack on German soil has the potential to change the scenario and it might possibly be on the doorstep right now. 2017 could very well bring about a Trump Moment for Germany and put a left-leaning coalition in power. That scenario could potentially rock an already reeling European Union back on its heels and unleash many unforeseen circumstances across Europe and the world.

*Author’s Note- With the holiday season now upon us, most of this blog’s posts will be shorter than usual between now and New Years.*

The Belgian Attacks: Europe’s Moment of Reckoning Draws Nearer

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So far, Europe has been sleepwalking through the second decade of the 21st Century. At the beginning of the new century the European Union was infused with unbridled optimism and hope. The Cold War was over, US influence in European matters was diminishing and the continent looked to be rallying around a common currency and EU leadership. The feeling that European unity was close at hand permeated European political and economic attitudes and deeds.

Now in 2016, the goal of European unity is nothing more than a pipe dream; elusive and unattainable in the face of the challenges besieging the EU. A sovereign debt crisis, a refugee crisis, the resurgence of Russia, and terrorism have combined to produce a nightmare scenario. The EU has failed to contend with any of these challenges effectively and as a result, the picture facing the continent is a bleak one.

The Brussels attacks have made it clear that the consequences of irresoluteness are here.  Six years of EU paralysis and indecisiveness have brought about a perfect storm of sorts. ISIS has Europe in its crosshairs at a time when hundreds of thousands of Syrian and North African refugees are flooding the continent. Opposition to the immigration has been steadily rising, especially in Germany where voters made their feelings known about Merkel’s refugee policies in the most recent elections. Now, with another terrorist attack on European soil, the plight of the Syrian refugees will become even less significant to European politicians. Europe cannot be secure while opening its borders to hundreds of thousands of Syrians and North Africans.

With regards to terrorism, Europe has to use its economic and military resources to defeat ISIS. Before it can do this, however, EU members need to develop the political will for what promises to be a sustained campaign. Up to the present day, European military efforts against ISIS in Syria and Iraq have been uncoordinated and minimal. France and England have mirrored the ‘light footprint’ approach of the United States. While the strikes against ISIS targets in the Middle East have netted results, there are already ISIS cells active in Europe and those cells are spreading death and destruction. These cells, as well as the circumstances that brought them to European soil, must be dealt with by a united, determined Europe Union instead of by individual member-states.

Belgium is at the forefront of European efforts against terrorism both at home and abroad. It has long been a hotbed of Jihadist activity. The country is strategically located between Germany and France. In two hours one can cross Belgium by car and its outside borders are open. The value of its location was made clear by the Paris attacks in November. It has a small security apparatus to defend against terror attacks despite the fact that Brussels is home to the EU headquarters, NATO headquarters and hundreds of international agencies and companies. Belgium is also home to a large Muslim population, making it easy for terror cells to remain anonymous as they prepare to strike.

This week’s attacks in Brussels are at least partly retribution for Belgium’s involvement in apprehending Salah Abdeslam. ISIS is perhaps hoping for an aftermath similar to the 2004 Madrid train bombings. The attacks occurred during an election cycle and popular opinion in Spain was that the bombings were in response to Spain’s involvement in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The incumbent party was removed from power and replaced by the Socialist Party which removed Spanish troops from Iraq shortly thereafter. A similar outcome is unlikely in Belgium, though. The government in Brussels has admitted it could have done more to prevent suicide bombings. Changes in the security apparatus are coming. French and Belgian police are conducting raids in Paris and Brussels.

Will it be enough to prevent any terrorist attacks planned for the near future? Or is this a matter of too little, too late?