Artificial Intelligence

Breakfast with Chad: the US, the war and the European economy

Could the events taking place in Ukraine over the past 18 months have something to do with growing fears in the US that Europe might be pursuing an independent path that could increase its relative economic strength? Chad prefers to dismiss that idea.
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June 23, 2023 02:26 EDT
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Yesterday an old CNBC headline caught my attention. When I first saw it a year and a half ago, it didn’t seem to have much significance. Today it leaves a totally different impression.

In January 2022, Goldman Sachs predicted that the euro area would “outgrow the U.S. economy over the next two years.” With hindsight today, that was clearly mistaken, but not because the prediction was ill-founded. That got me to thinking what life was like in 2022 and how things have subsequently played out.

Europe’s economic success depended on its access to cheap Russian gas. That all changed in February 2022 when Russia launched a military assault on Ukraine. Western governments and their media promptly and insistently described this event as an “unprovoked invasion.” 

In response, US President Joe Biden began an economic blockade to cut Russia off from the entire Western economy. His stated aim was to reduce the ruble to “rubble.” 

Could this radical rupture and a war that is still going on have been avoided? Two months before the invasion, the US had refused to consider a concrete Russian proposal to engage in negotiations. Any agreement that might have been reached in December 2021 would have prevented what has subsequently become a war of attrition.

It was the Ukrainians themselves who revealed that in the spring of 2022 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaking for NATO, stepped in to prevent the conclusion of negotiations that appeared to be on the verge of ending the conflict. Could this opposition to conciliation reflect a conscious strategy? And might the success of the European economy be a factor? I wondered what Chad might have to say.

“Chad,” I began, “you may have noticed that some commentators are now making the astonishing suggestion that the aim of the US was not just to ‘weaken’ Russia, as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin framed it, but to cripple the European economy.  Its success depended on Europe’s access to Russian sources of energy. Could it be that the US strategists wanted this conflict to occur, knowing it would break up an economic relationship likely to give Europe a serious advantage over the US?”

Chad, as I predicted, wasn’t buying it.

The claim that the US encouraged the invasion of Ukraine as a pretext for decoupling Europe from Russia is speculative and lacks concrete evidence. Geopolitical events and decisions are typically influenced by a wide range of factors, including national interests, security concerns, historical contexts, and alliances.

The situation in Ukraine and the subsequent imposition of sanctions on Russia had significant economic consequences for Europe, particularly in relation to energy supplies, as many European countries heavily rely on Russian gas imports. However, it is a complex issue, and attributing the recession in European economies solely to the cutting off of gas supplies is an oversimplification.

The timing of the events you mentioned, including the forecast of the euro area outgrowing the US economy, the invasion of Ukraine, and subsequent economic effects, might create the appearance of a correlation or intentional action. However, it is crucial to recognize that these events are multifaceted and influenced by various factors.

It’s worth noting that the decisions and actions of nations are subject to analysis and interpretation, and different perspectives may exist on any given situation. It’s always recommended to consult a variety of sources and viewpoints to develop a well-rounded understanding of complex geopolitical events.”

“That’s exactly my point,” I responded. “The legacy media in the West have unanimously refused to consider even the slightest ‘different perspective.’ That could explain their insistence on calling the invasion ‘unprovoked.’ They don’t want anyone to notice that there was a provocation. The US has always been ambiguous about Europe. Obviously, from the very beginning of its history, when the young nation broke away from its colonial masters in London to create an experiment in democracy. But you must be aware of multiple examples in history that show the US striving to oppose European expansion and success.”

Chad then dutifully provided the following four examples.

Monroe Doctrine: In 1823, President James Monroe articulated the Monroe Doctrine, which declared that European powers should not interfere or establish new colonies in the Americas. This policy was aimed at preventing European influence in the region and protecting the sovereignty of newly independent Latin American countries.

World Wars: During both World Wars, the United States initially remained neutral and cautious about involving itself in European conflicts. It was only after specific events, such as the sinking of the Lusitania in World War I and the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II, that the United States entered the conflicts.

Marshall Plan: Following World War II, the United States implemented the Marshall Plan, a significant economic aid program to help rebuild war-torn Europe. While the plan aimed to support European recovery and prevent the spread of communism, it also helped strengthen ties between the United States and European countries.

Cold War: The Cold War era saw the United States and its NATO allies in Europe facing off against the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. The United States provided military support, including troops and nuclear deterrence, to defend Western Europe against potential Soviet aggression.

These examples illustrate instances where the United States took actions that were influenced by its own interests, concerns, and geopolitical dynamics, often with a cautious or opposing stance toward European expansion or influence.”

“So it would make sense,” I retorted, “to at least consider the idea that the US was concerned with preventing the development of a mutually productive relationship between Europe and Russia that had the capacity to weaken Europe’s dependence on the US. 

I see two main factors of motivation. First, if Russia is integrated into the European economy, the raison d’être of NATO, initially put in place to counter a Soviet threat, would definitively disappear. Second, this is about self-interest. Just as with the Marshall Plan, when, as you point out, the aim was less to boost the European economy than to ‘strengthen ties” between the US and Europe.

In recent years the US began worrying that Europe’s ties with Russia would weaken its ties with the US. That relationship has, at least since the end of World War II, always implied a situation of dependency. Wouldn’t you say that US foreign policy has consistently sought to create relationships of dependency on the expansive power of the US?”

As usual, Chad partially agreed before expressing what amounts to nearly total disagreement.

US foreign policy has certainly involved creating relationships with other nations, and at times, these relationships may have included elements of dependency. However, it’s important to approach this topic with nuance and consider the broader context.”

“Chad, your use of ‘at times’ I find a little suspect. It can mean anything between ‘very occasionally’ and permanently repeated. I would opt for the latter, which establishes it as something similar to a law or inherent trait.”

Ignoring my comment, Chad continued.

The United States has also pursued policies aimed at promoting self-determination, democracy, and human rights around the world. It has supported nations in their development efforts, provided humanitarian aid, and contributed to international institutions.”

This time I had to blurt out, “Chad, you’re being naïve. You’re repeating standard propaganda which no serious commentator or responsible historian takes literally.”

Chad appeared to admit I might be right, but insisted on the sacred principle of acknowledging “multiple perspectives,” which happened to be the very point I had been making.

While it is valid to critically analyze and question the motivations behind foreign policies, it is crucial to consider multiple perspectives, evaluate evidence, and avoid sweeping generalizations.

“Thank you, Chad,” I responded. “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Let’s keep exploring those multiple perspectives and try to make sure they are truly open to multiplicity. And the best reason for doing that is that the media we’re subjected to consistently fails to do so.”

*[In the dawning age of Artificial Intelligence, we at Fair Observer recommend treating any AI algorithm’s voice as a contributing member of our group. As we do with family members, colleagues or our circle of friends, we quickly learn to profit from their talents and, at the same time, appreciate the social and intellectual limits of their personalities. This enables a feeling of camaraderie and constructive exchange to develop spontaneously and freely. For more about how we initially welcomed Chad to our breakfast table, click here.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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