Joachim Fritz-Vannahme
12. February 2020

The #EU – player or puppet on the global stage ?

“We cannot have ambitions to be global players if we cannot sort out problems at our own borders“. This was recently stated by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell before the European Parliament.


“Without a minimum of politico-military credibility and the ability to act on the part of the EU and also of the Federal Republic of Germany, it will not be possible to safeguard our interests, whether in the matter of refugee flows, Russia or peace efforts in the Middle East.” This was said by Wolfgang Ischinger shortly before the start of the Munich Security Conference at the end of this week, which the diplomat has been chairing for years.


The EU wants to improve its security – since 1999


How true. But we have been hearing such exhortations for decades without enough action being taken in the EU.

This is also the view of French President Emmanuel Macron, who reprimanded Europe at the Parisian Ecole militaire on 7 February, “Europe has to put itself in a position to be able to better guarantee its security and take action in its neighbourhood. The European Union already set for itself this objective of autonomous action. Just imagine, it was at the European Council meeting in Cologne… in 1999!”


Gilles Kepel’s “Chaos” is a sobering reading for Europeans


In the past few days I finally found the time to read the brilliant book “Sortir du Chaos” by the French orientalist Gilles Kepel.

The 500-plus pages were published by the Parisian publishing house Gallimard in autumn 2018, in German by Kunstmann one year later under the less optimistic title “Chaos” (and was recently voted one of the most important political publications of 2019 by Deutschlandfunk, quite rightly so). The English edition “Away from Chaos” will be published by Columbia University Press this May.


The three phases of jihad against the West


Gilles Kepel recapitulates the truly chaotic conditions in the Near and Middle East since the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the so-called oil shock with which the “Petromonarchies” (Kepel) around the Gulf region tried to force the Israelis and their Western allies to withdraw from the occupied territories in Syria and Egypt.

Kepel traces these warlike times with elegance and attention to detail.


The orientalist divides the four decades of Islamisation and radicalisation of the world’s political order into three phases.


“The first jihad” (Kepel) was conducted in Afghanistan against the Soviet occupying forces between 1979 and 1989 – against a visible and “close enemy”. The expulsion of the Red Army accelerated the downfall of the USSR and allowed Al-Qaeda, which had just been armed by the Americans and the Saudi petrodollars, to set up bases in the Hindu Kush.


The terrorist attack of 9/11 did not trigger a revolt of the Muslims


In the second phase, Al-Qaeda chose a “distant adversary” – and on September 11, 2001, it attacked the Pentagon, Congress and the World Trade Center in Washington and New York with hijacked passenger planes.

According to Kepel, the spectacular terrorist attack, which could be seen worldwide as breaking news on all TV screens, was nevertheless not successful. Because this jihad caused some applause, but not an uprising of the Muslim masses.


The EU is an ideal theatre of war for today’s jihadists


Finally, the third phase continues to this day and is no longer dependent on either a “near” or a “distant enemy”. Now the jihadists are working in social media networks, radicalizing young people in European cities and suburbs to fight against their own societies, from which they violently break away. Even if in Raqqa in Syria or in Mossul in Iraq the “Islamic State” could be beaten for the time being – the networks continue to work.


In Kepel’s Opus Magnum the European player is practically absent. In all three phases the EU was merely a powerless spectator, and it still is today. Yet in the meantime Europe has become the preferred target, the theatre of war for the jihadists, whether in Barcelona or Berlin, Paris or London.


The EU is currently unable to create peace in the Middle East, on its own doorstep, on Borrel’s “own borders”, even if it makes halfway successful diplomatic efforts, as is now the case with Libya. And it can hardly maintain peace in its own house against violent Salafists from among its own societies.


So that is what Europe’s security and defence is all about. The much heralded “geopolitical player EU” is currently more of a puppet on the world stage.


For how much longer?





Write a comment