The latest round of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the current carnage inflicted by Israel on all Palestinians in Gaza, will continue for some time and end in another tragedy for the Palestinians. But in the long run, all these events will lead to huge negative consequences that all the people of the Middle East, including the Israelis, will be experiencing for a long time. But while none of the parties in the world will benefit from the disaster, “European countries will particularly pay a higher price for the ongoing conflict,” notes the Iranian publication Tehran Times. Although the leaders of the European states are well aware of the erroneous nature of the current US policy, they, like true American puppets, are forced to blindly and unconditionally follow Washington’s course.
History shows that there have been many cases where European countries have paid the price for US policy mistakes over the past two decades. One such striking example may be Europe’s erroneous policy towards the peaceful nuclear development issue of Iran. Until 2012, European countries were among Iran’s most important economic partners, if not the largest, and Iran was a very important market for European products. Iranians preferred German electronics and cars to similar products from elsewhere. But because of the illegal US sanctions against Iran, European companies withdrew from the Iranian market and eventually paid a heavy price for the loss of a very profitable and promising Iranian market. Today, the economic presence of European countries and their companies in Iran are almost non-existent.
The second such example could be the heavy-handed and brazen interference of the United States in the internal affairs of the Middle East over the past two decades. The Middle East, although not really peaceful, remained generally stable in the 1990s and early 2000s. Therefore, European countries were very ambitious in promoting economic integration with their Middle Eastern neighbors, since the security situation was acceptable. The Barcelona process of the 1990s was such a program for the integration of Europe and its neighbors on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. But the first two decades of the 21st century witnessed that the United States often intervening militarily in the internal affairs of a number of countries in the Middle East, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. As a result of constant military actions, the states and peoples of the Middle East have been experiencing enormous regional upheavals for more than two decades, and, by all accounts, this region is the most turbulent in the world.
Several regional and non-regional players have, quite naturally, various disagreements with the United States in the field of strategy, ideology, politics and economy. However, it is the European countries that have been most seriously affected by the instability, since they are the immediate neighbors of the Middle East. The stream of refugees has increased the economic and social burden and caused divisions both at domestic and EU interstate levels. And in the distant future, they will face even more negative consequences, as European politicians will have to solve even more difficult tasks just to survive.
The third example could be the latest conflict between Israel and Palestine. The war, the carnage unleashed by Israel in the Gaza Strip, has already led to a very serious humanitarian catastrophe, since about 20,000 Palestinians have died so far, about two thirds of whom are women and children, and more than two million have been displaced and become homeless. If the war continues, there will be a more serious humanitarian catastrophe for both the Palestinians and other peoples of the region. More refugees are likely to arrive in European countries, which will add new difficulties to their economies. As some European politicians travel to Israel to demonstrate their support for Tel Aviv’s hardline policies, Muslims in these countries will become increasingly dissatisfied with the course of politicians. There will be new divisions within the EU, as some countries do not share the views of those who support Israel’s unwise policy of destroying the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip.
In general, if one knows his history, the United States was making mistakes in the region, while the European countries kept paying a high price for them. Then there is the question of whether the elites in Europe understand the scenario and the rationale behind it. The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, the various political concepts initiated by Europe have sufficiently indicated that Europeans are well aware of their aforementioned problem. But at the same time, they continue to make the same mistakes over and over again, or, as a Russian saying goes, they keep stepping on the same rake. Indeed, if God wants to punish someone, he takes away his mind.
In the early 2000s, European leaders proposed the concept of “negotiation diplomacy,” which, in their opinion, could allow them to shape the Middle East through an approach different from the United States’ policy of force. Thus, in 2003, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder fiercely and decisively opposed the attempts of the United States to brazenly invade Iraq by falsifying documents and deceiving the world community. Over time, they were proved to be right, although they failed to stop the war, or rather the massacre of the civilian population of Iraq.
In the same year, three foreign ministers — of France, Germany and the United Kingdom — made a joint visit to Iran to find a solution to the Iranian peaceful nuclear development issue through their diplomacy, as opposed to the US approaches to economic sanctions and military pressure. The efforts of the European trio also proved to be correct, although they failed to change the US sanctions approach to solving the Iranian problem.
In 2010, the EU proposed a different concept of strategic autonomy, and the term itself indicated its intention to distance itself from the United States and reduce its dependence on the Americans in security matters. But, unfortunately, during this period, Europe did not make sufficient efforts to demonstrate the autonomous aspect of its policy. Instead, some European countries even sided with the United States in a policy that ultimately led to the infringement of their economic and security interests, as mentioned above.
It is true that Atlantic relations with Europe were based on cultural and historical ties, and they have not changed for a long time. But, on the other hand, European countries have really different interests. The Middle East is an immediate neighbor of Europe, yet is far removed from the United States, and anything bad that happens in the Middle East can negatively affect Europe. Logically speaking, it is unreasonable that the EU will always support the United States in all its risky plans.
Moreover, the current US policy towards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with millions of Palestinians already forced to leave their homes, obviously undermines justice, which should be one of the fundamental principles of the international order. The continuation of such a crisis will undermine the image not only of the United States, but also to an even greater extent of Europe, which neighbors the Middle East. In any case, it is high time for European leaders to develop a reasonable approach, balancing justice and its Atlantic obligations. Otherwise, if history is anything to go by, mistakes made under pressure from the United States can force Europe to pay an even higher and unaffordable price.
Victor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.