The Financial Times’ Martin Wolf Worries About Europe’s Future but Oddly Not the US’

The Financial Times’ long-standing chief economics editor, Martin Wolf, has weighed in with a new piece, The EU’s future in a world of deep disorder.1

While Wolf raises some useful and important questions, he also unwitting reveals the depth of cognitive capture in the West about America’s conduct. Henry Kissinger gave the geopolitical version of a black-box warning when he said, “To be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal.” Even with the danger of being close to the US more apparent than ever, Wolf seems unable to recognize how its desperate efforts to preserve its unipolar status are increasing instability.

Wolf’s organizing theme is that Europe needs to decide whether to be an ally, a bridge, or a power. But for starters, what is this “Europe” of which we speak? Is it the European Union or the Eurozone? Wolf does acknowledge:

The British diplomat Robert Cooper argued that “what came to an end in 1989 was not just the cold war or even, in a formal sense, the second world war . . . What came to an end in Europe (but perhaps only in Europe) were the political systems of three centuries: the balance of power and the imperial urge.”

Nobody acquainted with the history of Europe should be in the least surprised by the desire for a different way for states to behave and relate to one another. Indeed, one would have to be an imbecile not to understand it.

Some of the problems the EU faces derive from the fact that it is a confederation of states, not a state. The difficulties of managing divergent economies within a monetary union are an inevitable result.

At the risk of disagreeing with Cooper when I have not read his full argument, I have trouble with his balance of power claim. Europe was devastated after World War II. European countries lost significant sovereignity via the US creation of international institutions and the establishment of NATO. There were some instance of forceful efforts to shore up national independence, notably with DeGaulle. But starting with the establishment in 1951 of the European Coal and Steel Community, the trend in Europe was towards economic integration. At a minimum, the hope was that joint prosperity would promote peace and could foster political integration.

Remember that the US taking on much of Europe’s security costs was also a subsidy to their economies. Recall Trump caused a furor when he said it was time European countries that they needed to shoulder their 2% of GDP defense commitments, as agreed by NATO defense ministers in 2006. A knowledgable colleague says that only the UK has looked like it is meeting that spending level, and even then, that’s with funny accounting.

A big problem with “Europe” is financial, that it is not fiscally integrated and therefore lacks meaningful federal-level spending to reduce economic difference across the continent and some commonality of programs. But another issue is cultural divergence. Europe has at least three or four cultural clusters: Southern European/Latin, Northern European/German, Easter European, and Nordic. These do not seem to have assimilated during their time under the EU banner. Wolf makes a passing mention of nationalism, as if that’s an external threat by among other things reducing openness of markets, which hurts the EU. But he ignores the centrifugal force of nationalism within the EU, with Poland’s rebellion against the EU judiciary temporarily ignored as the Poland plays yapping chihuahua against Russia, while Hungary’s stroopiness is held even more against it for not falling in line with all matters Ukraine.

But the striking part of Wolf’s piece, at least for careful readers, is the blindness to the degree to which the US has made the Europe’s woes worse. Wolf talks about Europe being an ally, by implication with the US and US stalwarts in the Pacific. But allies operate with each party’s interest in mind, even if there is a lot of push and pull. Wolf does point out that Europe was not on board with America’s adventurism in Iraq. But it fell in with the idea of US economic sanction against Russia (recall Ursuala von der Leyen stating they’d been in the works months before the war). The initial salvo was arguably rational since no one knew then that they’d backfire. But EU leaders have kept piling on more even as the cost of the loss of cheap Russia energy does lasting damage to their competitive positions. And they resort to the canard that Russia has victimized them when they pulled the sanctions trigger, and could roll them back.

Similarly, the US is even more openly exploiting Europe than Michael Hudson warned via its Inflation Reduction Act that includes subsidies for European businesses to decamp to the US. Emmanuel Macron did bleat about that and the US selling its pricey LNG as a replacement for cheap Russian gas, but that didn’t go anywhere.

Wolf lists the threats to Europe as “economic crises, pandemics, deglobalisation and great power conflict.”

Wolf does not acknowledge that economic crises remaining a threat is to a significant degree due to the failure to enact markedly more strict regulation. Even though the US did only a so-so job on this front, Europe was far more remiss in neither meaningfully strengthening bank regulation nor addressing chronic internal trade imbalances which then lead to debt overhangs. So for Wolf to depict the risk of economic crises as some sort of act of God, as opposed to a substantially internally generated problem, is pretty rich.

Wolf also mentions climate change, pointing out that Europe has been a leader on the policy front. Here the US has been an anchor, with Obama not even joining the weak-tea Paris Accords until the very end of his term, which in turn gave Trump the procedural option to back out. The US is still deeply committed to fossil fuels, with methane-releasing fracking hardly an improvement over oil development. So the US and Europe are not on the same page, despite pretenses to paper over the differences.

As for pandemics, I am not sure how they threaten European cohesion save by stressing national budgets. Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t see Europe having the big splits that the US has had over vaccines. These seem to be more pronounced in the US and UK, which also have bigger and louder libertarian contingents than on the continent.

Trump arguably kick-started deglobalization albeit not to much benefit to the US. Pandemic supply chain interruptions made the problem more prominent, but my sense is the course changes were limited. For instance, what could automakers do about chip shortages? It’s not as if they could set up their own fabs or move their orders to other suppliers.

Readers are welcome to disagree, but some of the big drivers of deglabalization have been the US economic campaign against China, including its pretty successful war against Huawei’s 5G rollout, which has emboldened the US to try a more ambitious chips war, and of course the massive economic sanctions against Russia, in which Europe was an enthusiastic participant. Again it’s hard to see that as a development that dropped out of the sky on Europe.

As for “great power conflict,” Wolf depicts “the imperial urge is horrifyingly visible on its frontiers.”

Has Wolf looked at a map and seen that it is US, not Russian bases, that ring the world? As an economist, has he not noticed that the US has spent more on its military than the rest of the world combined, when it is protected by two oceans and not terribly rich and not at all belligerent neighbors? What is the point of all of this expenditure if not to project power?

Despite all the panic-mongering about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin has been clear since the 2007 Munich Security Conference as to what he wants: a new security order in Europe so that Russia is safe. Russia has no interest in taking Poland or the Baltic countries. Russia does not want to occupy Western Ukraine (among other problems, it would mean a huge manpower commitment and budget costs) but it does have a looming problem as to what to do about the non-ethnic Russian parts of the country. Nevertheless, the tidiest solution to Russia’s problem is to continue to bleed NATO of weapons and hamstring a threat. That outcome is still an ugly one for Europe but it is most assuredly not territorial conquest.

Wolf largely skips over China, but does suggest, not surprisingly, that Russia and China will become more closely aligned, as they have already promised, and that is likely to mean less trade with China.

Wolf concludes that admit that Europe needs to dance with the person that brung them:

Globally, it needs to decide whether it wishes to be an ally, a bridge or a power. So long as the US remains a liberal democracy and committed to the western alliance, the EU is bound to be closer to it than to other great powers. In this world, then, that makes it most likely to be a subservient ally. A role as a bridge would come naturally to an entity committed to the ideal of a rules-governed order. The question, though, is how to be a bridge in a deeply divided world in which the EU is far closer to one side than the other. The third alternative is to seek to become a power of the old kind in its own right, with resources devoted to foreign and security policy commensurate with its scale. But for this to happen the EU would need a far deeper political and also fiscal union. The obstacles to that are legion, including deep mutual distrust.

Wolf admits the most likely outcome for Europe is subservience, as has been revealed with its behavior in the Ukraine conflict. Interestingly uses “rules-governed” and not the US formula, “rules-based” order, suggesting if Europe could ever flex some muscle, it might be able to influence the rules too. What he again fails to say that Germany’s energy and economic ties to Russia could have allowed it to help form that bridge…had Merkel and Hollande been willing to deal with Russia in good faith.

In other words, Europe’s vassal status is entirely its own doing. I am at a loss to understand how European leaders played along with these development. I don’t think, generally speaking, that personal corruption played a role.

And of course, we have the elephant in the room: Europe’s deep links to the US, even if it were to muster the energy and fortitude to become a more integrated political and economic force and become perhaps not a great power, but say an India-level near-great power with the heft that big powers have to sit up and pay attention to it. But its interdependence with the US means it is more likely to share in whatever the Fates on offer for the US. I would not bet that the gods will be kind.

It’s beyond the scope of this post to chronicle how this cognitive capture of European leaders and pundits took hold. It can’t be attributed to the afterglow of the end of World War II. American cultural exports, meaning movies and pop music, played a role. The rise of a global professional class, with many educated at US and some UK institutions, helped propagate a US world view. The active seeding of US policies and even talking points via a burgeoning network of NGOs played a role. We hope to return to this important question.

1 is your friend.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Ignacio

    If the Bottom line is “The most important menace for Europe/the EU/Eurozone and countries therein is Europe’s ‘globalist’ leadership”, I agree. They learnt nothing and have forgotten nothing, that quote Lambert likes to make us recall (even If i write it wrong). A symbolic sign is EU’s top diplomat Borrell. Watch what he believes is diplomacy and everything comes clear.

    1. digi_owl

      More and more it seems like any European party that labels itself as socialist and workers party after WW2 is neither.

      Effectively they function as controlled opposition for the “free market” parties. Their job being to quietly maintain the status quo between stints of free market policy expansion, long enough for voters to forget the last free market period and voting free market back to “send a message”.

      1. upstater

        The pre-war National Socialist German Workers’ Party was a pretty bad one… adherents are still around and wield power 100 years later.

  2. John Jones

    Before the EU can answer what it wants to be ” ally, bridge or power” it really could do no better than to ask its people’s what it ought to become.

    Much is talked about the EU democratic deficit – a union wide consultation might give its leaders something to think about if the people were at least asked.

    It’s doubtful that the Schuman/Monnet/Salter model of ever tighter integration can work with today’s global uncertainties – the EU has a role to play but the 50/60/70s as global political behemoth is view not sustainable – perhaps it would benefit and go back to its roots as a trading outfit – the lack of leadership & dynamism of the current EU leadership should be a concern for all.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, I did not mention the leadership issue and it’s critically important. The entire West is plagued with no one who deserves to be in charge in charge. And not just at the top. You can see the pervasive mediocrity and worse in the various senior administrators/agency heads too.

      It’s possible to make really not great structures work pretty well with good systems (clear and consistently implemented rules, decent mechanisms for handing exceptions and feedback loops for problems) and good leaders to keep everyone moving in the same direction and knock heads together as needed. But that is almost the opposite of where we are. Ursuala von der Leyen? Olaf Scholz?

      1. Bjarne

        Indeed. A recent piece in Covert Action Mag focused on von der Leyen’s family history (horrendously ugly and bloody, and relevant since she and her awful father never renounced any of it, pretend it doesn’t exist in public but in private revel in it) and her own incompetence, corruption and all-too-explainable fail upwards. With leaders like this, we truly don’t need foreign enemies and despite all the media propaganda, we don’t really have any real enemies but our own leaders.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Bjarne.

          I read that, too.

          What the article failed to mention is her English ancestry, which she revels in and feels much more at home in, hence her eagerness to speak English, which often puts some EU noses out of joint.

          In the 17th century, her gentry / untitled / yet to be ennobled landowner ancestors made money in sheep farming and the wool trade in the south Midlands, the same area where the Spencer (including Spencer-Churchill), (Abel-)Smith (later founders of what became NatWest Bank) and Washington families originate and made money.

          After backing the wrong horse in the civil war, her royalist ancestors decamped to the southern colonies. The Washingtons left Sulgrave manor for Virginia about the same time.

          1. Colonel Smithers

            The Washingtons were also royalist. Their Northamptonshire estate was on the front line between territory held by Charles I, with Oxford as its capital, and Parliamentarians and often ravaged. Part of the estate is now owned by former politician Michael Heseltine, Thenford.

        2. hk

          It’s a bit of odd thing to remember, but the main reason I knew of her before the current mess was the leading role, as the defense minister, that she took in purging German military of marching songs that became famous during WW2, not always associated with Nazis or Nazi ideology, and memories of certain controversial figures who were simultaneously anti-Nazi but also pretty dodgy (e.g. General Hoepner–someone who was executed for being part of the July Plot, but was nevertheless a very ultranationalist/authoritarian/militarist sort–like most of the July Plotters were). She said something about how people like Hoepner are not whom modern Germany should aspire to be like, which was taken to be about his militarist/ultranationalist side, but now I’m wondering about what she really meant.

      2. JW

        Its almost as if some malignant force spent time and effort ensuring its pet poodles got the top jobs.

    2. Bjarne

      Its getting ridiculous to watch every supposedly thoughtful western pundit or intellectual speak about realities that simply don’t exist. They are out of touch and lost. Even Bloomberg can’t get financial and economic numbers correct (their only real job one would think) when political implications get in the way, as their recent reporting on the supposed collapse in Russian oil revenues shows. Just like the rest of the media, their job seems to now be to prop up an increasing set of delusions designed to maintain a fictitious reality while everything falls apart.

      1. Piotr Berman

        Bloomberg may be excused on Russian oil revenue, under sanctions the flows of payments, capital and even goods are opaque, and may be interpreted in various ways. For example, UAE became a major importer of oil from Russia, that reminds me when I read statistics published by Polish government before 1980, and Lichtenstein had the largest trade with Poland on per capita basis, supplying machinery, bananas and other Alpine products.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, both.

          Like the Bulgarian wine and Mauritian oranges sold in the 1980s EEC and soon reattributed to South Africa after Mandela’s release. Citrus fruits do not grow well in Mauritius.

      2. Louis Fyne

        1980’s end-stage USSR suffered the same symptoms

        (not implying a wholesale collapse of the West)

        1. hk

          Empty store shelves are also a shared symptom between the two systems, and this, unlike financial stats, something even common people notice. I honestly wonder how far this has gotten in different countries (I keep hearing that the situation in UK has gotten ridiculous from Mercouris and such).

          1. JBird4049

            Protection, food and water as both are interlinked, and, later, sewage are perhaps the reasons for civilization.

            This shows the utter incompetence of the West’s leader as anyone with even superficial knowledge of history knows something of this. Some of shortage are starting to appear in the United States as well with the collapsing water and sewage systems, along with the increasing numbers of the hungry. Not to mention the increasing violence of the police.

            When I look at the speed of the collapse in some areas, I am shocked at the lack of attention by the authorities with the only true efforts being at concealment.

  3. JohnnyGL

    Martin Wolf seems to have lost his mind, or at least suffers from the same chronic blindspots and limitations of the mental faculties of elites in DC, NY, and London.

    I believe he also had a column on Ukraine, recently, which framed the war in existential, ideological terms.

    This is a far cry from the man who once presciently called obama’s failure in….feb 2009!!!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, I decided to go polite here. This column didn’t have enough easily extracted “WTF?”s for ridicule to be the right tone, although that Ukraine column you mentioned was a tempting target….

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, both.

        Wolf is a strange one or has become one, perhaps in fear of losing his gig at the FT and regular stints on CNN’s Global Public Square.

        I attend his periodic lunchtime talks in the City. Even in fora that are similar to NC, he now feels he has to be a true believer, unlike the other regular, Robert Skidelsky.

        1. upstater

          Lunchtime with the FT, Colonel?

          Both he and Gideon Rachman were extreme hardliners from the lead up and outright frothing once the SMO began. I dropped the print FT once an patina of objectivity went full neocon (I subscribed when they questioned the US SMO in Iraq after Falluja-1.0). Barely token dissent allowed. Mercouris cites occasional glimpses of reality but Wolf’s piece cited above ain’t one of them.

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you.

            Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation and Bloomberg in London.

  4. Piotr Berman

    To me, EU as an institution with agency stopped existing during Trump administration. The territory it covers is a bit like Iran where Supreme Leader and clerical council are in charge of important things, while mundane stuff is left to the mundane branches, president, parliament, ministries etc. NATO has a similar role as theocratic apparatus in Iran, and EU institutions are busy with mundane things while following the guidance.

    During Trump administration there was a notable conflict between EU and NATO guidance, as Trump was in charge of NATO (after a fashion, who is in power or in charge in NATO is opaque). First, Trump broke agreement with Iran against public wishes of EU, France, Germany and Britain. European protested and organized resistance. But the actual resistance never progressed beyond begging Washington for “waivers” and being somewhat sad when the supplications were rejected. There were also “alternative payment mechanisms”, as if SWIFT was not supposed to be European — I learned that while SWIFT has a postal address in Belgium, the control is in Washington. Alternative payment mechanism did less than nothing, and there was that.

    The bottom line is that when Supreme Leader insists, EU folds, collectively and as individual states. I have no idea if JCPA and Minsk agreements were intended by France and Germany to be broken from the start, or pliability made them effectively broken, the effect is the same, EU is an institution in charge of implementing what Supreme Leader wants, or mundane stuff of secondary importance (secondary importance to the Leader, but still important to the population).

    1. digi_owl

      The position of NATO secretary general is passed around between its European members, but the supreme allied commander is always American…

      1. Piotr Berman

        It is easier to trace money flows in sanctioned trades than figuring where is the brain in this dog (NATO), only how it barks, bites, wags its tail, etc. For example, Trump could nix European “attempts to keep JCPA alive” because NATO structures did not like JCPA either, but on Ukrainian matters, he was sidelined totally.

  5. Stephen

    Having read the FT article my perception is that he seems to be dancing towards a conclusion that the EU / Europe needs to operate more independently of the US but then recoils from going there specifically and then asserts the challenges of being a bridge or an independent player. He then seems to see federalism as some form of answer. But recognises the challenges of achieving that.

    There is also a total inability to reflect on the point that the existing EU institutions seem to be used as a tool to make Europe into a US vassal rather than as a way of asserting independence.

    The chart showing military expenditure is also fun. We all need to spend more but Russia does not spend much more than France or Germany yet is allegedly a mega threat.

    Given he is writing in a U.K. based newspaper he interestingly fails to state too whether he sees the U.K. as part of the problem or potentially part of the solution. Whether the U.K. is part of the EU institutionally or not it is very much in Europe. Right now, it seems to be very much part of the problem driving Germany (in particular) to go against its own interests.

    I do genuinely wonder if any structural answer would help at all in the absence of leaders who actually operate as European patriots and statesmen, as opposed to tools of the US.

    Agree with you that this elite “capture” is not via open corruption. Nobody is paying people money in envelopes to support specific US policies. The inculcation of US world views via education, corporations and NGOs that you refer to is the driver. Although it is worth saying that there are then clear career incentives to go with the herd that do not need to be spelled out to ambitious people. As ever, we convince ourselves that what is good for us must be good for the world. It’s human nature.

    I have seen at first hand how easily people become imbued with the US world view in this way. My own background is as a U.K. citizen who was educated in part in the US (at Cornell) and who has spent over two decades of my career in partnerships that originated in the US. Many of my colleagues, friends and clients over the years have been from multiple European and Global South countries, as well as Russia / Ukraine and North America. Educational backgrounds are typically very similar, as is the inculcation of the US world view. The global professional / corporate class whom I see are increasingly homogeneous, irrespective of nationality. An article exploring this would be very welcome.

    1. digi_owl

      I have become more and more sensitive to how my national news spend inordinate time covering local events in USA (like a “minor” school shooting in some state college or small town high school) while ignoring major happenings in our border nations.

      I have come to suspect this being down to the journalists having had one or more year of study or something over there, and get their source material from social media contacts that they have maintained since.

      I wonder if this is also why DC seem to have so massively misjudged the Russian public’s reaction to the Ukraine war. Because they may have relied far too much on the English speaking urban PMCs that had passed through US colleges. For example i think Navalny’s daughter is right now a student at Stanford.

      1. Stephen

        Yes, I think you are right. The global corporate / professional class is not in any way representative of the countries it hails from.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, both.

          Another topic worthy of exploration.

          I would say that I notice that some of that class, more likely from Asia, are happy to be educated in the US and work for US firms, but have no truck with the US elite.

          The daughters of Shevardnadze and Lavrov studied at the London School of Economics and are like Lavrov.

      2. Piotr Berman

        I am guessing that what you call DC did not care about Russian public’s reaction. But in the case of Indian etc. reaction, they probably committed a genuine blunder.

        1. digi_owl

          They cared, in as much as they seemed to hinge the whole mess on Putin getting a color revolution soon after getting dragged into a shooting war.

          But that didn’t happen, suggesting DC/blob/whatever had massively misunderstood the Russian public. Likely thanks to relying too much on faulty intel from western leaning intelligentsia and expats.

      3. Dida

        @digi_owl All American news outlets closed foreign bureaus in existence and made savage cuts to the remaining foreign staff. Outlets have been now reduced to ‘scoops’ from alternative sources, such as NGOs and bloggers.

        The truth is that news companies didn’t have a choice: digital media has been eating into their advertising to the extent that they cannot perform their function anymore. It is a global issue and it made the current funding model unsustainable. In Canada where I live 30% of media positions have disappeared with staff moving into PR and god knows what other forms of hustle.

        The widespread destruction of jobs has affected national news as well. Of course, it also made journalists even more vulnerable to editorial pressure. It’s a conform-or-die world more than ever.

    2. Thuto

      Tiktok, facing a looming ban in the US, issued a statement indicating that a ban in mainland America would effectively close off a channel to export American culture and values to a billion young people worldwide. Having chanced upon a Youtube video of young people in Romania sharing their thoughts on Andrew Tate’s arrest, I was left with the impression that, except for the accent, those youngsters are American all but in name/geographic location. As regards the cultural and ideological pivot towards Americanization in elite and PMC circles in the global south, that has been a staple for at least two generations, and those that crossed that cultural rubicon are unlikely to be retrieved so the battle is on to cure the deep seated inferiority complex that drives these arriviste bourgeoisie tendencies in the next-generation of economically and politically ascendant people, hence cultural sovereignty is such a core pillar of the multipolar world envisaged by Putin and Xi (with XI stating in explicit terms recently that “modernization doesn’t equal westernization). With the open realization that the west in general and the US in particular doesn’t practice the values it preaches from its assortment of bully pulpits, and the radical woke left embedded in the Biden administration and entertainment giants like Disney having taken charge of exporting their version of American values and culture to the rest of the world, we are going to see a resurgence in cultural pride as people increasingly recoil at the notion of adopting what they see as foreign and less-than-wholesome values.

      1. Kouros

        That leads to rebuking in part this assertion of the post:

        “In other words, Europe’s vassal status is entirely its own doing. I am at a loss to understand how European leaders played along with these development. I don’t think, generally speaking, that personal corruption played a role.”

        There was a comprehensive and long term grooming conducted by the US across the board in Europe and not only. Situations like Iraq War 2003, when Germany, France, Canada, etc. balked was not to be repeated, ever. This is why we got the likes of Chrystia Freeland in Canada, Macron in France and Annalena Baerbock…

        As the former Australian put it so aptly a year or two ago, western nations are run by spooks…

      2. digi_owl

        A couple years back, a teacher here in Norway got a commentary posted in the national press. In it she voiced a worry about how kids were using more English than Norwegian while playing in the schoolyard.

        This attributed at the time to them basically having Youtube as a nanny, thanks to phones and tablets.

        So yeah, USA trying to ban Tiktok seem like yet another American hypocrisy.

  6. Tahir Ali

    Yves, your commentary, as always, is incisive and informative, bringing together the inchoate thoughts one has when reading the MSM. Please do return as soon as you can to this topic. The self-mutilating behavior of the major European governments on Ukraine is as astounding as it is unfathomable. Another topic worthy of your attention is the purge and reconstitution of Labour in the UK – an equally astonishing phenomenon in mid-course well on the way to taking the UK back to the future. Very little convincing analysis published on this.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, both.

        I read RM regularly, but have not seen anything from him about the purge of anyone or any affiliate organisation that is not Blairite and Zionist. Starmer and re-ratter Mike Gapes have even equated being against neo-liberalism with being anti-semitic. The expulsions include members of Jewish Voice for Labour and the organisation, too.

        RM has criticised Labour’s commitment to austerity and, by stealth, privatisation of the NHS.

        Novara’s Aaron Bastani may be a good starting point.

      2. Tahir Ali

        Caitlín Doherty had a good piece in NLR Jan-April 22, though not focused on the purge as such. Maybe she has more in the pipeline using the research she did. Jonathan Cook’s polemical style impairs, I think, his reach and impact, but he is quite well versed in Starmer’s deceits, as well as in the roles played by his shills in the Guardian.

      3. Ludus57

        Richard describes himself as a political economist rather than economist or politician.
        I would describe him as one who sees the disaster of Neoliberalism for what it is and calls out it’s perpetrators and acolytes. He is one of that growing band who see the UK Conservatives and Starmer’s New New Labour as two sides to the same coin, and who now want a new party to start moving back to social and economic sanity.
        On that basis, his blog posts are sound if one wishes to be well informed about political economic matters. I should add that the comments on his blog tend to be good,and well informed too.
        Just like NC.
        He could be a good starting point for mainly UK matters.

  7. H. Toin

    Thanks Yves,
    Concerning Europe’s vassalage, here’s a little titbit regarding my country, France.

    The Davos WEF Global Young Leaders program is often talked about, much less the similar program the French-American Foundation started in the early eighties, co-opting every year up and coming people in the military, business, academic and political worlds (the balance between these domains is about the same every year). The aim was obviously to get rid of that disagreeable Gaullist spirit we had.

    Fun fact : both François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron are Young Leaders from that program, has have been many Ministers in our various governments these past fifteen years. I thought Sarkozy was a Young Leader too, but his name doesn’t appear on the Foundation’s website so I’m not going to guess what “good” reason he had for taking us back in NATO’s integrated command. One of his nicknames was “Sarkozy the American” though.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      But Putin was a Young Leader too! Some are immune to the Kool Aid. Maybe it takes a sufficiently high density of attendees from your country for the brainwashing to really take.

      1. nippersdad

        Was Putin immune or did he ultimately realize that the game being played was directed against his own country? That 2007 Munich Security Conference speech was a long time coming from him, and he has been notably reticent about throwing off his Germanophile tendencies.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          IMHO it is a mistake to attribute Putin wanting to get on with Europe as Germanophile. Russia was trying to orient towards Europe since Catherine the Great, who bought Impressionist painting in bulk. Europe has long been the closer and more promising export market. Russia has modeled its legal practices and bureaucracy on France, and its military uses the German General Staff model.

          Putin has just wanted Russia to become a normal modern county with decent relations with its neighbors, particularly commercial relations. He has focused effectively on raising standards of living in Russia. Despite attempts to say otherwise, he also does not like war. That is why he was so willing to de-escalate when the Ukraine separatists had Ukraine troops in a cauldron and Merkel pitched Minsk. He thought it was a good trade and would have been if it hadn’t been one huge con.

          1. Daniil Adamov

            Since Peter the Great, rather, who copied European laws and fashions wholesale whenever possible, built a new European-inspired capital (Putin’s hometown, by the way), sent Russians to study in Europe and invited Europeans to work for him. (Albeit the latter was not his innovation, we’ve been doing that since there was a Russia – he just increased it considerably.) Since his days, there was a strong Europhile tendency in the Russian intellectual and political elite that never really went away, despite occasional pushback. I think Putin has this too, albeit not to the pathetic extent of many of our liberals. Whether it overrides his better judgement when dealing with Europeans is an open question.

            1. Polar Socialist

              The funny thing about these strong Europhile tendencies (not just in Russia, mind you) is that the Europe it years for has never existed. Even as an imaginary construct it’s not very well defined.

              From my vantage point Europe is divided into at least 3-4 different regions that would have some difficulty accepting the others as “alike”.

              1. digi_owl

                True, though there can be constructed a quite elaborate Venn diagram of overlaps.

                That said, across European history its “elite” has always found more commonality among each other than the people they were entrusted to govern.

                Looking at paintings etc one often find the same style of dress across multiple nations during specific time periods.

                And right up to WW1, French was considered the language of diplomacy from what i have read.

                Never mind that at one point if you wanted to be considered educated you were required to learn latin.

      2. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Yves.

        Or, Putin took the benefits and ran and why not?

        There’s free money from Uncle Sam in Mauritius, but that requires pretending to be Mormon or Pentecostalist. Many Hindus are taking up the shilling and, seemingly for real. Fewer Catholics are. Is it worth being an apostate, so that one can supplement one’s income?

        Sarko is a sordid and impoverished Hungarian aristo. He needs the money. Luckily, one of his sons married an heiress.

      3. H. Toin

        Sorry, but Putin not being French, he wasn’t a Young Leader of the French-American Foundation, which is another program altogether.

        From what I’ve gathered, the WEF program is to gear recipients to adopt neo-liberalism.

        The French-American Foundation program is specifically geared to ensure no Gaullist ever leads France again and to bond French elites to the American ones.

  8. HH

    There is a long cycle of societal rise and fall observable in the decline of the U.S. and its European vassals. When sustained affluence leads to complacency, all manner of mediocrity creeps in and spreads like a contagion. You end up with institutional decay everywhere: a sellout Congress, corrupt defense contractors, infrastructure collapse, widening inequality, and deaths of despair. A multi-polar world would tend to curb the excesses of U.S. decadence, but we have to avoid a nuclear war to get there. The current appalling Washington leadership may take us into the abyss.

    1. digi_owl

      I’m getting a slow collapse of Rome vibe from this.

      In a sense, Rome expanded by attracting men to serve in the legions via a GI bill of sorts. In that ones a legionnaire had served his term, he would be secured a plot of land large enough to feed a family in territories conquered.

      But over time senators both weakened that law, and also scooped up plots via various means. So towards the end, they were more worried about their individual holdings than the continuation of the Roman republic/empire.

      USA, and perhaps the rest of the western sphere, is possibly going through a similar process. But this time the holdings of its politicians are hidden behind the veil of corporations.

  9. orlbucfan

    Thank you, Yves, for this important read and comment thread. There is a BIG difference between the European Union and the United States. The EU is made up of separate nation states. They are centuries old. Each one has its unique culture, history, economy, arts, language, etc. The US does not. You want to divide the US up into corrupt corporate neo-liberalism, and looneytune far right fascistic stupidity sprinkled with Christian Fundamentalism, go for it! I feel this important difference needs to be more emphasized. I do not consider the nations of Europe as vassal states!

    1. polar donkey

      Didn’t the US blow up largest pipeline to Germany in September, subsidize the export of European industries to the US, forced Europe to buy US LNG at 5 times the cost of Russian gas while getting European governments to pay $775 billion in subsidies to keep the peoples of Europe quiet. Then ship all their excess (and not so excess military equipment to Ukraine while signing contracts with American defense contractors to replace equipment. Aside from Hungary and a little whining from Macron, that looks Will Smith level vassal-ish.

      1. orlbucfan

        If the US Alphabet (incompetent) agencies wasted more taxpayers’ money by blowing up Nordstrom 2, good. Cos they just keep stringing/exposing themselves on how they have wrecked our country. They’re not that stupid. NS2 was destroyed by some sort of central European bunch of greedballs, probably Polish, Russian-Ukrainian, who knows? This crowd of border nation states is always settling (stupid) scores. They resemble a bunch of 2 legged pit bulls.

  10. ALM

    One explanation that I has been posited blames globalism for the confounding, continued idiocy of European leaders who are, at bottom, all globalists. Because the European leadership class is globalist, members have no national loyalty which is why they are ready, willing, and able to sacrifice their own citizens to pursue the interests of a transnational global elite comprised of multinational corporations and billionaires. In particular, putative crackpot and German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock recently made a public statement that she doesn’t give a damn about Germans who do not support Ukraine in its war with Russia.

    I am not persuaded by this argument because it’s so outlandish and a very risky pathway to hang on to national power. But it does explain the inexplicable.

  11. Dida

    Expecting genuinely critical geopolitical analysis from mainstream media is like hoping to extract sweet mother’s milk from an oil well. It’s never going to happen. I confess I don’t understand Yves’ ire. Bezos owns WaPo, Nikkei owns FT, Carlos Slim owns 17% and BlackRock 9% of NYT, and Soros has donated hundreds of millions to 250 influential media groups that we know of. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

    But it is true that the ideological drivel has been getting much worse over the last decade, and there is a good reason for this. I think many of us understand that the world has reached a crossroad, with the worst scenario being global war, possibly atomic winter and end of all life, and the best scenario being real emancipation for 80% of humankind which has been kept for centuries in servitude to the owning classes of Western capitalism. The battle lines are being drawn, and guess in what camp we find the mainstream media.

    However, the much more interesting part of this ideological war is the complete moral collapse of the left media, who has rushed to support the US proxy war in Ukraine no questions asked. The flagship of American left, the Jacobin, has kept to a minimum the number of pieces on war, which barely registers on their horizon, and when it registers, readers get only Ukraine’s perspective. The threat of war with China, the meaning of de-dollarization, the deindustrialization of Europe at the hands of its ally – also not news-worthy. I suppose the reasons for these cowardly editorial choices include a healthy doze of fear. We live in horrid times.

    Finally I should point to the deafening silence coming from tenured Western academics, compared with the frenzy that followed the financial crisis, when one couldn’t keep up with the blogs. These are all bad signs that the West is engaged in an existential fight too, where dissent is not permitted, except on minor channels. The West has to win, because if it doesn’t put a stop to creeping de-dollarization, the magnificent castle of debt it has built will collapse dragging most of their economies into the dust.

    1. Carla

      @Dida: Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

      I especially love: “the much more interesting part of this ideological war is the complete moral collapse of the left media, who has rushed to support the US proxy war in Ukraine no questions asked.”

      I have to confess, watching my formerly leftie friends morph into warmongers because Joe said to has really unsettled me.

      And I second your succinct conclusion: “We live in horrid times.”

      1. John Wright

        I tell war mongering lefties that Joe Biden is really a Manchurian candidate whose nefariously pre-programmed purpose is to elevate Russia and weaken the USA and Europe on the world stage.

        And that the Biden Ukrainian operation is all going according to plan.

        1. orlbucfan

          Byedone isn’t even mentally competent enuff to be a Manchurian Candidate. BTW, I didn’t vote for him or the Orange Maggot that opposed him. I skipped it on my ballot.

    2. JohnA

      Has the ideological drivel genuinely become much worse over the last decade, or is it a case of people becoming more aware that mass media propagate ideological drivel and always have done? So-called yellow journalism dates from the 19th century if not earlier.

      1. Polar Socialist

        Doesn’t the very term “yellow journalism” assume there’s better journalism, too? As far as i understand (which is not very far), in the end of 19th century newspapers were business, so they lived on what we nowadays call clickbaits. The public did not expect the stories to be totally factual, but entertaining.

        Sometimes at the turn of the century the idea developed that newspapers could, and perhaps even should, aim for some level of truthiness, fairness and impartiality. So, the distinction was born between good journalism and bad journalism (yellow/tabloid press).

        Maybe that era was just a historical fluke, just like the global leadership of The West? As Heinlein said and researchers have proved, humans are not rational but rationalizing, coherence-seeking, fiction-making animals.

        1. orlbucfan

          Yellow Journalism is a term that describes American sensational reporting back in the 18th and 19th centuries. Not too many people could read so the big excitement always followed the National Enquirer model. That way the common folk who could read (not many) could relay it to their illiterate family and friends. It’s still going down now, and it’s still boring and disgusting.

  12. Steve M

    I initially thought I’d go for the low hanging humor.

    Ally, bridge or power? Those were the original three? So doormat became an option later?

    But then you write “as an economist, has [Wolf] not noticed that the US…”
    and the only counter quote that came to mind was:
    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his [ass] depends on his not understanding it.”

    Yet you were so engaging with your subject that I considered it in its entirety and based on my experience would only hope to entertain with the idea that the concept “Europe” as a state among its inhabitants – similarly to the U.S. in many ways – depends on the neighborhood from which it’s being viewed. Even with yet another change in the air, Europe looks differently from the periphery like Ireland, Lapland, Thrace and other extremities.

    For those peoples, wherever Europe is headed today, the fact that it’s being driven by Germany, France, and a schizophrenic Britain – with Italy muttering in the backseat and Russia demanding a say – proves nothing has fundamentally changed since the new Europe after 1989 or the older one from 1689.

    But when I read “I don’t think, generally speaking, that personal corruption played a role”
    I laughed as I realized, how could I have ever thought that a little sarcastic tidbit of mine could get a rise in comparison to that? Touche and I hope I didn’t offend the lady.

    As in the U.S. so too in Europe. Personal corruption doesn’t play a role but the lead! However, when you’ve been pulling it off for a few centuries, you tend to be more blasé about it. Method acting, I think it’s called.

    Great article. Ms. Yves, sometimes your prose is so absorbing and thought provoking, that a gentleman can smile and wipe his brow simultaneously at the thought, Is she addressing me directly?

    You’re a gifted writer. That’s my only point. Now let me get outta the way. Meet you at bar.

  13. MR

    In a readers’ comment space on an article by Edward Luce entitled ‘The return of the 20th century’s nuclear shadow’ Martin Wolf wrote:
    “As I have remarked previously, Putin is the most dangerous man who has ever lived.”
    And this comment fetched most recommendations, numbering 193.
    This leaves one wondering what kind of dispassionate and objective analysis of contemporary events one can expect from this so called highly acclaimed economics expert and publicist. Was Martin in his full senses when he made this bizarre comment?
    Moreover, what does this also say about the present army of FT’s comment writers?
    Link to Luce’s article:

Comments are closed.