- - Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Europe and America are like an estranged couple — love lost and the premise for the marriage fading into memory. Europeans may cheer a Biden victory, but it won’t remove irreconcilable differences and dysfunctions.

Mr. Biden will do the statecraft analog of relationship counseling — reenroll the United States in the WHO, stop blocking progress in the WTO and reaffirm the Paris Climate Accord — with little avail. 

The WTO lacks tools to address China’s mercantilism, and Beijing’s consent is needed to write new rules — that’s not happening. We saw with COVID-19 that the WHO does its best work fronting for Chinese disinformation. Mr. Trump notwithstanding, the American private sector has been cutting CO2 emissions quite nicely.

The EU is much richer and more populous than Russia, yet it must rely on the United States to protect it from Russian aggression. The United States faces a tremendous challenge from China in Asia, and every dollar spent in NATO can’t be spent to prepare an overtaxed U.S. fleet for a showdown over Taiwan or in the South Pacific

For the first time since the War of 1812, the American military faces the prospect of duking it out with a foe that is more populous and will soon have a larger economy. And China enjoys the home field advantage.

China can project air power from its mainland bases, whereas the U.S. carrier fleet must rotate deployments. U.S. military bases closest to Taiwan are vulnerable to Chinese missile attacks. Without spending considerably more, the United States is staring down the barrel of a humiliation akin to Rome’s victory over Carthage in the First Punic War — it established Rome as the preeminent sea power.

The Europeans will continue to be told, quietly, they must increasingly confront Russia with their own troops and rifles.

Germany prioritizes economic interests over national security, which in the end is the surest path to decadence, decay and defeat. Russia’s natural gas is cheap but in the face of aggression in the Ukraine, President Putin’s poisoning of political rivals like Alexi Navalny and other provocations, Germany will only endorse weak sanctions and still pursue the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Berlin would rather put hard currency into the pockets of Russian military than buy more expensive American LNG.

Important EU foreign policy decisions require the unanimous consent of 27 states or unilateral action, making President Macron’s talk of European sovereignty laughable. The EU is incapable of crafting a comprehensive, coherent and effective foreign policy.

Individual states make their own external immigration policies. And with the Schengen Agreement, the Syrians Germany resettled may effectively travel elsewhere.

The French are holding up a free trade deal with the UK by insisting on substantial access to British fisheries, and a trade deal with the United States to sustain protection for French farmers.

Cyprus recently held up sanctions against Belarus for a rigged presidential election until it got meaningful sanctions against Turkey for exploring for natural gas in disputed Eastern Mediterranean waters. A rather farcical way to craft EU foreign policy toward either autocracy.

Mr. Macron still vaults the fanciful idea of a European military. Would the Germans ever be willing to pay or fight? Who would decide when, where and how to deploy it?

Negotiations within the EU and between Europe and its allies outside areas of Brussels’ regulatory control — tariffs, state aids and competition policy — can be surreal. The idea of the United States negotiating a complimentary approach to Chinese mercantilism with Europe would be as sane as whimsically dropping Donald Trump into “Duck Soup” to negotiate a peace and friendship treaty for Fredonia with the Marx Brothers.

The Europeans are fancying a new get-tough policy toward Chinese investments in critical technologies, but Germany’s flagging industrial sector has substantial export markets in China.

If Ms. Merkel is inclined to save a buck buying gas that will finance Russian missiles, why should we reasonably expect it to agitate China whose threats are so distant. Alas, Germany is reluctant to join the United States on Huawei even though the alternatives are EU suppliers Ericsson and Nokia.   

Across Europe, China’s state and private enterprises have infiltrated with a vast array of European businesses.

Mr. Biden would be better off if Groucho and Margaret Dumont were still alive. He could appoint them Ambassadors General to Europe and at least entertain EU diplomats and heads of state with the decorum their governance and foreign policy deserve.

Alas, a “Night at the Opera.”

• Peter Morici, @pmorici1, is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.

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