Sun 07, 2018
Several signs could be discerned from Mr Trump’s recent visit. In Helsinki, he demonstrated to the world just how close he stands to the Russian president. Before attending that embarrassing meeting, he referred to the European Union as a foe — in the same breath as China and, conversely, Russia. The week before prior to the NATO summit, he tried to justify for the Russian seizure of the Crimea. Most significant to my mind, however, is the arrest of alleged Russian agent Maria Butina, and the revelation that she appeared at the annual so-called ‘National Prayer Breakfast’ in Washington D.C.
TYT Investigates wrote an enlightening article on the connections between Ms Butina and the Fellowship Foundation — the fundamentalist Christian organisation that organises the breakfast — including a private meeting and the alleged promise of 10 seats at the 2017 breakfast for Russian envoys. The foundation’s activities are significant for Europe because of their sponsorship of “37 trips abroad by individual members of Congress in the last 18 years,” several of which were to Eastern Europe. Their purpose here? To foment opposition to the standards on gay-rights legislation required to be a member of the European Union.
Fostering anti-gay sentiment on Europe’s eastern frontier has been a tactic of the Russian government since before the Ukraine conflict began in 2014. Indeed, anti-gay propaganda is one of many tactics used by Russia in a broader discernible strategy of divide et impera in Eastern Europe to prevent the Union from cementing its presence in states along the Russian border. The Kremlin has also sponsored far-right parties in Italy, Austria and France, in an effort to undermine the integrity of the Union. United, Europe is a challenge to Putin’s Russia. Divided, Europe is its playground.
The recent Butina scandal reveals the presence of a similar agenda festering deep in American politics. The shift in US-Europe relations is not a sudden one. Trump’s America is a culmination of increasing division between Europe and the US: a difference in beliefs, values, social standards and international objectives. The Iraq war was just the beginning. Trump has simply drawn back the veil. Today, America’s Republicans stand behind Trump’s agenda towards the EU because they share his antipathy towards the Union.
This raises major questions about Europe’s role in the world. If Europe is built on the promise of peace, can Europe deliver on that promise beyond its borders? Must we be tied permanently to an imperialist project pursued vigorously by successive American governments over the past 20 years, rather than determining our own vision of defending the values of a free and just world?
Countries across the world are sliding into despotism, xenophobia, isolation and a general ugliness not seen in many decades. Some say Europe should simply watch this slide, abdicating the responsibility to advocate for peace, justice, and equality.
But we cannot afford this complacency. Europe must use its voice to protect human rights and stand against authoritarianism. Only a progressive international can fend off the new wave of nationalist movements and fight the failing establishment that gave life to them. Only a progressive international, bound closely together, can defend freedom and deliver on the promise of a better tomorrow.