It has long been known that history repeats itself. And new economic, political, and military realities are often mistaken for the symptoms of future decline.
Classic example – the brilliant work of the German philosopher O. Spengler “The Decline of the West”, in which the researcher concluded that the First World War and the transition of the Western world to Caesarism was a sign of decline and demise of the West.
By the way, the title of this work was incorrectly translated to Russian language as “The Decline of Europe”, while its original title is “Der Untergang des Abendlandes”, which is more correctly translated as “The Decline of the West” or “The Death of the West”, especially considering the fact that O. Spengler included in the category of the West not only Europe, but also the United States and Japan.
Such apocalyptic mood is also typical of the modern West. Today not only journalists, but also famous politicians are making quite pessimistic predictions about the fate of Europe and the West in general.
For example, recently the chairman of the European Council Donald Tusk admitted that the EU leaders are obsessed with the idea of “immediate and full integration”, while many Europeans are full with skepticism and even pessimism towards the European Union. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also notes that the European community is going through an existential crisis, caused by the fact that some EU countries focus more on their national interests.
The same pessimistic spirit is shared by “The New York Times” and their article “A Loss of Faith in the EU”, which states that “Reeling from terrorist attacks, an influx of refugees from Africa and the Middle East, and persistent high unemployment and low economic growth, millions of Europeans are coming to the conclusion that the E.U. has let them down. And they are turning in increasing numbers to populist movements and nationalist politicians who promise to protect their jobs, their way of life and their security by closing national borders and rejecting Pan-European solutions.”
Such feelings reached their peak on September 30, 2016, when «Sueddeutshe Zeitung» published an article written by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer “The West on the Brink” (“Den Westen” könnte es bald nicht mehr geben”). In his article J. Fischer states a number of symptoms of decay of the West.
First symptom, according to J. Fischer, is so-called “Brexit”: “The UK’s decision was a de facto decision against a European order of peace based on integration, cooperation, and a common market and jurisdiction. It came amid growing internal and external pressure on that order.” Without the UK as the traditional guarantor of European order, the EU will become weaker, – states J. Fischer.
Second is a possible victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections (November 2016). According J. Fischer, D. Trump’s victory would mean a return to the modern isolationist course of the US, a blow to transatlantic course and even more widespread anti-Americanism in Europe.
Fourth is a possible election of Marine Le Pen, which would mean France’s (which along with Germany are the EU’s critical foundation stones) rejection of Europe and consequently “would most likely mean the end of the EU itself”.
The fourth symptom is a possible merging between nationalist and right-conservative forces in Germany, which would mean the end of the Bonn republic and the betrayal of the legacy of Konrad Adenauer. A lot will also depend on whether Angela Merkel will remain as the Federal Chancellor after 2017.
How should we react to the forecasts of politicians and experts on the EU and the West in general?
Europe and the West are facing a systemic crisis and, as it so often happens in the world’s history, fear of possible collapse takes precedence over rationality and reflection. Instead of an energetic search for ways out of the crisis, panic, which has taken over not only the political elite, but also the population of Western countries, is spread.
Europe and the West in general are not willing to admit to themselves that they are now reaping the fruits of their ill-conceived policy on Afghanistan, Iraq, North Africa and the Middle East. But, as the old saying goes, “They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind”.
It is not Europe and the West that are collapsing, but Europeans’ and Americans’ established system of representations of what Europe is and the West is. “Brexit”, possible victories of D. Trump and Marine Le Pen, as well as the possible resignation of Merkel are not a worldwide tragedy, but a reflection of the tectonic shifts in the mood of ordinary people of America, The UK and Europe.
Transformation of the fundamental bases of the West is inevitable, but it does not have to turn into some kind of apocalypse. There will be a new West and the new Europe, which will be more adequate to the geopolitical and geo-economic realities of the 21st century.
In this new world there will be less safety and welfare, and, on the other hand, more risks and threats. In general, an era of profound rethinking of the historical experience of the Western world is coming, it is now the time of parting with illusions, the time of reckoning for trying to get ahead of time.