Well it is official, Britain has invoked article 50 and is on track to leave the European Union. But even before Brexit was on the table, political movements in Europe and underlying social issues have created a potent cocktail of flammables that feels ever poised to be lit up. Developments in Europe are particularly disturbing, and potentially threatening. A weakening of the Union over Britain’s arranged departure, an emboldened Russia, and a rising nationalist movement, combined with huge numbers of economic refugees spreading over the continent, are worrying signs that Europe could indeed be the next global flash point. While the mainstream media will focus on what trade deal the UK will achieve with Europe, I want to take a look at some of the other risks and potential flashpoints that Europe is currently facing.
By Martin Anderson, A Contributing Author to SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog
Possibly the most important underlying factor for the potential of unrest in Europe is the growing sense of disunity among the members of the European Union itself. The organization is currently in disarray, the confidence in it seems further undermined each week. The opting out of the UK from the political and trade agreement signed in 1993 has prompted the populations of other nations to review their own independence from the supranational group of states. Particularly worrying are talks of a Frexit (France), and a Grexit (Germany). Although support for Frexit or Grexit is well below that of the UK’s own desires for exit, if either of these events were actually to happen, it would surely spell the end of any formal unity between European nations.
Another factor underpinning a potential hostility in Europe is the ongoing debt crisis. The latest big manifestation of this is the case of Italy’s banking sector. It’s estimated that Italian banks have over $400bn in bad loans on their books, putting a huge strain on the country economically. Being the third largest power in the EU, Italian financial security is vital for the stability of the Union. Additionally, a proposed EU aid package intended to bail out the struggling banking sector was recently rejected flat out. This serves as yet another example of a great European power displaying disdain for Brussels’s authority. The particular banking reforms required in order to receive the money aimed at easing the situation in Italy were apparently at odds with current Italian banking practices, and as such were vetoed in Rome. Being such a recent development, the implications of this latest crisis will not be known for some time. However, the handling of the issues that surround Italian banks will be absolutely crucial for the future of the EU. Put simply, a weak Italy means a weak Union, and a weak Union means a greater chance of general instability in the region. Instability, of course, is a precursor to flash points.
With literally millions of people pouring into Europe from disaster zones such as Syria, and Lybia, the strain on government budgets to provide aid, and the resentment this causes among some, are clear causes for concern over the stability of the continent. The correct (both morally, and feasibly) response to the tragic displacement of these people is a serious source of division among Europeans. There are many citizens and politicians alike who disagree with the notion that Europe should be obligated to house any refugees at all. Both the recent economic hardships and a rising demand for tighter immigration controls is fueling the growth of many populist right wing movements in Europe, as well as it is further afield. Such nationalist popular uprisings are naturally anti-EU, and as their influence grows, so too does public disenchantment with the idea of taking governance from outside of one’s own borders.
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A Weaker Europe is a Stronger Russia
Taken alone, a weaker Europe seems unlikely to generate the kind of flash point that would concern those in the US, what it does mean, however, is a shift in global power towards Moscow. Seemingly emboldened by the Trump presidency, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his desire to see his nation respected on the world stage as it once was. While there is scant evidence to suggest a Russian flag will be hoisted again over Berlin any time soon, the opportunistic leader appears to have been using a weakened, distracted Europe in order to gain greater influence on the collapsing continent. A report by the Wilfred Martens Center for European Studies states that the Kremlin has been funding the dissemination of pro-Russian sentiment across Europe through the use of NGOs. The aim could well be to create a more supportive opinion base for future foreign policy ambitions. According to the report called “The Bear in Sheep’s Clothing”, the spreading of pro-Russian sentiment seeks to “legitimise a Russian crackdown on human rights and encourage understanding and support for Russian culture, language, history and conservative values while opposing democracy”. Clearly, this sentiment is at odds with the opinion of many in the liberal democracies of Western Europe and seems likely to be indicative of a broader foreign policy agenda in Moscow.
Russia Has Eyes on Their Frontiers
The spreading of pro-Russia propaganda in European states could well be part of a wider strategy by Putin to weaken the EU and NATO, generally. Much of the information mentioned by the Wilfred Matens report is supportive of strong independent states and generally right wing “strong leader”sentiments. It seems to be an attempt to exacerbate the growing disillusionment with the efficacy, and even concept, of the Union from within its own borders. A collapsed NATO and EU would create a global power and influence map much more akin to that of the 1960s, when Russia stood atop the world stage rivaled only by the US. The dissolving of both supranational agreements would significantly weaken Europe’s border with Russia, thus allowing the latter to once again enjoy the highest standing of global power.
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Whether or not the plan is to expand their Western frontiers is anybody outside of the Kremlin’s guess. Putin has made it clear in the past of his intention to restore USSR power, but annexing former territory would likely be too bold even for Putin .One thing is for certain, Russia has been increasing its military preparedness along their major borders, and this is in isolation cause for concern. Owing to the current warmer relationship between the two great former world powers, Russian aggression in Europe might not even prompt American involvement. Similarly, the UK, which with France is considered a cornerstone of European military power is removing itself from the EU, its obligation to engage with those that threaten Europe will be limited to that of its NATO obligations. Should Putin decide to flex his muscles at the border in the future, he may well find very little resistance.
The current political, and social climate in Europe seems poised on a knife edge, and the house-of-cards that is the European Union is beginning to feel passed its sell-by date. Economic hardship, an influx of refugees on the continent, a bullish Russian neighbor, and a rising affinity among the masses for nationalism, all underpinned by a military
and political pact that are looking increasingly fragile, are strong indicators that Europe could indeed be the site of a major global flash point. Any one of these factors alone has the potential for localized pockets of mass unrest to flare up. However, taken together it seems much more a case of “sooner-or-later”, rather than “will it, won’t it?” One thing is certain, our preparedness relies on our information. We must make ourselves aware of events overseas and well as domestic news if we are to ensure our own survival
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