Slovaks have the right to be confused these days. Nothing seems certain. Will Brexit be followed by other exits leading to the break-up of the European Union? Has Russia been meddling into America’s elections and how - by God - could this be possible? Should we exchange liberal democracy for something else? Will China and America fight a trade war between themselves? Is NATO any good? And – the most importantly – why should Slovakia care?
I will try to answer these questions at the end from my Polish perspective. I think they are part of the bigger debate – who we are as the West and who we want to be. Imagine there is a post of the ‘president of the free world’ and a process where people choose this person after the televised debate (like Eurovision contest). And now imagine there are only two contenders – Angela Merkel and Donald Trump. Here comes the big day, all Slovaks turn on their TVs. Let us listen to the candidates’ statements.
Donald Trump: “Globalism sucks. It is time to make America great again! I do not need international organizations or mainstream media either. My vision is simple enough to be communicated in tweets. For two long America was a victim of bureaucrats and the old elite conspiring against our great country. They invented this fairy tale about climate change. Immigrants steal jobs. Muslims are terrorists.
Angela Merkel: ”America can only be great with other nations, not against them - supporting the international system that it built. What you call globalism has stopped wars in Europe and helped to alleviate poverty anywhere on Earth. And remember: international organizations helped to negotiate peace deals, stopped many wars Big media are the guarantee of responsible journalism. Instead of looking for conspiracies we should focus on what makes people and societies stronger: universal healthcare, good jobs and decent schools, trade between nations. And when people come to work and live in our countries we get richer, both moneywise and culturally. We will fight terrorists while acting with dignity and respect for human law. We can deny climate change, close our eyes to melting ice caps or ever more potent hurricanes but this will not stop the climate from changing.”.
DT:”I come from the private sector and I learnt that politics is like business a dirty business. This is a cruel world where the fittest survive. Every country should mind their own business and have full control of their borders. Why should America care about what happens in Ukraine? Maybe the world could be divided into some spheres of influence of big empires? And, by the way, NATO belongs to the dustbin of history. Alliances come and go, the interests of my country remain”.
AM: “This is a sad and cruel world that you are a describing – a bit like Jurassic Park where big animals eat smaller ones. I come from a country which in the 1930s adopted this ideology to perfection …and its destruction. Europe has been transformed in the last 50 years because instead of social Darwinism solidarity and trust were turned into cornerstone of political cooperation. Eastern Germany was helped by Western Germany. Central Europe was helped by Western Europe. And NATO made American and Europe stronger and more stable”.
DT: “Politics is about expediency. Objective justifies the means. At the end of the day money makes the world go round. I do not need a UN Charter to tell me that. I can do deals with the worst dictators if they bomb the hell out of terrorists for us or torture the prisoners as long as it is useful. Nobody will tell us to accept refugees”.
AM: “Politics is about responsibility and values. International relations are about cooperation not confrontation. Where we cannot avoid confrontation we stick to values. We will fight wars if our allies are attacked. We help people in need because they are humans. Democracy and human rights – these are not empty words. The West won the World War II and the Cold War because we had values. If we tortured prisoners or treated all Muslims as terrorists we would lower our standards to the barbarians’ level. The big and the rich countries have greater responsibility towards smaller and poorer ones”.
…And so Dear Reader, the debate goes, argument after argument. Then it ends and the contest begins - viewers can send SMS to support their candidate. The winner’s name will be displayed shortly on your TV screen!
This is was just my imagination. There is no post of the president of the free world. No contest. Anyway maybe Trump and Merkel think differently. But the questions remain. Slovakia cannot afford the luxury to be indifferent.
When we see the order of things being questioned let us always ask – what is the alternative? Can egoism of nations be elevated to status of virtue? Do we want fences on borders between Slovakia and Austria with guards carrying machine guns like in the past?
Without liberal democracy we are back to the type of Europe that steered hatred between nations and religions. In reality where trade (or even real) wars between big powers would make everybody poorer. And our region would be the first to suffer. When CIA says that American elections have been influenced by Russian meddling it is possible that less powerful nations, like Slovakia, are vulnerable too. I do not know whether Brexit will lead to further crisis of the EU but I do know there is nothing more precious to Slovak (or Polish for that matter) security and prosperity than NATO and the EU.
We Central European cannot just sit on our hands and watch how Brussels gets into trouble. We need to provide solutions – if refugee relocation mechanism is wrong, what is our idea how to share the burden? The refugee crisis or debt crisis are not Greek, German or Italian. They are European because they affect the European Union. The Jurassic Park as the new order of Europe and the world? Not for me, thank you.
GLOBSEC Policy Institute