Europe – what if?

2 deaths, a day apart:

Wolfgang Schäuble; (18 September 1942 – 26 December 2023) was a German politician whose political career spanned more than five decades. A member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), he was the longest-serving member of any democratic German parliament. Schäuble served as 13th president of the Bundestag from 2017 to 2021.

In 1989, Schäuble was appointed Minister of the Interior, and he led negotiations for reunification on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany. 

Jacques Lucien Jean Delors ; 20 July 1925 – 27 December 2023) was a French politician who served as the eighth president of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995. Delors played a key role in the creation of the single market, the euro and the modern European Union.

As president of the European Commission (EC), Delors was the most visible and influential leader in European affairs. He implemented policies that closely linked the member nations together and promoted the need for unity. He created a single market that made the free movement of persons, capital, goods, and services within the European Economic Community possible.

Both men had outsize roles in shaping the European Union. They may not have been able to “breathe a soul” into the EU, but came damn close.

During their tenures the Soviet Union (USSR) collapsed, with its 15 constituent republics gaining full independence on 26 December 1991.  The fall of the Berlin wall between the two Germanies in November 1989 was an integral part of that process.

The resolute military position and the economic strength of the US was of course another major factor in this history.

Although on different sides of “the political middle” both Delon and Schäuble were solid in their commitment to the transatlantic partnership with the USA and the inclusion of the UK into the EU.

Fast forward to today; 

We have the patchwork of nations largely unchanged from that time.  We have a war in Ukraine. The UK has left the EU.  Despite some bright spots there are threats from within the EU itself, from neighboring countries and, depending on this year’s US elections, from the US.

What does this have to do with 1biosphere?

The EU is arguably ahead of the rest of the world in recognizing the degradation of the biosphere, in acknowledging the need for action and actually implementing policies to mitigate the damage.  It’s spotty of course; brown coal in Germany, no permanent nuclear waste storage in France, more oil exploration from Norway and so forth.

The war in Ukraine, quite apart from the human tragedy, is also an environmental disaster – wars just are.  A slide towards nationalistic, growth and greed based governments will set back environmental efforts, possibly by decades.  Time we don’t have to waste.

Which brings me to the “what if”;

What if, in the early 1990’s, the western powers had turned to Russia and initiated an open and honest program to, first, recognize the enormous sacrifices made by Russia during the 2nd world war, and second, make that recognition real by something like the post-WW2 Marshall plan. 

What if we had built memorials to the fallen Russians across their country?  What if we had sent our presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens to lay wreaths and express our sorrow and gratitude?  What if instead of inserting for-profit companies (fast food, fossil fuels, luxury brands) we had built free hospitals, schools, universities and libraries across the country?

Would we have avoided the rise of a Putin?  Would we have an invasion of Ukraine?  Would we have a unified environmental policy from London to Vladivostok?

It probably could never have happened.  The western powers were in no mood to be generous to the “losers”.  National, economic, issues were the top priority.  And would the Russian people have accepted such gestures?

I feel that we are in a similar situation now.  If we were to take positive steps now we might well have a far more palatable future.  We would have to lower our expectations of growth and profit. We would have to curb our excessive consumption.  We need to see the murderous hatred between nations as the futile waste it is.

Is that plausible given the overall society we live in?

Maybe not plausible – certainly possible.

2 thoughts on “Europe – what if?

  1. And here is another reminder of how a missed opportunity raises the current threat of nuclear war.

    “President Ronald Reagan and the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, issued a joint statement in 1985 saying “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” But we squandered the opportunity at the end of the Cold War to abolish these weapons.
    Today we are entering an extremely dangerous new arms race and risking direct military confrontation with a revanchist Russia, while other nuclear conflicts loom around the world.”
    A proposed alternative is:…..” ‘Back From the Brink []/’ a program to reduce nuclear risk”
    / Quotes from an opinion letter in

  2. I may have read this article in Salon in 2022 and forgotten it, but the message stayed with me:

    “The world’s problems with Vladimir Putin today do not stem from nations trying to find safety within NATO. They are the direct result of Bush and other narrow-minded politicians allowing the creation of an environment in which Putin and the oligarchs could thrive and block or reverse democratic reforms.”

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