BSP#4: Whose Foreign Policy?
Orban tossed Brussels a snowball. Ankara tossed Washington a grenade. Only further escalation is in sight.
Orban could be one happy cat. A fat, well-fed and well-sexed tomcat, purring half asleep after a wild night. Trouble to no human.
All he needs is his EU money and the general respect of the transactional layer of intra-EU cooperation that has recently been burned down by ideologues. He doesn’t expect positive reinforcement for his beliefs: that’s a bonus, not a necessity. Live and let live. Just give pragmatism a comeback.
As long as rationality stays suspended, he will be an unruly cat. Trying to keep him in line trough punishment that meant to train dogs will only make this cat more troublesome.
His way of getting back at the delusional elites in the West is realtalk. There’s a shortage of that over there, so it gets a warm reception from the masses, and those who demonize him do eventually let the message through, heavily contextualized, hoping that it can be spun to have the opposite effect.
Part 1: The Snowball
His latest remark is yet to blow up. It happened during the Organization of Turkic States meeting in Samarkand last week. Keeping to metaphors, Orban made a snowball off the top of the iceberg of Europe’s unspoken problems and tossed it at Brussels:
Europe has no independent will of its own to pursue its own foreign policy, and we must therefore expect Europe to support the foreign policy of the United States. However, the consequence of this will be that in the EU we will have to be prepared for a serious economic situation in the coming several years ahead.
— Hungary looks upon Organization of Turkic States as a peace forum (expanded the quote from the article based on the source video)
The Turkic Council is a LARP, at least for Hungary, although we’re not full members, we’re merely observers — honorary Turks. It’s a bit like being invited to Wakanda, sure, we’re black, whatever gets the job done, which in this case is business in Central Asia.
The quote above is posted on the official site of the the PM in English, so it’s not just we wuz kangzing among fellow kangz in a yurt somewhere that got leaked. The Turkic council was merely a symbolic platform to air this message, the intended audience was always Yakub, the West. (The choice of podium could be symbolic.)
Is his criticism just a troll, or is he being serious? Is calling the EU to account for a foreign policy independent from the US realistic?
He didn’t say that Europe should have its own manned Mars program, and even if he did so, the only answer for any self-respecting eurocrat should be “it would be within our capabilities to do so“. The only way not to take this seriously if we already have a consensus that the EU is too lame to stand up for itself.
If we still have any illusion that us, as a union, have agency, then his snowball is well-aimed at a sensitive spot. I’d go further and state that denying we should have a foreign policy independent from Washington is indirectly eurosceptic.
The most likely group that would dismiss this proposal as unrealistic are the very dissidents who usually cheer for Orban, who are euroskeptics to the core (above being overall doom and gloom). Many would deny that post-WWII Europe ever had any agency at all.
To those I say: de Gaulle.
Le Général is my standard candle for European self-determination in the post-WWII world order. He went as far as any club member in the West can go. (People like Franco, after the war, did everything to avoid rocking their lifeboats.)
De Gaulle chose not to trust NATO with doing the continent’s work, and set to pursue an independent French nuclear strike capability over being dependent on American and British nuclear deterrence against the Soviets.
It was the smart move, betting on those two putting their dicks in the meat grinder to prevent Paris from being glassed was never on the table, and Moscow was fully aware of this. Everybody was and is fully aware of this, save for maybe the Poles.
His vision stood in contrast to the Atlanticism of the United States and Britain, preferring instead a Europe that would act as a third pole between the United States and the Soviet Union. By including in his ideal of Europe all the territory up to the Urals, de Gaulle was implicitly offering détente to the Soviets. As the last chief of government of the Fourth Republic, de Gaulle made sure that the Treaty of Rome creating the European Economic Community was fully implemented, and that the British project of Free Trade Area was rejected, to the extent that he was sometimes considered as a "Father of Europe"
I'm soft on him: he beat the fascist only to be called a fascist a generation later, thanks to a bunch of pedos whose long now Fukuyama warned us about; he's my kind of antifa hero2. If you don't like de Gaulle, rest easy, he got closest to being assassinated by a Hungarian. See, we’re natural crowd pleasers, no one in the audience gets left behind. Visit Budapest, spend a lot of money, and also
If Orban chose a grenade over a snowball to throw, he could have asked the same question above in a different, more direct form: “who blew up Nord Stream 2?”
Nord Stream 2 is the second most important counterpoint to anyone doubting that independent European foreign policy was ever possible after 1945. NS2 is the proof that we (well, the Germans) had some agency, up until the mid-2010s. Despite Washington openly objecting to its construction, both the Obama and the Trump White House and the rest of the Swamp-adjacent think tanks raising the alarm, Berlin went ahead.
It took until this September to remedy this insolence. We still don’t know who the perpetrators were.
If some Bond villain is going around sabotaging critical infrastructure willy-nilly, you would expect it to be treated as a serious problem. So why is Berlin so quiet about it?
It’s a bit more serious than Merkel’s Blackberry traffic getting intercepted. It’s their own little 9/11, and their political elite, seemingly vicious when it comes to call lesser European states out, instantly becomes the beta dog meme whenever someone mentions the pipeline. Would Kohl had taken this lying down? Would Merkel? I don’t think so. But the Germans elected crayon-drawing, Netflix-in-Berlin mavericks into power, so it appears that their colonization, for now, is complete.
To the question “what could Washington do to Berlin without suffering any consequences?” the answer right now is “anything”. The Germans are unwilling and incapable of retaliating in either action or words. That’s the state of the leading economic and political power in Europe at this point. Yet Germany is still willing and capable of bossing the rest of Europe around; so in effect we’re lead by cowards.
As long as Europe has no foreign policy of its own, we’re tied to the strategy dictated by Washington; we don’t get to decide any of it, but we’re all expected to share the fallout. Europe’s pragmatist local power was pushed out of Ukraine after the resolution of the 2014 Crimea crisis by Post-(trans)-Neocon warhawks, leaving Berlin and Paris with no seat at the table; 8 years later, when it inevitably blew up, the continent is happily eating the losses from Washington’s gamble. No complains. If anything, we’re asking for more. It would have been cheaper and better for everyone if we meddled in our backyard, as powers supposed to do; European cowardice and indifference regarding post-2014 Ukraine ended up being the worst choice (to German readers: the most expensive choice).
If the Germans refuse to address the NS2 mystery, someone else, someone important might ask the question sooner or later, someone important enough that the European public won’t have the option to ignore them.
Orban, for now, only goes so far as the quote above. Trying to deal with him, the West made the stalker’s wager: get obsessively invested in the prey, to the extent that the prey becomes aware, risking that the target might turn your addiction against you.
The EU got addicted to Orban, and now they can’t ignore his message, they can only amplify it, and he’s in touch with the contemporary third rails of baizuos like few other in his station. If he’s unhappy, he can become very inconvenient.
There’s an iceberg size of inconvenient questions piled up for him to pick from.
While Orban ponders on what to chose from that pile, let’s go south, along the only natural gas pipeline that still provides juice to keep Hungary running this winter (until the Bond villain blows that up), the Turkish Stream.
Part 2: The Grenade
Turkey. What a welcome change. Writing about European politics devastated my testosterone level, I need a break to regrow my pubes.
A terrorist attack happened. It was done by some kind of Kurds. Or maybe not, who knows really.
That is secondary. What’s more telling is this — government sanctioned — news bit, which was the only news that made me raise an eyebrow this whole week:
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu rejected a statement of condolence from the U.S. during a press conference with reporters near the scene of the attack after authorities arrested a Syrian woman with suspected ties to Kurdish militants.
“I emphasize once again that we do not accept, and reject the condolences of the U.S. Embassy,” Soylu said, according to Turkish state media publication Anadolu Agency.
That is quite the grenade at Washington.
Or is it? It’s not unusual for the government lead by the Berlusconi of the Bosporus to get spicy from time to time, and Turkey can be hard to pigeonhole, selling drones to Ukraine, buying missiles from Russia, whatever the fuck they’re meddling in Syria.
I believe that it’s significant because of its timing: the middle of the Biden-Blinken era. It makes sense as Turkey is not the only nation frustrated by (suffering from) US foreign policy, and it’s been going on long enough now for less inhibited governments to get fed up, publicly. More on the general cause of this frustration in Part 3, for now go back to Süleyman’s quote and check who it was addressed to specifically.
The the second greatest military power in NATO feels a bit agitated. That’s should be concerning (assuming Putler is about to blitzkrieg all the way to The Channel), when the rest is still only ramping up military production on paper, after 30 years of sleepy neglect. German panzers won’t be rolling off the production line like sausages any time soon. The Turks are also in a strategic position, in-between multiple conflicts. So how come number 2 is at odds with number 1 within the alliance at such a crucial point and time?
Part 3: The largest elephant in the room, with a stick
Is the United States. Now there’s some powerful foreign policy. Not necessarily good though, even for the US.
Politico published a piece (Orbán’s new public enemy: A Twitter-savvy3 US ambassador calling out conspiracies) on our 90s Cool US Ambassador that makes even seasoned Pravda readers blush from second hand embarrassment. It’s done by Lili Bayer, who’s a notorious Colonial LinkedIn / Imperial Swamp Striver from Hungary.
I would never condemn my fellow Hungarians for hustling to get foreign currency, but she could have more finesse doing it, her piece is as tasteful as David French’s articles for National Review lionizing John McCain (didn’t look them up, I just assume they exist).
It’s a masterpiece of deranged fangirl cringe.
The main spin establishes the ambassador’s victimhood: Pressman “becomes” Orban’s greatest enemy, even though Victor himself totally ignores him. Pressman keeps tagging him on Twitter, and he’s running around Budapest for a photo op of with any beanbag-dweller activist Left of Márki-Zay, trying to provoke a response.
Besides this, he’s very neutral. All the assault he has to endure in Hungary is unwarranted.
“A pragmatic idealist”
Sure. Thank you Lili, very cool!
Now let me sideline you for a second, and let the guy speak for himself. Before he got his post here as an ambassador, his very first public address aimed at Hungary was before the Senate:
Pressman did not mince his words about what he thinks of Hungary’s democracy either, which he sees as one under threat. He highlighted human rights, media freedom, and the rule of law as areas that he sees as being undermined, where he claims to have detected “deeply troubling trends”, as he calls them.
Pressman then went on to speak about anti-LGBT, anti-Roma, antisemitic rhetoric, claiming that Hungary has active policies “trying to exclude a population from the democratic process”
Does this seem to you like Pressman’s intention was to be off to a good start? In what universe would such an inflammatory prejudice (emphasis on pre, his hearing took place on June 23, two months before his arrival to Budapest) be considered to form the basis for a neutral, well-intentioned, open-minded relationship with the target country?
It’s the equivalent of taking a shit on top of the dinner table, smashing it to bits with your shoe, throwing an incendiary grenade into to the room to set it all on fire, then complaining that the hosts are being rude to you, the guest. Pressman went death con 3 on Hungary long before his plane landed in Budapest.
Politico, well, Lili interprets it differently, her stance in the article best represented by this throwaway gem:
“Pressman insisted the embassy has no partisan goals and simply wants a better relationship with the Hungarian authorities“
What makes Pressman’s example relevant in all the stories above, what connects them and him in the Big Picture is a tendency I noticed a while ago: in the Biden-Blinken era, US foreign policy is all sticks, no carrots.
“I’m the representative of the United States of America,” he added. “It’s unusual to find yourself,” he observed with understatement, in “an environment quite like this.”
Unusual? He should consult with his colleague in Ankara. There’s a long list of similar colleagues and it’s expected to grow. All sticks does that to an Empire.
America is burning international political capital, always choosing coercion over cooperation when it comes to its allies. A rigid enforcement of Washington’s absolute will is the State Department’s default stance. This is almost unprecedented in my lifetime, with one exception: the brief global grieving period right after 9/11; for a short while America got a carte blanche to stomp around as far as the world was concerned. Now however, there’s little sympathy, only fear.
NS2’s destruction was pure intimidation. Fall in line or else.
The newspapers cover him regularly — “Clown diplomacy,” one declared. State-owned and Orbán-friendly TV channels are similarly obsessed, portraying the American ambassador as a secretive colonial overlord sent to meddle in Hungary’s internal affairs.
In a difficult time when Washington would be welcome to reinforce its own overseas alliance system on preferable terms, out of some zealous blindness or incompetence or both, the US became its primary wrecker. America’s underlying message is that it can do without Turkey, Hungary, Germany, Brazil, and the list goes on and on, until they yield, one way or another.
The Poles with their almost suicidal gamble of basing their future exclusively on America’s backing stand more an more out every day, as love an trust towards the US erodes around them. We don’t view America with the optimism of 1990s anymore, 20 years of post-9/11 Forever Waring took away of most of it, and Blinken’s foreign policy is hammering in the last nails with unrelenting blows.
I’m going to throw Lili a bone here, her reporting resembles a terminally online woman’s story of going home to her trumpist parents for Thanksgiving, prepared in advance to own them with facts and logic, the dinner turning into a vicious political fight, in the end everybody being responsible for the mess but her.
In that regard, she’s already as American as it can get for a colonial. Well done!
This massive damage can’t all be due to incompetence and zeal. Dismissing it as yet another late stage empire symptom would be too lazy — I’m not stopping anyone from running with that, it’s just not my sport.
There must be a reason, it can’t all be stubborn, malevolent incompetence, there must be some 4D chess in there somewhere.
Are they expecting to buy into Europe cheaper, should their own alliance system temporary weaken, and thus ultimately win big? Maybe, but they should realize that there are other bidders, chiefly China.
Chinese foreign policy is all carrots, no sticks. A mutual indifference to each other’s internal politics is expected by Beijing, but that’s it. Even if you disagree with this policy and prefer to be nosy, at least it’s mutual, which as pragmatic as it gets in diplomacy.
I’m not happy about this, I don’t want the West to lose, but I’m not an American, I don’t even have a single vote on the matter. Where I do have a vote is the European Union. I would prefer the EU to take its own side, and keep any internal squabbles that us, Europeans have, internal.
It’s a step we should take, while we still can.
Having no power of our own, Washington only communicating down to us through sticks and being forced to foot the bill for their adventurous mistakes is the worst possible situation for Europe. It’s humiliating and unsustainable.
This concludes Big Sunday Post #4. On Wednesday.
I mean, seriously:
De Gaulle opposed any development of a supranational Europe, favouring Europe as a continent of sovereign nations. De Gaulle openly criticised the United States intervention in Vietnam and the "exorbitant privilege" of the United States dollar. In his later years, his support for the slogan "Vive le Québec libre" and his two vetoes of Britain's entry into the European Economic Community generated considerable controversy in both North America and Europe. Although reelected to the presidency in 1965, he faced widespread protests by students and workers in May 1968, but had the Army's support and won an election with an increased majority in the National Assembly.
Was he right or was he right?
Petain was also a war hero, until he wasn’t, in the eyes of French history.
Good luck for the next idiot who does stand up for them! Napoleon was the first buffon in this line, so it’s a soiled heritage. The French, ever since the revolution, just want to die of an exotic strain of syphilis they got from an orgy screaming “me me me now now now”, and end up condemning any countryman who momentarily dares to shake them out of this trance.
If it wasn’t so, they could have conquered the world by 1900, and got to Mars by 1950.
You don’t believe me? Check out the Belle Epoque. It has a French name for a reason, and it does so despite carrying a century of anarchist barnacle growth on its back.
“Twitter-savvy” in 2022 is like “Multimedia CD-ROM” in 2006. Come on, Lili!