A ‘Disneyland vision’ of the world

Manal Lotfy in London , Tuesday 20 Feb 2024

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken presented a Disneyland vision of the world at the recent Munich Security Conference.

A  Disneyland vision  of the world


The first day of the Munich Security Conference held from 16 to 18 February in the southern German city could not have been more dramatic. Many international officials had flocked to the conference to discuss global security challenges, only to be shocked by news coming from Moscow about the death of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny in prison.

The circumstances of Navalny’s death are still unknown, but announcing his death on the first day of the conference may not have been mere coincidence. The news created shock, confusion, and more uncertainty regarding the world security environment already in a state of unprecedented fluidity.

In the Russian-Ukrainian war, Kyiv is facing difficulties advancing on the ground or recruiting troops, while Moscow managed to capture Avdiivka, a city in Eastern Ukraine, after four months of heavy fighting. It was Moscow’s biggest victory since Ukraine’s unsuccessful counter-offensive last year.

In the Middle East, there is a bloody Israeli war on Gaza and fears of more massacres if Tel Aviv carries out its threat of a ground invasion of Rafah on the Egyptian border. There has also been escalation in Yemen and Lebanon and fears of expanding tensions in Iraq and Syria.

On top of this, there are US-European tensions over NATO, the Russian-Ukrainian war, escalation in the Middle East, and relations with China. There are also disagreements within Europe on many of these issues.

“If 50 months ago, when I took office, someone had asked me, ‘what is on your new geo-political agenda?’ For sure I wouldn’t have said, I am going to have a pandemic. I am going to have a war in Ukraine. I am going to have a war in Gaza’. Nothing of that was foreseen. So, what is going to be on the new geopolitical agenda? I don’t know,” commented EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell in his speech at the conference last Monday.

Borrell gave a grim vision of European security, stating that the EU is preparing for a long period of tensions with Russia and cautioning that European countries cannot depend on US security commitments.

“Our military effort has to be sustained in cooperation with key partners like the US. But we have to consider different scenarios about how much the US will be engaged on European security… We are not going to be able to play a geopolitical role if we are not able to defend ourselves,” he said.

He argued for the need for a permanent political solution to the Gaza war. “Everybody talks about ending the war in Gaza. Yes, we have to end the war in Gaza, but nobody has talked a lot about the West Bank. And the West Bank is the real obstacle for the two-state solution… The question is: is there a political space for Europe to support a two-state solution? I think there is. But for that, we need to be more united,” Borell said.

The EU’s disunity and inability to formulate a united front on the Gaza crisis is fuelling a new level of disenchantment with the West in the Global South that Borrell believes could be detrimental to European interests and security.

Yet, as some European officials were trying to articulate assessments of their predicament, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken provided what could be described as a “Disneyland vision” of the world in his speech at the conference, arguing that there is an “extraordinary opportunity” in the months ahead for Israel to be integrated into the Middle East if the Arab countries are willing to normalise ties with the country.

“Virtually every Arab country wants to integrate Israel into the region, to normalise relations if they haven’t already done so, to provide security assurances and commitments so that Israel can feel more safe and more secure,” Blinken said at the conference, where he also highlighted the imperative to proceed with a Palestinian state that would ensure the security of Israel.

“There are genuine efforts underway, led by Arab countries, to reform, revitalise, and revamp the Palestinian Authority so that it can be more effective in representing the interests of the Palestinian people and could be a better partner for Israel in that future,” Blinken added, without addressing the call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and how Washington would pressure the Israeli government to agree to negotiations to establish a Palestinian state.

Blinken’s astonishing optimism does not correspond with the brutal realities of the situation in the Middle East. Arab diplomatic sources in London even accused him of “unbelievable political dishonesty.”

“Blinken speaks as if the original sin in the Middle East is that Israel has never found a partner for peace in the region and that it needs reassurances that it will be accepted and integrated and that the onus is on the Arab countries to provide these reassurances,” an Arab diplomat based in London told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“Washington’s talk about a reformed Palestinian Authority that could take over the administration of what remains of Gaza and the West Bank under full Israeli security control is a recipe for a flare-up of the situation in Palestine and perhaps a war between the Palestinian factions.”

“The ideas proposed by Israel regarding the day after the war in Gaza do not give any hope for the resumption of the peace process, let alone the establishment of a Palestinian state. I do not know on what evidence the US secretary of state based his perceptions,” he added.

Many at the conference were asking what would happen if former US president Donald Trump were re-elected in November. Others were asking what would happen if current US President Joe Biden were re-elected.

The answer to the first question may be clearer. A new Trump presidency would be a huge challenge for Europe. But there are preparations underway for such a scenario, among them strengthening European security cooperation, increasing defence spending, and not relying entirely on the US security umbrella.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, widely considered a frontrunner to become the next secretary-general of NATO, said at the conference that the Europeans should “stop moaning and whining and nagging about Trump…We do not spend more on defence or ramp up ammunition production because Trump might come back.”

What Europe will do if Biden is re-elected is less clear. During his first term in office, Biden oversaw the largest war on European soil since World War II, in addition to the most violent Israeli war against the Palestinians since the Nakba of 1948.

There are European fears of a devastating humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the possibility of a new migrant crisis as tens of thousands of Palestinians could try to escape from Gaza. The European economy, led by Germany, is suffering from recession, and European capital and industries are relocating to the US courtesy of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.

This has not only helped the recovery of the US economy as intended, but has also uncut the European economies, reinforcing fears of the rise of far right nationalist parties to power in France and Germany.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 22 February, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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