Events appear to be developing rather faster than I thought they would. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that they are snowballing.
I doubt very much whether either Monsieur Chirac or Herr Schroeder have spent any time in the blogosphere but, judging from the news in the UK Times their reaction to the ‘Axis of Weasels’ slur was to take it deadly seriously:
At a meeting in Brussels with the Prime Ministers of Belgium and Luxembourg, President Chirac and Gerhard Schroder, the German Chancellor, want to clear the way for a common European defence system that would start with a core of volunteer states.
To be honest, I am trying very hard to suppress my natural inclination to double over in hoots of derisive laughter. Perhaps they will rent a seedy, run-down office, kit themselves out with a set of overalls and call themselves ‘Yankbusters’. It is hard to imagine what else they could do with armies that consist of time-serving pensioners and conscripted students.
There is nothing new about the idea of a common EU defence pact, of course, only now the French (and it is primarily the French) appear to be driving the issue with an unseemly haste. It bears all the hallmarks of panic and, given the growlings emanating from Washington of late, that panic may be more than a little justified:
Although the Germans have qualms about a confrontation with Nato, the French are not hiding their aim to achieve their long-standing goal of unhitching the United States from European defence. This has become more pressing with the reported plans of the US to punish France for its stand on the war in Iraq by excluding it from Nato decision-making.
I don’t suppose that the French are under any real illusion as to the capacity of Belgium to ride to their rescue. No, this is just the French doing what the French have always done; desperately seeking alliances in order to advance their own national interests. Not having the sufficient wherewithal to rule the world (as they believe they rightly should) they seek instead to project their influence by building blocs which must be configured in such as a way as to enable the French to dominate them. Mock we may, but for the French political classes this is as serious as a heart-attack and, possibly, a last throw of the dice.
Panic, however, is not merely confined to Paris. Tony Blair can see exactly where this is heading and it’s giving him the the big-time jitters:
“I don’t want Europe setting itself up in opposition to America. I think it will be dangerous and destabilising.”
Mark those words. Blair has a very clear idea of the stability he wants and knows every bit as surely that this isn’t it. Blair, being neither pro- nor anti- anything, is the consumate internationalist. Harmony is what he seeks. At home he has adroitly neutralised all opposition by gathering everybody into a big tent of consensus. Abroad he hoped to be the golden bridge that brought the USA and the EU together to sing melodiously from the same hymn-sheet in a global choir of co-operation.
It’s all off-key now and the discord is grating harshly on the ears. The American Star Tenor that Blair adores simply cannot work with the pushy European falsettos he hopes to please and now everyone is about to flounce off in a huge huff, leaving only the Fat Lady. She isn’t singing yet, but she’s clearing her throat.