september 13–17, 2017

Dictators, Demagogues, and
the Coming Dark Age of Europe

Jamie Kirchick

Visiting Fellow
The Brookings Institution

Jamie Kirchick, an award-winning reporter and political analyst, is the author The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age. As the EU works to create a region of peace, stability, cooperation, democracy, and social harmony, multiple crises across the continent threaten to quash that forward momentum. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many political analysts assumed that liberal democracy and free market capitalism would naturally arise, making Europe a place of peace and security. Mr. Kirchick described the diverse set of challenges now compromising those assumptions and straining the institutions and norms that have bound the region together. The rise of right-wing governments, slow economic growth, and a resurgent Russia could bring about the “end of Europe,” and a reversion to a Europe of small, squabbling states that do not embrace western values, Mr. Kirchick said. He examined the potential scenarios that may threaten the vision for a peaceful, integrated EU and considered the repercussions to the US and the States.

Illiberal Democracy

The assumption that liberal democracy was the next natural evolution for European countries has not played out. Right-wing populist movements have altered the course of democracy for some countries. In Hungary, for example, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s right-wing populist government has created an “illiberal democracy,” eliminating checks and balances, attacking the media, and consolidating power in the executive. Hungary joined the EU in 2004, however, if the country were to apply for accession to the EU today, it would not be accepted, Mr. Kirchick reported. Poland, too, has elected a right-wing government, which is attempting to overhaul the judicial system in ways critics fear will undermine Polish democracy.

Economic Disparities

The sluggish growth of the EU economy has also fueled both left-wing and right-wing populist extremism. Greece, for example, is moving toward a neo-Marxist economy, while the British Labor Party favors far-left policies. Competition for jobs has sharpened concerns over immigration, as the refugee crisis in the EU worsens.

Not So Secure

A resurgent Russia is a key threat. Its annexation of Crimea in 2014 was the first violent land-grab in Europe since World War II, a move designed to intimidate NATO allies, Mr. Kirchick reported. Adding to the tensions, the stresses of migration and the threat of terrorism, distort the image of a peaceful, secure Europe. Mr. Kirchick posited three factors that threaten Europe: aggressive Russia, apathetic Europe, and an absent United States.

Aggressive Russia

Russia has reverted to a dictatorship, Mr. Kirchick observed, invading its neighbor Ukraine based on the same rationale Hitler used to defend annexation of the Sudetenland. The Putin regime fomented widespread disinformation and spurious claims that genocide was being perpetrated against ethnic Russians in Ukraine, giving a rationale for Russian intervention.

Other NATO/EU countries, including Estonia and Latvia, also have large Russian minorities, and the same argument could be used by the Russians to invade these countries. However, NATO’s Article 5 calls for collective defense, meaning that an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies. Therefore, any incursion into a NATO country requires that the allies, including the US, respond. On the day before Mr. Kirchick’s presentation, Russian troops conducted the largest armed exercises since the Cold War along the borders shared with Eastern European countries.  Russia perceives the expansion of NATO into Central and Eastern Europe as a threat, therefore, it must demonstrate its military strength. However, Mr. Kirchick observed if these countries had prospered under the Soviets, they would not have joined the EU.

The reality is that Russia wants vassal states, Mr. Kirchick said. They are using intimidation, fake news, disinformation, and media manipulations to incite powerful political movements with different values from those of NATO. They seek to establish a post-western world order where might makes right, where powerful large countries like Russia can dictate what happens in the regions, and what markets and alliances are permitted.

Apathetic Europe

Great Britain has a strong role in maintaining the balance of power in Europe. Brexit has disturbed this balance of power. In addition, the collapse of centrist political parties and the rise of far-right and far-left extremist groups and alternative parties, contributes to instability. Madame LePen’s far-right party garnered 34% of the vote in the French elections, while Austria saw a face off of the Green Party against the far-right; in Germany, centrist parties are losing adherents. For the first time since World War II, a far-right party, Alternative for Germany, challenged Chancellor Merkel, winning 13% of the vote and a seat in the Bundestag.

Migration is a key force driving the populist far-right agenda. Chancellor Merkel allowed open migration to Germany, which has received over 1 million refugees, many of them Muslims from Arab states in crisis. The cultural differences of the immigrants and failure to integrate into the broader society has led to serious social tensions.

Europe needs to be a cohesive political power in its neighborhood, Mr. Kirchick said. No country in the EU is strong enough on its own to stand on the world stage. The 28 EU countries represent 450 million people. Together, they have significant influence. But they must articulate and act on a coherent policy toward Russia, Syria, and Libya in order to solidify the union.

Absent United States

For 70 years, the NATO alliance has protected the peace and prosperity of post-war Europe. This stability is based on shared values of free trade, liberal democracy, and security. And it was accomplished with active US support, not isolationism. American commitment to Europe played a fundamental role is restoring Europe’s peace and prosperity.

In the past, Russia knew that NATO would move against any aggressor, based on Article V, the commitment to collective defense. However, President Trump’s comments questioning allied support for Article V compromised this position, despite the fact that the comments were later retracted. It is true that the allies have to contribute to defense and military preparedness, Mr. Kirchick acknowledged. However, he concluded that the greatest threat is a Europe that is unmoored from western values.

Q&A

Q: Tom Finneran (Moderator): What is driving the shift to right-wing parties?

A: Mr. Kirchick: In Hungary and Poland, the shift toward the right happened long before the refugee crisis, although the crisis exacerbated the move to the right. In the 25 years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the values of liberal democracy have not become strongly entrenched in Eastern Europe.

Q: Sen. Eduardo Bhatia (PR): Is anyone in the EU happy about Brexit? Does anyone benefit?

A: Mr. Kirchick: Britain was late in joining the Common Market (1975) and never joined the Euro zone or the free movement zone. Britain is often seen as an irritant. Federalists want the EU to be integrated as a super state, so they object to British non-cooperation. On the other hand, the countries whose accession to the EU Britain supported, such as Denmark and Poland, are concerned that with Brexit, the EU could become a Franco/German project. One positive result of Brexit is that the EU leaders are being forced to listen more to the concerns of its members.

A: Prof. Harris: Some people in Washington, DC welcomed Brexit. However, the absence of the US from Europe has a longer history than the Trump Administration. President Obama reset the policy with Russia in 2009, bringing Russia back into diplomatic acceptance only 6 months after Russia invaded Georgia, which angered some Europeans. Efforts to pass the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have not yet been successful, and large German protests against this have expressed anti-US sentiments. European trust in the US is compromised when President Trump makes it clear that he sees the world in zero-sum terms, with only one winner and the rest losers, rather than embracing economic policies that are beneficial to all.

A: Mr. Kirchick: President Trump has been consistent in denouncing trade deals. But the policy of the last 25 years has been that the US is the most trustworthy, most powerful partner, and that trade agreements are working well.

Q: Sen. Ryan McDougle (VA): Why should the US help provide security for the Europeans if they won’t contribute themselves? As the nationalism in Europe is fueled by concerns about the refugees, does this have a historical parallel to World War I and the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire?

A: Mr. Kirchick: Europeans have lacked a serious effort to prepare for their own defense. However, the price tag of allowing the peace and prosperity of Europe to suffer is too high for the US. Europe is the biggest market for the US and our best allies with similar values. What happens in Europe is too important to the US to ignore. Today, the European states are willing to spend money on their defense.

Turkey is a challenge for Europeans. For 15 years, they have been trying unsuccessfully to join the EU. But now they are even more authoritarian and even less likely to fulfill the requirements for EU accession.  On the other hand, EU has given Turkey 3 billion Euros to care for the 2-3 million Syrian refugees it hosts. Turkey holds the potential for political blackmail: “Give us what we want, or we will unleash the refugees on Europe.”

Q: Sen. David Long (IN): Terrorism is a concern in Spain, England, Germany, and France, fueled by the fear of immigrants. Brexit is a result of a growing sense of nationalism in the face of immigration. What happens when immigrants do not assimilate? People worry about maintaining their national culture, and the influx of immigrants threatens to change it. What are the long-term effects of immigration?

A: Mr. Kirchick: No European country has an effective assimilation model. It is very different from the US. Ethnic identity is important in Europe: you must look like a native or you are not accepted. Across generations, people identify with their cultural and ethnic heritage, even if they have never lived in their ethnic homeland. Many immigrants do not want to integrate. This is the challenge.

Q: Sen. Wayne Niederhauser (UT): Immigration was a concern during my 2006 election campaign. Utahans were worried about culture and assimilation. Then the issue died down. But immigration continues to be a big challenge in Germany, not only because of refugees, but also because the unrest of the Middle East is also coming into the country along with the immigrants.

A: Mr. Kirchick: We see reversion and democratic backsliding in some EU countries, including Poland and Hungary, who have refused to abide by the EU plan to distribute refugees across the EU countries. There are two types of immigrants to be considered: first, refugees who are fleeing imminent violence and have a legal claim by international conventions to sanctuary. And secondly, economic immigrants, people seeking better opportunities. Most applicants for immigration in 2015 were economic immigrants, and they were not admitted.

The migration issue highlights a gap between the European elite and the average European voter. Many voters want to ban Muslim immigration. If the centrist parties do not pay attention to the voters, the voters will fuel the rise of far right fascist parties.

Speaker Biography

James Kirchick

James Kirchick is a visiting fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe and Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution. A widely published journalist, he is the author of The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age, a correspondent for The Daily Beast, and a columnist for Tablet. He is at work on his second book, a history of gay Washington, D.C., for Henry Holt.

Jamie’s writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Ha’aretz, Newsweek, and many other outlets. He has contributed to publications in Germany, Britain, Italy, Canada, the Czech Republic, and Australia. Previous engagements include three years at The New Republic, and he was writer-at-large for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in Prague.

A leading voice on American gay politics and international gay rights, Jamie is a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Journalist of the Year Award. He has been a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow in Berlin, a Hoover Institution Media Fellow and a Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow, and is a professional member of the PEN American Center and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Born and raised in Boston, MA, Jamie is a graduate of the Roxbury Latin School and Yale College.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many political analysts assumed that liberal democracy and free market capitalism would naturally arise, making Europe a place of peace and security.

The rise of right-wing governments, slow economic growth, and a resurgent Russia could bring about the “end of Europe,” and a reversion to a Europe of small, squabbling states that do not embrace western values.

Mr. Kirchick posited three factors that threaten Europe: aggressive Russia, apathetic Europe, and an absent United States.

Russia wants vassal states.

Europe needs to be a cohesive political power in its neighborhood.

...the greatest threat is a Europe that is unmoored from western values.

Tom Finneran

Sen. Eduardo Bhatia (PR)

Sen. Ryan McDougle (VA)

Sen. David Long (IN)

Sen. Wayne Niederhauser (UT)

James Kirchick

CONTACT

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september 13–17, 2017

Dictators, Demagogues, and
the Coming Dark Age of Europe

Jamie Kirchick

Visiting Fellow
The Brookings Institution

Jamie Kirchick, an award-winning reporter and political analyst, is the author The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age. As the EU works to create a region of peace, stability, cooperation, democracy, and social harmony, multiple crises across the continent threaten to quash that forward momentum. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many political analysts assumed that liberal democracy and free market capitalism would naturally arise, making Europe a place of peace and security. Mr. Kirchick described the diverse set of challenges now compromising those assumptions and straining the institutions and norms that have bound the region together. The rise of right-wing governments, slow economic growth, and a resurgent Russia could bring about the “end of Europe,” and a reversion to a Europe of small, squabbling states that do not embrace western values, Mr. Kirchick said. He examined the potential scenarios that may threaten the vision for a peaceful, integrated EU and considered the repercussions to the US and the States.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many political analysts assumed that liberal democracy and free market capitalism would naturally arise, making Europe a place of peace and security.

Illiberal Democracy

The assumption that liberal democracy was the next natural evolution for European countries has not played out. Right-wing populist movements have altered the course of democracy for some countries. In Hungary, for example, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s right-wing populist government has created an “illiberal democracy,” eliminating checks and balances, attacking the media, and consolidating power in the executive. Hungary joined the EU in 2004, however, if the country were to apply for accession to the EU today, it would not be accepted, Mr. Kirchick reported. Poland, too, has elected a right-wing government, which is attempting to overhaul the judicial system in ways critics fear will undermine Polish democracy.

The rise of right-wing governments, slow economic growth, and a resurgent Russia could bring about the “end of Europe,” and a reversion to a Europe of small, squabbling states that do not embrace western values.

Economic Disparities

The sluggish growth of the EU economy has also fueled both left-wing and right-wing populist extremism. Greece, for example, is moving toward a neo-Marxist economy, while the British Labor Party favors far-left policies. Competition for jobs has sharpened concerns over immigration, as the refugee crisis in the EU worsens.

Not So Secure

A resurgent Russia is a key threat. Its annexation of Crimea in 2014 was the first violent land-grab in Europe since World War II, a move designed to intimidate NATO allies, Mr. Kirchick reported. Adding to the tensions, the stresses of migration and the threat of terrorism, distort the image of a peaceful, secure Europe. Mr. Kirchick posited three factors that threaten Europe: aggressive Russia, apathetic Europe, and an absent United States.

Mr. Kirchick posited three factors that threaten Europe: aggressive Russia, apathetic Europe, and an absent United States.

Aggressive Russia

Russia has reverted to a dictatorship, Mr. Kirchick observed, invading its neighbor Ukraine based on the same rationale Hitler used to defend annexation of the Sudetenland. The Putin regime fomented widespread disinformation and spurious claims that genocide was being perpetrated against ethnic Russians in Ukraine, giving a rationale for Russian intervention.

Other NATO/EU countries, including Estonia and Latvia, also have large Russian minorities, and the same argument could be used by the Russians to invade these countries. However, NATO’s Article 5 calls for collective defense, meaning that an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies. Therefore, any incursion into a NATO country requires that the allies, including the US, respond. On the day before Mr. Kirchick’s presentation, Russian troops conducted the largest armed exercises since the Cold War along the borders shared with Eastern European countries.  Russia perceives the expansion of NATO into Central and Eastern Europe as a threat, therefore, it must demonstrate its military strength. However, Mr. Kirchick observed if these countries had prospered under the Soviets, they would not have joined the EU.

The reality is that Russia wants vassal states, Mr. Kirchick said. They are using intimidation, fake news, disinformation, and media manipulations to incite powerful political movements with different values from those of NATO. They seek to establish a post-western world order where might makes right, where powerful large countries like Russia can dictate what happens in the regions, and what markets and alliances are permitted.

Russia wants vassal states.

Apathetic Europe

Great Britain has a strong role in maintaining the balance of power in Europe. Brexit has disturbed this balance of power. In addition, the collapse of centrist political parties and the rise of far-right and far-left extremist groups and alternative parties, contributes to instability. Madame LePen’s far-right party garnered 34% of the vote in the French elections, while Austria saw a face off of the Green Party against the far-right; in Germany, centrist parties are losing adherents. For the first time since World War II, a far-right party, Alternative for Germany, challenged Chancellor Merkel, winning 13% of the vote and a seat in the Bundestag.

Migration is a key force driving the populist far-right agenda. Chancellor Merkel allowed open migration to Germany, which has received over 1 million refugees, many of them Muslims from Arab states in crisis. The cultural differences of the immigrants and failure to integrate into the broader society has led to serious social tensions.

Europe needs to be a cohesive political power in its neighborhood, Mr. Kirchick said. No country in the EU is strong enough on its own to stand on the world stage. The 28 EU countries represent 450 million people. Together, they have significant influence. But they must articulate and act on a coherent policy toward Russia, Syria, and Libya in order to solidify the union.

Europe needs to be a cohesive political power in its neighborhood.

Absent United States

For 70 years, the NATO alliance has protected the peace and prosperity of post-war Europe. This stability is based on shared values of free trade, liberal democracy, and security. And it was accomplished with active US support, not isolationism. American commitment to Europe played a fundamental role is restoring Europe’s peace and prosperity.

In the past, Russia knew that NATO would move against any aggressor, based on Article V, the commitment to collective defense. However, President Trump’s comments questioning allied support for Article V compromised this position, despite the fact that the comments were later retracted. It is true that the allies have to contribute to defense and military preparedness, Mr. Kirchick acknowledged. However, he concluded that the greatest threat is a Europe that is unmoored from western values.

...the greatest threat is a Europe that is unmoored from western values.

Q&A

Q: Tom Finneran (Moderator): What is driving the shift to right-wing parties?

A: Mr. Kirchick: In Hungary and Poland, the shift toward the right happened long before the refugee crisis, although the crisis exacerbated the move to the right. In the 25 years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the values of liberal democracy have not become strongly entrenched in Eastern Europe.

Q: Sen. Eduardo Bhatia (PR): Is anyone in the EU happy about Brexit? Does anyone benefit?

A: Mr. Kirchick: Britain was late in joining the Common Market (1975) and never joined the Euro zone or the free movement zone. Britain is often seen as an irritant. Federalists want the EU to be integrated as a super state, so they object to British non-cooperation. On the other hand, the countries whose accession to the EU Britain supported, such as Denmark and Poland, are concerned that with Brexit, the EU could become a Franco/German project. One positive result of Brexit is that the EU leaders are being forced to listen more to the concerns of its members.

A: Prof. Harris: Some people in Washington, DC welcomed Brexit. However, the absence of the US from Europe has a longer history than the Trump Administration. President Obama reset the policy with Russia in 2009, bringing Russia back into diplomatic acceptance only 6 months after Russia invaded Georgia, which angered some Europeans. Efforts to pass the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have not yet been successful, and large German protests against this have expressed anti-US sentiments. European trust in the US is compromised when President Trump makes it clear that he sees the world in zero-sum terms, with only one winner and the rest losers, rather than embracing economic policies that are beneficial to all.

A: Mr. Kirchick: President Trump has been consistent in denouncing trade deals. But the policy of the last 25 years has been that the US is the most trustworthy, most powerful partner, and that trade agreements are working well.

Q: Sen. Ryan McDougle (VA): Why should the US help provide security for the Europeans if they won’t contribute themselves? As the nationalism in Europe is fueled by concerns about the refugees, does this have a historical parallel to World War I and the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire?

A: Mr. Kirchick: Europeans have lacked a serious effort to prepare for their own defense. However, the price tag of allowing the peace and prosperity of Europe to suffer is too high for the US. Europe is the biggest market for the US and our best allies with similar values. What happens in Europe is too important to the US to ignore. Today, the European states are willing to spend money on their defense.

Turkey is a challenge for Europeans. For 15 years, they have been trying unsuccessfully to join the EU. But now they are even more authoritarian and even less likely to fulfill the requirements for EU accession.  On the other hand, EU has given Turkey 3 billion Euros to care for the 2-3 million Syrian refugees it hosts. Turkey holds the potential for political blackmail: “Give us what we want, or we will unleash the refugees on Europe.”

Q: Sen. David Long (IN): Terrorism is a concern in Spain, England, Germany, and France, fueled by the fear of immigrants. Brexit is a result of a growing sense of nationalism in the face of immigration. What happens when immigrants do not assimilate? People worry about maintaining their national culture, and the influx of immigrants threatens to change it. What are the long-term effects of immigration?

A: Mr. Kirchick: No European country has an effective assimilation model. It is very different from the US. Ethnic identity is important in Europe: you must look like a native or you are not accepted. Across generations, people identify with their cultural and ethnic heritage, even if they have never lived in their ethnic homeland. Many immigrants do not want to integrate. This is the challenge.

Q: Sen. Wayne Niederhauser (UT): Immigration was a concern during my 2006 election campaign. Utahans were worried about culture and assimilation. Then the issue died down. But immigration continues to be a big challenge in Germany, not only because of refugees, but also because the unrest of the Middle East is also coming into the country along with the immigrants.

A: Mr. Kirchick: We see reversion and democratic backsliding in some EU countries, including Poland and Hungary, who have refused to abide by the EU plan to distribute refugees across the EU countries. There are two types of immigrants to be considered: first, refugees who are fleeing imminent violence and have a legal claim by international conventions to sanctuary. And secondly, economic immigrants, people seeking better opportunities. Most applicants for immigration in 2015 were economic immigrants, and they were not admitted.

The migration issue highlights a gap between the European elite and the average European voter. Many voters want to ban Muslim immigration. If the centrist parties do not pay attention to the voters, the voters will fuel the rise of far right fascist parties.

Speaker Biography

James Kirchick

James Kirchick is a visiting fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe and Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution. A widely published journalist, he is the author of The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age, a correspondent for The Daily Beast, and a columnist for Tablet. He is at work on his second book, a history of gay Washington, D.C., for Henry Holt.

Jamie’s writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Ha’aretz, Newsweek, and many other outlets. He has contributed to publications in Germany, Britain, Italy, Canada, the Czech Republic, and Australia. Previous engagements include three years at The New Republic, and he was writer-at-large for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in Prague.

A leading voice on American gay politics and international gay rights, Jamie is a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Journalist of the Year Award. He has been a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow in Berlin, a Hoover Institution Media Fellow and a Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow, and is a professional member of the PEN American Center and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Born and raised in Boston, MA, Jamie is a graduate of the Roxbury Latin School and Yale College.

september 13–17, 2017

Dictators, Demagogues, and
the Coming Dark Age of Europe

Jamie Kirchick

Visiting Fellow
The Brookings Institution

Jamie Kirchick, an award-winning reporter and political analyst, is the author The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age. As the EU works to create a region of peace, stability, cooperation, democracy, and social harmony, multiple crises across the continent threaten to quash that forward momentum. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many political analysts assumed that liberal democracy and free market capitalism would naturally arise, making Europe a place of peace and security. Mr. Kirchick described the diverse set of challenges now compromising those assumptions and straining the institutions and norms that have bound the region together. The rise of right-wing governments, slow economic growth, and a resurgent Russia could bring about the “end of Europe,” and a reversion to a Europe of small, squabbling states that do not embrace western values, Mr. Kirchick said. He examined the potential scenarios that may threaten the vision for a peaceful, integrated EU and considered the repercussions to the US and the States.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many political analysts assumed that liberal democracy and free market capitalism would naturally arise, making Europe a place of peace and security.

Illiberal Democracy

The assumption that liberal democracy was the next natural evolution for European countries has not played out. Right-wing populist movements have altered the course of democracy for some countries. In Hungary, for example, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s right-wing populist government has created an “illiberal democracy,” eliminating checks and balances, attacking the media, and consolidating power in the executive. Hungary joined the EU in 2004, however, if the country were to apply for accession to the EU today, it would not be accepted, Mr. Kirchick reported. Poland, too, has elected a right-wing government, which is attempting to overhaul the judicial system in ways critics fear will undermine Polish democracy.

The rise of right-wing governments, slow economic growth, and a resurgent Russia could bring about the “end of Europe,” and a reversion to a Europe of small, squabbling states that do not embrace western values.

Economic Disparities

The sluggish growth of the EU economy has also fueled both left-wing and right-wing populist extremism. Greece, for example, is moving toward a neo-Marxist economy, while the British Labor Party favors far-left policies. Competition for jobs has sharpened concerns over immigration, as the refugee crisis in the EU worsens.

Not So Secure

A resurgent Russia is a key threat. Its annexation of Crimea in 2014 was the first violent land-grab in Europe since World War II, a move designed to intimidate NATO allies, Mr. Kirchick reported. Adding to the tensions, the stresses of migration and the threat of terrorism, distort the image of a peaceful, secure Europe. Mr. Kirchick posited three factors that threaten Europe: aggressive Russia, apathetic Europe, and an absent United States.

Mr. Kirchick posited three factors that threaten Europe: aggressive Russia, apathetic Europe, and an absent United States.

Aggressive Russia

Russia has reverted to a dictatorship, Mr. Kirchick observed, invading its neighbor Ukraine based on the same rationale Hitler used to defend annexation of the Sudetenland. The Putin regime fomented widespread disinformation and spurious claims that genocide was being perpetrated against ethnic Russians in Ukraine, giving a rationale for Russian intervention.

Other NATO/EU countries, including Estonia and Latvia, also have large Russian minorities, and the same argument could be used by the Russians to invade these countries. However, NATO’s Article 5 calls for collective defense, meaning that an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies. Therefore, any incursion into a NATO country requires that the allies, including the US, respond. On the day before Mr. Kirchick’s presentation, Russian troops conducted the largest armed exercises since the Cold War along the borders shared with Eastern European countries.  Russia perceives the expansion of NATO into Central and Eastern Europe as a threat, therefore, it must demonstrate its military strength. However, Mr. Kirchick observed if these countries had prospered under the Soviets, they would not have joined the EU.

The reality is that Russia wants vassal states, Mr. Kirchick said. They are using intimidation, fake news, disinformation, and media manipulations to incite powerful political movements with different values from those of NATO. They seek to establish a post-western world order where might makes right, where powerful large countries like Russia can dictate what happens in the regions, and what markets and alliances are permitted.

Russia wants vassal states.

Apathetic Europe

Great Britain has a strong role in maintaining the balance of power in Europe. Brexit has disturbed this balance of power. In addition, the collapse of centrist political parties and the rise of far-right and far-left extremist groups and alternative parties, contributes to instability. Madame LePen’s far-right party garnered 34% of the vote in the French elections, while Austria saw a face off of the Green Party against the far-right; in Germany, centrist parties are losing adherents. For the first time since World War II, a far-right party, Alternative for Germany, challenged Chancellor Merkel, winning 13% of the vote and a seat in the Bundestag.

Migration is a key force driving the populist far-right agenda. Chancellor Merkel allowed open migration to Germany, which has received over 1 million refugees, many of them Muslims from Arab states in crisis. The cultural differences of the immigrants and failure to integrate into the broader society has led to serious social tensions.

Europe needs to be a cohesive political power in its neighborhood, Mr. Kirchick said. No country in the EU is strong enough on its own to stand on the world stage. The 28 EU countries represent 450 million people. Together, they have significant influence. But they must articulate and act on a coherent policy toward Russia, Syria, and Libya in order to solidify the union.

Europe needs to be a cohesive political power in its neighborhood.

Absent United States

For 70 years, the NATO alliance has protected the peace and prosperity of post-war Europe. This stability is based on shared values of free trade, liberal democracy, and security. And it was accomplished with active US support, not isolationism. American commitment to Europe played a fundamental role is restoring Europe’s peace and prosperity.

In the past, Russia knew that NATO would move against any aggressor, based on Article V, the commitment to collective defense. However, President Trump’s comments questioning allied support for Article V compromised this position, despite the fact that the comments were later retracted. It is true that the allies have to contribute to defense and military preparedness, Mr. Kirchick acknowledged. However, he concluded that the greatest threat is a Europe that is unmoored from western values.

...the greatest threat is a Europe that is unmoored from western values.

Q&A

Q: Tom Finneran (Moderator): What is driving the shift to right-wing parties?

A: Mr. Kirchick: In Hungary and Poland, the shift toward the right happened long before the refugee crisis, although the crisis exacerbated the move to the right. In the 25 years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the values of liberal democracy have not become strongly entrenched in Eastern Europe.

Q: Sen. Eduardo Bhatia (PR): Is anyone in the EU happy about Brexit? Does anyone benefit?

A: Mr. Kirchick: Britain was late in joining the Common Market (1975) and never joined the Euro zone or the free movement zone. Britain is often seen as an irritant. Federalists want the EU to be integrated as a super state, so they object to British non-cooperation. On the other hand, the countries whose accession to the EU Britain supported, such as Denmark and Poland, are concerned that with Brexit, the EU could become a Franco/German project. One positive result of Brexit is that the EU leaders are being forced to listen more to the concerns of its members.

A: Prof. Harris: Some people in Washington, DC welcomed Brexit. However, the absence of the US from Europe has a longer history than the Trump Administration. President Obama reset the policy with Russia in 2009, bringing Russia back into diplomatic acceptance only 6 months after Russia invaded Georgia, which angered some Europeans. Efforts to pass the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have not yet been successful, and large German protests against this have expressed anti-US sentiments. European trust in the US is compromised when President Trump makes it clear that he sees the world in zero-sum terms, with only one winner and the rest losers, rather than embracing economic policies that are beneficial to all.

A: Mr. Kirchick: President Trump has been consistent in denouncing trade deals. But the policy of the last 25 years has been that the US is the most trustworthy, most powerful partner, and that trade agreements are working well.

Q: Sen. Ryan McDougle (VA): Why should the US help provide security for the Europeans if they won’t contribute themselves? As the nationalism in Europe is fueled by concerns about the refugees, does this have a historical parallel to World War I and the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire?

A: Mr. Kirchick: Europeans have lacked a serious effort to prepare for their own defense. However, the price tag of allowing the peace and prosperity of Europe to suffer is too high for the US. Europe is the biggest market for the US and our best allies with similar values. What happens in Europe is too important to the US to ignore. Today, the European states are willing to spend money on their defense.

Turkey is a challenge for Europeans. For 15 years, they have been trying unsuccessfully to join the EU. But now they are even more authoritarian and even less likely to fulfill the requirements for EU accession.  On the other hand, EU has given Turkey 3 billion Euros to care for the 2-3 million Syrian refugees it hosts. Turkey holds the potential for political blackmail: “Give us what we want, or we will unleash the refugees on Europe.”

Q: Sen. David Long (IN): Terrorism is a concern in Spain, England, Germany, and France, fueled by the fear of immigrants. Brexit is a result of a growing sense of nationalism in the face of immigration. What happens when immigrants do not assimilate? People worry about maintaining their national culture, and the influx of immigrants threatens to change it. What are the long-term effects of immigration?

A: Mr. Kirchick: No European country has an effective assimilation model. It is very different from the US. Ethnic identity is important in Europe: you must look like a native or you are not accepted. Across generations, people identify with their cultural and ethnic heritage, even if they have never lived in their ethnic homeland. Many immigrants do not want to integrate. This is the challenge.

Q: Sen. Wayne Niederhauser (UT): Immigration was a concern during my 2006 election campaign. Utahans were worried about culture and assimilation. Then the issue died down. But immigration continues to be a big challenge in Germany, not only because of refugees, but also because the unrest of the Middle East is also coming into the country along with the immigrants.

A: Mr. Kirchick: We see reversion and democratic backsliding in some EU countries, including Poland and Hungary, who have refused to abide by the EU plan to distribute refugees across the EU countries. There are two types of immigrants to be considered: first, refugees who are fleeing imminent violence and have a legal claim by international conventions to sanctuary. And secondly, economic immigrants, people seeking better opportunities. Most applicants for immigration in 2015 were economic immigrants, and they were not admitted.

The migration issue highlights a gap between the European elite and the average European voter. Many voters want to ban Muslim immigration. If the centrist parties do not pay attention to the voters, the voters will fuel the rise of far right fascist parties.

Speaker Biography

James Kirchick

James Kirchick is a visiting fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe and Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution. A widely published journalist, he is the author of The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age, a correspondent for The Daily Beast, and a columnist for Tablet. He is at work on his second book, a history of gay Washington, D.C., for Henry Holt.

Jamie’s writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Ha’aretz, Newsweek, and many other outlets. He has contributed to publications in Germany, Britain, Italy, Canada, the Czech Republic, and Australia. Previous engagements include three years at The New Republic, and he was writer-at-large for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in Prague.

A leading voice on American gay politics and international gay rights, Jamie is a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Journalist of the Year Award. He has been a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow in Berlin, a Hoover Institution Media Fellow and a Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow, and is a professional member of the PEN American Center and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Born and raised in Boston, MA, Jamie is a graduate of the Roxbury Latin School and Yale College.