The End of Europe | James Kirchick

Summary of: The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age
By: James Kirchick

Introduction

Prepare to delve into ‘The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age’ as author James Kirchick examines the main forces challenging Europe and the European Union’s stability. In the decades following World War II, Europe has been a hub of social progress, economic growth, and peace. Kirchick investigates the various factors contributing to Europe’s impending crisis, ranging from Russia’s aggressive nationalism, surge of hotheaded populists, Brexit, anti-Islamic sentiments, rise of anti-Semitism, and issues surrounding immigration from Muslim-majority countries. Get ready to explore Europe’s current socio-political landscape, and understand how these threats contribute to the potential decline of the EU.

The End of the EU?

Europe, after World War II, was characterized by economic affluence, social progressiveness, and a low-level military presence. The European Union (EU) was regarded as a world power and a counterbalance to the US, with more humane and tolerant values. However, the EU’s era of peace and prosperity seems to be over, and there is a variety of forces that are contributing to its collapse. The most obvious split is the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Prior to Brexit, a financial crisis showed the imprudence of preserving outdated welfare states. European anti-Muslim sentiment, anti-Semitism, and bellicose nationalism in Russia and Hungary further rupture the EU. Instead of electing noble leaders like Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa, Europeans seem to prefer hotheaded populists like Viktor Orbán, Jean-Marie and Marine Le Pen, and Milos Zeman. This trend is reflected in low voter turnout for parliamentary elections, suggesting that Europeans prefer renationalization of politics over regular business. Despite these challenges, the EU remains a vital ally to the US, sharing the American zeal for free trade, free speech, and religious freedoms. To quote Winston Churchill, ”The EU may be the worst system of governing Europe, but it is better than any of the alternatives.”

Russia’s Path to Authoritarianism

Putin’s Russia is a destabilizing force, with a leader who seems more intent on lining his pockets and recasting Stalin as a patriot than on rebuilding the Soviet Union. More than half of Russians now have a favorable view of Stalin, while Putin positions Russia as the anti-Europe, a place of traditional values without the political correctness of Europe and America. Putin’s “Russian exceptionalism” evokes Hitler’s talking points of victimization and ethnic oppression, and Russia’s trajectory is now purely authoritarian, as illustrated by its tampering with the 2016 US presidential election.

Hungary’s Dangerous Nationalist Path

The rise of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Hungary has led to revisionist history where the country portrays itself as a victim. Hungary’s Holocaust participation has been rewritten and nationalism and intolerance are on the rise. Orbán’s pro-Christian and anti-Muslim stance has led to conflicts with Brussels, and his disregard for Hungary’s role in the Holocaust is just one way he breaks with European orthodoxy.

Germany’s Political Ambivalence

Despite being a supporter of European unification and NATO, Germany’s political culture has never been quite as loose as the French and English, nor quite as tightly wound as Hungary’s and Russia’s. The country’s ambivalence towards American policy became obvious during the Gulf War when German troops sat out the conflict, but the government wrote an $11 billion check to support the US and its allies. Although Germans carry deep scars from World War II, the nation remains less-than-loved among its European neighbors, and only a quarter of them think their nation should play an active military role in the world. The fact that Germany is Europe’s largest nation underscores its disengagement in military conflicts and raises its political profile.

Europe’s Immigration Backlash

Germany and other European countries have long embraced unlimited immigration as a way to make up for their shameful legacy of genocide and racism. However, the rise of anti-immigrant sentiments in Sweden and Germany, and the official cover-up of criminal behavior by immigrants across Europe, suggest a growing backlash against this policy. The populist Sweden Democrats, with neo-Nazi roots, gained widespread support by limiting immigration. Even in Germany, where hate speech laws are broad and enforced, the anti-immigrant movement PEGIDA is gaining ground. The problem is not just with refugees but also with the political correctness that enslaves Europe, stifling any criticism of immigration.

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