Raise Your Hand If You’re Sick Of Hearing “Old Europe” and “New Europe”

Glenn Reynolds made the following observation: “Well, New Europe has done pretty well on this front, with active and vigorous support [of the Ukrainian protestors] from Poland, Lithuania, and the Czechs. Old Europe, not so much.”

This is glib. Poland is indeed taking the lead in negotiating a solution — no surprise, since they’re right next door — but is there any basis for saying the protestors don’t enjoy much support from “Old Europe”?

See statements by Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, and perhaps the strongest remarks of all coming from European Commission chief Jose Barroso, who demanded a “serious, objective and balanced review of the electoral process and the electoral results.” Seems Yushcenko enjoys strong support in EU capitals in both the east and west.

As an example of “Old Europe” thinking, Reynolds cites the idiotic Jonathan Steel column already skewered here.

I’m also not sure what active and vigorous support he’s talking about the from Czech side. Yes, there have been laudable statements of support from the retired Havel. (Ditto for Walesa.) The Czech foreign ministry summoned the Ukrainian ambassador and told him the Czechs don’t trust the official poll results, which sounds about the same as what’s happening across the continent. Meanwhile, the Czech Communists — the nation’s second most popular party — made an odious comparison with the U.S. elections and lamented the Americans’ “forcible approach to the problem.” I challenge somebody to name a mainstream Western European party expressing that level of support for Yanukovych.

42 thoughts on “Raise Your Hand If You’re Sick Of Hearing “Old Europe” and “New Europe”

  1. Yes, well; consider the source. When ‘Old Europe’ speaks out in support of Ukrainian democracy, Reynolds has no option but to cover his ears and say ‘La la la I can’t hear you.’ Else he might have to adjust his mental map.

    One wonders: when Poland’s President Kwasniewski complained that Bush had ‘taken the Poles for a ride’, did the country suddenly age a century or two?

  2. Is Johnathan Steel’s column “idiotic”? Certainly some of the details (Russia isn’t intrested in imperialism – my arse) are off, but the general point that Yushchenko might not be the perfect democrat holds?

  3. This is Reynolds trying to promote the idea that the left in the U.S. is not supporting Ukrainian democracy – he is more concerned with U.S. politics than with what really happens in the Ukraine. His spin is an outright fabrication of course; NewsTrolls http://www.newstrolls.com , a good example of the left, has been very clear in its support.

  4. I think that even a cursory observation of the situation indeed shows quite agressive support from “Old Europe”. And, like you said, it stands to reason that Poland would be taking the lead.

    Western Europe does have to walk a bit of a fine line here; though not as thin as the US, and as the days have passed Yushchenko has done a remarkable job of rallying support form both “Old Europe” and, now, the US.

  5. Snooo,

    Idiotic is maybe harsh. How about ignorant, condescending and deeply, deeply confused? I do not think Steel’s general thrust was that Yushchenko is not the perfect democrat. That would be a point well taken. There was too much other shite mixed in, i.e. that the “real story” is the United States trying to expand its sphere of influence. Sorry, but the real story is that Ukrainians want democracy, full stop.


  6. Glenn is so terrible at this point–the Ukraine story is such the wrong story to make your cheap political points with. And then he links back to this post without attempting to address any of the points in this post?

  7. Reynolds is spot on. This is an opportunity for “world leaders” like Chirac and Schroeder to rise above the fray and make it clear that Europe expects democratic standards to be adhered to within Europe, even though Ukraine is not a part of the EU. This kind of stopping at the borders of the EU is exactly what caused Yugoslavia to spin out of control, with awful repercussions.

    Yet we don’t hear of Chirac or Schroeder putting the squeeze on Putin to call for new elections. It just seems that those kinds of heavy handed tactics are used only when America is the target.

    Hypocrisy is what it is, and Old Europe is full of it.

  8. RSN,

    you might want to let the EU’s high representative Javier Solana know that Old Europe is not interested in Ukrainian democracy. That way he can come home from Kyiv, where he is currently (if you are right) wasting his time pressing for just that.

    More generally, you might want to consider acquiring a clue about what you say before you say it. You’ll find you look foolish less often that way.

  9. Steve,

    I respect that Ukrainians want democracy, thats a given. But you cannot pretend that there are international interests at stake here, as there would be anywhere. I do not think the US is trying to turn the Ukraine into some kind of client state as that would be hysterical – but to portray this as a simple david (the little democrat) vs golaith (the evil Russian authoritarian) event is a misrepresentation.

  10. are international interests=aren’t.

    PS. I’d agree with you that Steel’s article is a hamfisted Marxist approach to whats happening in Kiev, and some of it is patently wrong, but it highlights a few points that have been almost entirely absent in the UK’s media coverage in the past couple of days.

  11. I don’t think Glenn’s frequent reference to Old and New Europe is meant to be taken seriously. And those who do take Glenn seriously when he does use the terms do themselves a disservice.

  12. Mrs. T: but that’s just the point. Just the high commissioner, dispatched to wag a finger? Chirac and Schroeder, – world leaders – have the clout with Putin, where are they?

    The key is to twist Putin’s arm so that he will come out supporting a new referendum.

    And your comment reflects the typical Euroweenie attitude. “But we’ve sent our high commissioner! That ought to send the right message!” That was the tactic Europeans tried with Yugoslavia, to such great, great success…

  13. RSN,

    Ah, I see. You’re upset that the EU has ‘only’ sent Solana. Yes, well, seeing how George Bush himself is in Kyiv wearing orange side by side with the massed demonstrators, that is a rather weak response.

    I don’t know what Chirac’s been up to, but Schr?der (as you would know if you had been paying attention) has certainly been on the phone to Putin.

    I’m not so certain that Putin has been moved to waver (suggesting, for example, that he too would welcome a revote) by ‘strongarming’. With all due respect to George Bush and his adminstration (who have certainly been doing the right thing on this issue), I don’t think Putin is very vulnerable to unilateral strongarming. He could tell Bush to go f*ck himself, and what would Bush then do? He’s a bit thinly stretched for troops at the moment, after all.

    I think that what has happened here involves a lot of behind-the-scenes diplomacy. And I think that the upshot of that diplomacy is that Putin realises he can’t play the US and the EU off each other on this one. That would be a rather successful example of multilateralism. It isn’t always a bad thing, you know.

  14. The whole story is that Glenn Reynolds suffers from severe Europhobia, and he never misses a chance to scratch his itch.

  15. It’s more like “Euro-disappointment,” Oscar. Back when I used to teach EC/EU law (around ten years ago)I was an enthusiast. But it hasn’t worked out as promised, and seems mostly to be a power-grab by France and Germany, the “old Europe” to which I was referring. And I don’t think it’s fair to credit them with Solana’s visit, is it?

  16. Like Aidan said, the concept never made much sense.

    The idea seemed to be that some EU states (such as Poland) would blindly do whatever the USA wanted them to, and would be, in effect, trojan horses for the USA in the EU. But that’s silly — Poland will do what it thinks is in its own interests, as will all countries.

    Poland (and the other 9 countries joining the EU this year) did so because they believe that thier vlaues and interests are substancially the same as those of the other European countries. Which has proved to be the case — everyone in Europe (pretty much) supports the side of freedom in Ukraine, because we all believe in pretty much the same things.

    So you can expect the new EU countries to generally act in the European interest.

  17. Well, for those wondering, here’s a statement from Chirac, who’s currently at the Le Francophonie summit in Burkina Faso. And here’s the Dutch Foreign Minister caling for new elections.

    As I intend to write in a post at some point, this crisis is proof that in some instances, the Common Foreign Policy can work, as rather than 25 different lines, there’s just one and Solana is out there as the representative of the whole EU.

  18. Mrs. T: So, am I to understand that Bush is needed to resolve this crisis, too? Why even compare what Europeans are doing to what the Americans are doing? This is primarily a European problem, albeit with wider international significance. However, it seems that European leaders should take the lead on this… but I fear we will see only the kind of hand-wringing and thumb-twiddling Old Europe is known for in recent history, whenever there is a crisis.

    If Putin can be convinced that it is not in Russia’s interest to see the democratic process thwarted in the Ukraine, a standard could be set for other New European and CIS states that are struggling with the concept. There is an opportunity here to set a precedent; the best leaders to accomplish that would be the ones who are most vested in the concept of a multilateral, democratic Europe which rules through the influence of moral prestige. Out of all European leaders, Chirac and Schroeder embody that concept the most.

    Yet their performance has been tepid, so far. I do agree that most of what is going on is probably behind-the-scenes, yet if the crisis deepens, both Chirac and Schroeder should be prepared to take the lead in confronting Putin’s ambitions.

  19. [B]oth Chirac and Schroeder should be prepared to take the lead in confronting Putin?s ambitions.

    Please, step out from behind your use of clich?s and tell us a) what “take the lead means and b) how it differs from what they’re doing already.

  20. Just like the Czech the German foreign ministry summonded the Ukrainian ambassador to talk with him about the concerns of the German government about the current situation in the Ukraine. Cite http://www.bundesregierung.de

    “Unterdessen ist der ukrainische Botschafter in Deutschland am 23. November ins Ausw?rtige Amt einbestellt worden, um ihm die Besorgnis der Bundesregierung ?ber die gravierenden M?ngel beim zweiten Wahlgang zur Pr?sidentschaftswahl mitzuteilen. “

  21. Re: Glenn Reynolds, I think we can safely ignore any sort of geopolitical analysis by someone who enjoys fantasizing about France getting nuked.

  22. Vaara: yours is a rather underhanded distortion of what Reynolds actually said in that post you’ve cited.

    It seems it’s open season on Reynolds today. What’s the matter, everyone? Jealous of his fame and influence?

  23. Maybe us Europeans should start calling america “New Europe”. At least it’s a lot more correct than Glenns ignorant ideas. 😉

  24. If Putin can be convinced that it is not in Russia’s interest to see the democratic process thwarted in the Ukraine, a standard could

    It is quite possible that he cares about the outcome, not how it is achieved. He certainly doesn’t want NATO right on the border.

    Even to Europe democracy and freedom of Ukraine is not the paramount objective. Peace is more important.

  25. Well RSN, if you can convincingly explain why it was necessary for Reynolds to cite France alongside Saddam-era Iraq and Saudi Arabia as countries whose diplomats ought to be “worried” about the possible disappearance of the nuclear taboo, please do so.

    As for his non-point about the alleged lack of concern in “Old Europe” about the situation in Ukraine, it’s nothing more than good old-fashioned Glennuendo, i.e. a darkly ominous inference drawn from an opponent’s failure to discuss a political issue. Of course, all bloggers do it; but Glenn pioneered it.

  26. Oliver: “Even to Europe democracy and freedom of Ukraine is not the paramount objective. Peace is more important.”

    Then this is the greatest failing of Europe. And it explains much, especially where Iraq is concerned.

    Really, if what you say is true, then this does point to the fact that Europe is divided between New Europe, who know that democratic freedom has to be struggled for, and Old Europe, who’ll do everything possible to not rock the boat.

    And, vaara, that would mean Reynolds is right in his assessment (I’ll skip the debate regarding his nukes quote, so as not to go too off the topic).

  27. “Well RSN, if you can convincingly explain why it was necessary for Reynolds to cite France alongside Saddam-era Iraq and Saudi Arabia as countries whose diplomats ought to be “worried” about the possible disappearance of the nuclear taboo, please do so.”

    I think it would be incumbent upon you to convincingly explain how it is evidence of Glenn fantasizing about those countries being nuke targets. I’ve read it and can’t see it. Maybe my Derrida-skillz aren’t fine tuned enough.

  28. What he said was, “The United States’ nuclear power is a huge military ace that it can’t really play, mostly for diplomatic reasons. But if there’s a nuclear war between two more-or-less Third World countries (Pakistan more, India less) will that lower the threshhold? If I were, say, an Iraqi, or a Saudi, or for that matter a French diplomat, this would worry me.”

    Again, maybe someone can explain to me: what does France have to do with this exactly? What purpose does it serve to lump France together with Iraq and Saudi Arabia? He goes on to say,

    “If I were Israel, on the other hand, I might see some value in the loosening of nuclear restraints.”

    The implication being — what exactly?

    Sorry, this is all getting a bit off-topic… but for something ON topic, check out this bizarre account by a pair of Belarusian human-rights activists who were apparently drugged, beaten, and detained by Ukrainian police at the Belarus border, while they were traveling home to Minsk from the protests in Kiev. There’s also a rumor going around that Yushchenko himself was poisoned a few months ago…

  29. Well, for those who seem to think that European countries should be saying more – despite the fact that the presence of Solana (and the statements by Barroso) indicates clearly that all 25 EU nations agree action’s needed – you might want to check out this post at Harry’s Place which expresses concern that the Bush Administration may be sending mixed messages.

  30. Vaara: thanks for that interesting link to the Belarusian activists! That really was a harrowing experience. To think they still use drugs to make their targets comply…

    All the more reason to hope for democratic rule of law for the Ukraine.

    I love the fact that the activist pictured there, somewhere in Belarus… wears a NY Yankees baseball cap!

  31. RSN, I have a T-shirt on with an American flag on it. It was made in India. Your point is?…

    Nick, thanks for the link – this criticism from the mad liberal warhawks & islamophobes at Harry’s Place is of particularly note… Is Bush thinking about his own election, or does he think that a Yanukovych admin fearing US help in its deposal would be more willing to comply with demands?

  32. “Really, if what you say is true, then this does point to the fact that Europe is divided between New Europe, who know that democratic freedom has to be struggled for, and Old Europe, who’ll do everything possible to not rock the boat.”

    I am sure that one of the main protagonists of ‘Old Europe’, namely Germany has a pretty good idea what democratic freedom means. Or, more correctly, half of Germany. The Eastern half.

    That the new countries that have joined the EU come from a slightly different background, communism, is certainly a factor. And I do hope that, through their experiences, they will bring new impetus and ideas into the EU.

    The terms ‘Old Europe’ and ‘New Europe’ were used to amplify differences of opinion in the EU, maybe even to drive a wedge between different EU countries, because France and Germany refused to support the invasion of Iraq. Any reference made to ‘Old Europe and New Europe’ is therefore tainted and suspect.

    If France, Germany and Belgium had chosen to participate in the Iraq war there would not have been an ‘Old versus New Europe’.

    As for struggling for democratic freedom (intervention) and not rocking the boat (isolationism), the US has some history there as well:


    And here is another one:


    I suppose contemporay US Dems should henceforth be called ‘Blue -not rocking the boat- America’ and Republicans ‘Red -fight for democratic freedom- America’? (The terms ‘Old’ and ‘New’ clearly do not apply, as shown in the stories linked to above)

  33. David Aaronovitch addresses this issue in his Observer column:And here’s a second reason for feeling warm about this cold place. For all the talk about the wedge driven between the EU and America over Iraq, what has been evident from the response to events in the Ukraine is how much we have in common. The EU and its representatives, the governments of the new EU states which border the Ukraine and the US State Department have all been saying much the same thing. The consequence has been to give immense encouragement to those Ukrainians for whom the issue is a straightforward one of democratic standards. And for those of us who cannot see how the world will be a better place if Europe and America are at each others’ throats, this solidarity is encouraging.

  34. Nick B: when you look at Bush’s alleged “mixed message”, you’ll find that it is not so mixed at all. What is really mixed up is how the Washington Post decided to spin it. There is absolutely nothing in what Bush said that should lead to the conclusions WaPo draws.

    This is just another attempt on the part of MSM to write policy on their own, which is exactly what MSM does all the time.

  35. Guy: of course, the division between “Old” and “New” Europe is an artificial construct, devised in the devious mind of Donald Rumsfeld.

    Take, for example, the Netherlands. Is it a member of “New Europe” because they happen to have sent troops to Iraq? Or is it part of “Old Europe” because it, like most of the rest of the EU-15, retains a high-tax, high-wage welfare state and has lots of Muslims living in it? The Muslim population of the former COMECON countries — which is evidently what Rumsfeld means by “new Europe” — is approximately nil. (Not counting Bulgaria.)

    And what about Hungary? It has troops in Iraq now, but plans to withdraw them early next year. Will it suddenly switch — as Spain did — from “new” to “old”?

    Finally, for a bit of comic relief, check out what Adam Yoshida — Canada’s biggest loonie (as it were) — has to say about Ukraine. Short version: Putin is planning an Anschluss, but he really ought to obliterate Chechnya and France and Germany instead.

    His “analysis” is so insane that (warning: cheap shot coming up) I’m surprised Glenn hasn’t linked to it yet. 🙂

  36. Personally, I think this shows up that once you get west of the Channel, no-one has a clue about the EU institutions, how they work, or the political culture of almost any member state. (I include the UK in this reckless generalisation) In this case, a complete perception reversal has been achieved – after all, this is a case where the EU really does have a common foreign policy. Back at the outset, all member states called in their respective Ukrainian ambassadors on the same day. Not a sign of a split.

  37. vaara: And don’t forget Spain, which switched from New to Old Europe in the blink of the eye.

    Still Rumsfeld’s characterization had some humor value and was basically polite. Far better than Chirac’s ad hominem, calling Rumsfeld “what’s his name.” No class this guy.

  38. after all, this is a case where the EU really does have a common foreign policy.

    Isn’t that because Europe’s interests are relatively clear and uniform? Basically up to now the situation hasn’t required any basic decisions. All of Europe wants a democratic and western Ukraine achieved in a peaceful manner.

    What if there is a less desirable development which requires tougher choices? It seems to me that the reactions would depend to a large extent on who gets how much gas and oil over which pipelines.

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