A Rift?*

*Editor’s Note: On March 4, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.

Washington welcomed France in the person of President Emmanuel Macron with a 21-gun salute, a lobster dinner and a shower of flattery. Macron was the first foreign leader to pay a state visit since President Joe Biden took office almost two years ago, and Washington rolled out the red carpet for him.

But there were no compromises on economic policy. “I make no apology since I wrote the legislation we’re talking about,” said Biden about the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a massive package of tax and clean energy legislation. The $370 billion law, which was passed in August, threatens to destroy industry in the Old World by slyly luring European manufacturers to the U.S.

Macron came to Washington to defend not only France. He was charged, in essence, with representing all of Europe. Politico, the conglomerate owned by Germany’s largest media mogul Axel Springer, recently ran articles with such alarming headlines as “Europe Accuses US of Profiting from War” and “EU Plans Subsidy War Chest as Industry Faces ‘Existential’ Threat from US.”

European officials now openly complain that the U.S. has profited from the war in Ukraine by forcing Europeans to buy more and more gas at exorbitant prices. The U.S. also profits by supplying arms to Ukraine, having delivered twice as many weapons as Europe. Europe seems to be saying to America, almost as a threat, “America must understand that public opinion in many EU countries is changing.”

And now in Washington, Macron plucked up the courage to say that choices made by the U.S. are “choices that will fragment the West.” But he uttered those words at the French Embassy to his own compatriots. And he immediately emphasized that France must “stand together, shoulder to shoulder,” with the U.S., apparently having already forgotten last year’s insulting episode when the U.S. and Britain forced Australia to break its multi-billion-dollar contract with France for the purchase of 12 submarines.

Biden mockingly responded to complaints about America’s economic policy by suggesting that Macron and Europe “do the same thing.” And what do you suppose? Will Europe fight for peace and strive to persuade Washington to bring Kyiv to the negotiating table?

No. Europe follows the advice of its elders and takes its own protectionist measures! Back in September, head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced the creation of the European Sovereignty Fund, and now the EU is developing measures to stimulate its high-tech sector. All the while, European diplomats continue to beg Washington for discounted gas to “preserve the unity of public opinion.”

Yet despite any apparent rifts between them, the U.S. and Europe are still in agreement on a global level: Russia must be weakened and brought to a state of subordination such as has not been seen since the 1990s. Below the surface, inter-capitalist competition is becoming increasingly virulent within the trans-Atlantic community and within Europe, specifically between Germany and France. The crisis in Ukraine has exacerbated preexisting contradictions. Just recently during the pandemic, Europeans were snatching masks, vaccines and artificial respirators from one another. Now, apparently, there will be a grab for gas, electricity and other resources.

And what about ordinary people? Their prosperity is being eroded by inflation and soaring prices for gas and electricity. They are promised subsidies, and if they take to the streets in protest, they know too well that they will be beaten.

To sum things up, there is complete unanimity in the West that Russia must be crushed. The only disagreement is about who should foot the bill to get the job done.

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