Pointing across the Atlantic has long been a favorite diversionary tactic for Europe’s political elite when things start to get crazy on the continent.
Whether it’s the war in Ukraine (Washington shouldn’t have expanded NATO), natural disasters (too many American SUVs promoting climate change) or the demise of the French language (cultureless Hollywood), America is essentially the culprit. .
In the latest installment of this tiresome tradition, European officials are trying to blame greedy Americans for the continent’s current mess, accusing them of holding the mighty dollar. Top moststooping so low as to even take advantage of the war in Ukraine.
A senior European official said, “The fact is, if you look at it seriously, the country with the most to gain from this war is the US because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons.” Huh.” take out To my Politico colleagues last week.
However, restraint is not a virtue that can be safely attributed to an anonymous accuser.
Leaving aside the fact that Ukraine would have collapsed months ago if the US had not intervened, the direct impact of Russia’s war on America’s $26 trillion economy from natural gas and arms sales is just a drop in the bucket .
For one thing, the US exports less than 10 percent of its natural gas production. In 2021, those exports are expected to be worth about $27 billion. While Europeans are naturally upset that their gas prices are four times that of the US, no one told them to make themselves dependent on Russian gas or to shut down fully functioning nuclear power plants (really , Washington told him not to do it for years) ).
The allegation of alleged war profiteering from arms is no less hollow. Of the nearly $30 billion in military aid that the US has provided to Ukraine so far, much of the equipment has been donated.
While US defense contractors stand to benefit from replacing stocks and strong demand for weapons among NATO allies, so should their European counterparts.
Yet therein lies the rub: European firms should be just as profitable as Americans, but aren’t. The main reason for this is that Europe has under-invested in its defense industry.
For example, Germany’s recent decision to buy American F-35 fighter jets was motivated by the simple fact that there is no European alternative. A plan by France, Germany and Spain to develop “future combat air systemConceived in 2001, it is yet to get off the ground amidst constant infighting.
Political resistance in several European states on arms exports has further blocked the region’s arms industry.
Take the Leopard 2 main battle tank, built by Krauss-Maffei of Germany and considered by many to be the best tank in the world. Despite that reputation, German lost While in South Korea, NATO ally Poland recently ordered nearly 1,000 new tanks. While price was one factor, political uncertainty was another, according to a person familiar with the decision, citing Berlin’s decision to block sales of decommissioned infantry fighting vehicles and battle tanks to Ukraine.
Europe’s main bugaboo these days when it comes to the US includes a set of green subsidies introduced by the Biden administration that benefit US companies.
One of French President Emmanuel Macron’s top priorities during his state visit to Washington this week will be to reduce provisions in Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a sweeping legislative initiative covering everything from climate to health Is. European officials describe it as the reincarnation of Smoot-Hawley ACT, a list of tariffs introduced in Washington in 1930 that historians blame for worsening the Great Depression.
Europeans fear that generous “Made in the USA” subsidies will undermine their industry and are threatening a trade war.
However, the inconvenient truth is that Europeans are finding it difficult to invest in their own companies at home because governments have placed more emphasis on subsidizing domestic gas bills, rather than helping the region’s industry weather the crisis. to do.
“Europe is not cost-competitive in many areas, especially when it comes to electricity and gas costs,” Thomas Schaefer, who runs the Volkswagen brand, said in a post. social media Criticism of Europe’s Industrial Policy
“If we do not succeed in quickly reducing energy prices in Germany and Europe, energy-intensive production in Germany and the EU, or investment for new battery cell factories, will no longer be possible,” he said.
Still, ask Berlin’s government quarter what’s really holding Germany’s economy back these days and the answer is clear.
“The US is pursuing a massive industrial policy with protectionist tendencies,” said Lars Klingbill, co-leader of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats. World Last week. “It should not be that US economic policy is targeting us Europeans.”
The sad truth is that the Biden administration probably didn’t even think about Europe when making the subsidy decision.
This fact alone should give Europeans pause.
The point is not that Europe doesn’t matter to America, but that it doesn’t matter as much as Europeans would like to believe.
When it comes to innovation, Europe is a desert. There is no European Apple, Google or Tesla. In fact, Tesla’s market value is four times that of the entire German auto industry.
So it’s not hard to conclude that Europe’s blame game is actually something else – envy.
Despite America’s political division, the country has never been strong in terms of its military power or its economic power.
Meanwhile, Europe has become more dependent on the US since the Cold War, a circumstance that is fueling both resentment and blame.
In Germany, a book title “amiIt’s time to go!” (ami is German slang for Americans) became a bestseller. The author is Oskar Lafontaine, a former finance minister who once led the Social Democrats before breaking ties with the party.
“We must free ourselves from the protection of the United States,” writes LaFontaine, describing America as the root of most evil and arguing that Europe needs to forge its own path.
Looking back on the past century, Europeans would be wise to ignore that and admit that they have only themselves to blame for their present malaise.