The Master's Faithful Servants. (Eastern Europe)

By Almond, Mark | New Statesman (1996), February 3, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Master's Faithful Servants. (Eastern Europe)


Almond, Mark, New Statesman (1996)


There was a very good reason for the recent comment by Donald Rumsfeld, the US secretary for defence, that France and Germany are "old Europe", and that the "centre of gravity is shifting to the east". The reason is that America is already winning the battle for influence in the new Europe.

When communism collapsed, the EU elite was irritated. The collapse came at the same time as Europe's own Maastricht project, which had ignored Europe to the east of the Iron Curtain. Washington, by contrast, had a template in place for gaining influence in the new democracies.

With the onset of the cold war in the late 1940s, the US set about recruiting a Euro-Atlantic elite in western Europe as political, trade union and intellectual allies against Soviet communism. Since 1989, Washington has sponsored a successor programme for the ex-Warsaw Pact states -- although this time it left out trade unionists, who are considered redundant in the absence of a communist rival.

Finance for everything from scholarships to the media and NGOs has been provided by the CIA from the 1940s to today -- through appropriately deniable channels. Fifty years ago, America offered ways of reintegrating ex-fascists into European democratic politics, on condition that they support US goals including federal European defence and a common market. After 1945, the US did not scrutinise too closely the past records of Europe's younger generation of exfascists. The same leniency lay behind the great recruitment and ideological retooling that went on across eastern Europe in the 1990s.

Is it so surprising, therefore, that today so many of eastern Europe's politicians who stand shoulder to shoulder with Washington were rising young stars of the communist parties until the Marxist locomotive of history derailed in 1989? Just as 1945 was once treated as Year Zero for aspiring politicians who toed the transatlantic line, so now the official biographies of the east's leaders begin in 1989. …

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