White supremacists are about to take up residency in the White House. Climate change deniers are mapping out the future of environmental policy. A man who seems to be constantly losing his temper on Twitter will – in less than two months from now – lead a nuclear-armed superpower.
And what are Europe’s top politicians doing in preparation for Donald Trump’s presidency? Are they asserting an alternative worldview to the heady blend of imperialism and capitalism that has intoxicated Trump’s entourage?
No, they are still parroting the old idea that the US should be constantly copied.
A new paper by the European Commission is particularly repugnant. Lamenting that the EU “lags behind” the US in military strength, it recommends steps to rectify that apparent problem.
The most troubling of the proposals would involve setting up a new scheme under which taxpayers’ money would be splurged on developing more advanced weapons. Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s president, covets a “defense fund” to, in his words, “turbo boost [military] research and innovation.”
Juncker is a right-wing ideologue, who has strong-armed Greece into introducing painful and far-reaching economic reforms.
There is no public clamor in Europe for bolstering the weapons industry. Juncker and his – largely unaccountable – colleagues are driving through their proposals on military research in much the same way as they foisted austerity on Greece.
The new paper is the latest in a series of EU blueprints on military research. And Israel’s war strategists have helped shape the underlying agenda.
Juncker’s suggestion of a “defense fund” chimes with the recommendations previously made by the European Security Research and Innovation Forum (ESRIF). Bringing together lobbyists from major weapons producers with sympathetic civil servants, that club was assembled by the EU authorities in 2007.
Why catch up?
Though Israel is not a member of the European Union, ESRIF was eager to avail of the “expertise” it had gained from oppressing the Palestinians. Nitzan Nuriel, a retired Israeli brigadier general, took part in the forum’s activities.
Nuriel has an impressive career history – for those who find cruelty impressive. He won promotion after it emerged that he had ordered troops serving in a battalion he commanded to torture Palestinian detainees in 1987.
He went on to hold senior positions in military units occupying both the West Bank and Gaza and play a prominent role in Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon.
Following that invasion, Nuriel joined Israel’s National Security Council, a body that advises the Israeli prime minister, and soon became director of its “counter-terrorism bureau.” He sat on ESRIF in that capacity.
The forum advocated that the EU’s activities on “security” research – a euphemism for innovation which may have military applications – should grow. Israel’s war industry has soaked up numerous grants from those activities until now.
Juncker’s new effort to “turbo boost” weapons innovation is essentially a sequel to a “security” research scheme which came into effect in 2007.
It is too early to say if Israel will directly get money should Juncker’s dream of a “defense fund” materialize. There can be little doubt, however, that these kinds of proposals stand to benefit Israel’s arms manufacturers.
Israel has carved out a lucrative niche for itself in the global weapons market by investing heavily in drones and cybersecurity software, both of which feature in the European Commission’s new paper.
The EU’s governments have committed themselves to the objective of having drones made in Europe’s factories by 2025. Attaining that goal will almost certainly require some Israeli technology or expertise.
France and Britain are the two EU countries to have made the greatest use of drones to date. Drones flown by both the French and British militaries were Israeli-designed.
Israel has deployed the same type of drones as those used by France in Mali and Libya and Britain in Afghanistan during its major operations against Gaza.
Contrary to the impression conveyed by the Brussels elite, none of this is necessary.
If Europe lags behind the US in military might, then why should it catch up? Why should Europe’s leaders be part of a contest to prove they can fetishize the war industry just as much as their American counterparts?
And if catching up requires cooperation with Israel, that’s all the more reason to quit the contest.
•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 2 December 2016.