Henry Kissinger spoke sarcastically about the European Union (then the Community) a long time ago, asking which phone number he should dial if he wants to talk to Europe. Even today, when he is 98 years old, there is no one who can answer him, but also to a similar question that is just emerging – who should I call if I want to talk to the West?
The unfolding of the crisis in Afghanistan, or it is just the beginning of a new plot, abolished the concept of the “West” as an international political and security category overnight. The withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, without coordination with the allies with whom it came to that country two decades ago, marked the end of the era of international (Western) military interventions in regions where America and the West had an interest in such a thing. US President Joe Biden said this explicitly in his address to the public on the occasion of the end of the evacuation from Kabul – “This decision (on withdrawal) refers to the end of the era of large military operations in order to change other countries”.
Thus, the American president confirmed what was clear at the very beginning of the withdrawal, that in the future it will be impossible to imagine the gathering of large Western allied missions for interventions in some non-western region of the world. America no longer wants to do that, the period that began with the Gulf War in 1991, ended exactly three decades later in Kabul.
Even before the Afghan episode, it was not easy to describe the identity and manifestations of the West, as a political, security and economic entity. This term has been used for years by inertia, in some of its ancient meaning as a gathering or even a community of states and nations that share the same values and are ready to defend them together, if necessary. But it hasn’t been like that for a long time. With the decision to leave the European Union, for example, Britain remained in the West, but came out of its traditional definition as a political and security entity. In that sense, the West ceased to exist in 2015, when, with the arrival of the first migrant from Syria or Afghanistan to the EU, the Dublin Regulation, a joint regime for accepting migrants on the territory of the Union, was destroyed. It existed, therefore, only “on paper” and disappeared on the first day when it was supposed to be applied.
Can we still talk about “Western” sanctions against Russia, after the final acceptance of completion of the “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline by Germany, so much needed by its growing economy? Is there a common, “Western” recipe for relations with China, when America treats it as a threat, and Europe as a necessity with which it must cooperate and with which it makes new investment agreements? And in this regard – who is the West within the EU itself, when in the small “eastern” members like Lithuania there is a growing dissatisfaction with the fact that the Union does not act towards China as one player, but only Germany and France play that role on behalf of everyone else?
Serbia communicates with the West in the right way, recognizes its changes and adjusts its interests accordingly. It recognizes that the West has not disappeared from the face of the earth, as a cultural and value concept (which is what the East hopes for no reason) and recognizes that it is changing only in a direction that suits the interests of all those who make up the West. Serbia has concluded fundamental agreements with Great Britain (on free trade and defense) only a few months after Britain formally became “independent” from the European Union. On the most important European topic that will be in the coming months, and that is migration from Afghanistan, Serbia already has elaborated cooperation with those from the EU with which it already cooperated six years ago, and that are, above all, Hungary and Austria. It cannot cooperate with the EU on migrants, because the EU does not have a common policy on that.
Regarding accession to the Union, Serbia remains in its administrative course, however slow and inefficient, but on the other hand strengthens political support for its future membership by gaining more and more individual “spokesmen” for its entry into the EU. This was well seen at a recent gathering of European leaders in Bled. The performance of Aleksandar Vučić and his messages regarding Serbia’s accession to the Union, it turned out, had the strong support of Slovenian hosts (Pahor, Janša), but also the Prime Ministers of Hungary, Poland, and even the President of the European Parliament, the Italian David Sassoli. The same kind of support came from Austria, a few days later, when Chancellor Kurz was in Belgrade. All of them are asking (their) Europe to give up the too long and useless administrative admission of Serbia and the Balkans to the Union and to make a quick, political decision on that. Just like they did in every previous wave of expansion.
Those who do not recognize the great changes in the political being of the West will say – Europe is full of “illiberal”, conservative leaders and governments, they are not exactly the real Europe and the real West, expecting them to disappear from the scene and be replaced by some “real” ones. That, of course, will not happen. Both Europe and the entire united West, are quickly moving towards a group of countries that put their interests first, and unite in ad-hoc blocs only when they find a concrete and limited interest in it. Integrations are slowly ceasing to be permanent and unconditional, they are no longer an oath of allegiance “until death do us part”. They turn into occasional and limited “marriages”, with a partner they can benefit from. That is the Visegrád Group, and it is also the “migrant coalition” of Serbia, Hungary and Austria, it is even the “Open Balkan” of Vučić, Rama and Zaev. After all, such a model of new integrations is also imposed by America, especially from the day when it decided to withdraw from Afghanistan and announce the end of the era of international (Western) interventionism. Germany may do the same, if a slightly tougher migrant policy than the previous one prevails in the upcoming elections. The West has not ceased to exist, but it is in vain to keep looking for their phone number. It’s gone. It is good to have a small telephone directory with the numbers of those who really belong to the West in its cultural and civilizational sense. It may be necessary.