"The Frightening Birth of Europe"

Stefan Bertram Lee September 21, 2022

Part One: The Strength of a Europe Under Attack


‘Europe’ is apparently under attack. On September 4th, 2022, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky warned that ‘This winter, Russia is preparing for a decisive energy attack on all Europeans.’ In the BBC article reporting on this statement, they said that “Zelensky was speaking hours after Russia said that its main gas pipeline to Europe would not reopen as planned.” “Europe accused Russia of using its gas supplies to blackmail Europe amid the Ukraine conflict, which Moscow denies.” “Europe is attempting to wean itself off Russian energy in an effort to reduce Moscow's ability to finance the war.”

What is most remarkable about the BBC reporting here is the apparent subject making accusations against Russia. There is no mention of the European Union, and no particular European countries are named. Instead, the accusations are attributed to Europe and Europeans in general. It appears that in the fires of Ukraine, Europe has finally been born. This newly Ukrainian-born Europe, the alleged representative of democracy and freedom, is born under attack from oriental despotism.

The creation of ‘Europe’ as a nation out of ‘Europe’ the continent, required first reaching a totality. No longer is there, as ironized by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, a border between Mitteleuropa and the Balkans, a border between peace, freedom and democracy, and despotism and chaos. Instead, there is just Europe and not-Europe. Even the punished state of the 1990s, Serbia, is waiting patiently to join the EU. Other states like Hungary bark and shout and kiss Russia and China upon the cheek, but in the end, march in lockstep with Europe. Europe is united, even if this required the amputation of the largest nation in Europe from the Europe-concept.

As Europe was taking shape, formed out of the apparently free action of European states, which took the progressive step away from narrow nationalism to something greater, it was easy enough for some on the left to rebel, even if most failed even here. For example, Owen Jones briefly advocated for leaving the European Union, but when confronted with the political prospect in reality, he balked. He needn’t have worried. The events of 2022 have demonstrated that being in or out of the European Union doesn’t really matter.

In the minds of progressive soon-to-be Europeans, from the dearly departed ‘People’s Vote’ to ‘Volt Europa,’ the European Institutions that will form the backbone of the European Nation State, represent the only force holding back narrow nationalism within their more limited nations. Given the rise of right-wing Nationalism within Europe, this assessment isn’t precisely wrong, but any escape into Europe will amount to moving from one form of nationalism to another.