Timofey Bordachev: Why is the EU copying communist Albania?

The bloc has become so paranoid that it’s starting to look like Enver Hoxha’s much derided dictatorship By Timofey Bordachev, Program Director of the Valdai ClubIn history, entire countries sometimes suddenly leave the path of normal development and begin to behave differently towards their neighbors. However, while this used to be typical of small and weak states, it is now characteristic of the whole of Western Europe, which was not previously afflicted by the ‘besieged fortress’ complex that underscores the national consciousness of Americans, for example.Today, the European Union is beginning to resemble Albania during its dictatorship in the second half of the twentieth century. Its main achievement was the construction of hundreds of thousands of defenses along its borders with all its neighbors.A program to build 200,000 bunkers throughout the territory of this small country in the Western Balkans was adopted by the ruling regime in the early 1970s and consistently implemented until the late 1980s. As a result, the bunkers were literally scattered all over, and became the best-known symbol of Albania. At the same time, they exposed what happens when paranoia becomes the main driving force behind all foreign policy. Many Western European politicians are now leading their nations down this path, and they are getting away with it. A few days ago, the head of the EU’s bureaucracy, Ursula von der Leyen, visited Finland and then happily wrote on a social network that she was impressed by how quickly the country had managed to build 50,000 underground bomb shelters for use in the event of ‘Russian aggression’. A few years ago, it would have been hard to imagine both the Finns – who were quite friendly to us at the time – putting their country on the defensive, and EU politicians expressing their delight at this. But they are not alone.Our immediate neighbors from the former Baltic republics of the USSR are constantly declaring their intention to build walls, the same hundreds of bunkers, or defensive ramparts on the border with Russia. German newspapers are already reporting that the Ministry of Defense has drawn up plans to regulate the construction of shelters and the distribution of food rations to citizens in the event of war with Moscow. The French are holding out so far, but probably because of a lack of funds – economic indicators suggest that France has already fallen to the level of the countries of southern Europe.  What happened? There seem to be several reasons. The EU's political systems are mired in crisis. This doesn't just entail the well-known collapse of traditional parties and movements, or their replacement by populists like Emmanuel Macron’s movement in France or the True Finns in Finland. The whole Western European order, which is designed to convince citizens that the status quo is the most just, is in crisis.There is no longer enough money for it. Western Europe’s ability to extract neo-colonial rents from the rest of humanity has declined sharply in recent years. The main ‘culprit’ is China, whose power is creating alternative sources of finance for the poor countries of Africa or Latin America to develop and sustain their populations. The other is Russia, whose military and political capabilities have grown, allowing former European colonies to rely on a different kind of power support. Finally, the whole world is to blame for the Western European tragedy, simply because it is developing and can no longer be controlled by the shrinking powers of the old world. The Americans are less tolerant too; they are even forcing the EU to finance more and more of their own foreign policy adventures, such as supporting Kiev. That is why the ruling classes of the bloc are using every opportunity to drive their own citizens into conditions of mobilization and make them feel like they live in a ‘fortress under siege’.They gained their first significant experience in this area in the 2010s, when Western Europe was flooded with refugees from the Middle East and Africa. Mobilization technologies were then fully deployed during the coronavirus pandemic. At that time, almost all Western European citizens, with rare exceptions such as Sweden, were locked up and their contact with the outside world drastically reduced. However, Swedes did not need to be particularly restricted as they already had the traditional Scandinavian worldview.At the same time as strict quarantines were imposed, Western European states were denied the opportunity to choose their own vaccines. The same von der Leyen was put in charge of centralized procurement, giving observers plenty of reason to suspect her of corru

Timofey Bordachev: Why is the EU copying communist Albania?

The bloc has become so paranoid that it’s starting to look like Enver Hoxha’s much derided dictatorship

By Timofey Bordachev, Program Director of the Valdai Club

In history, entire countries sometimes suddenly leave the path of normal development and begin to behave differently towards their neighbors. However, while this used to be typical of small and weak states, it is now characteristic of the whole of Western Europe, which was not previously afflicted by the ‘besieged fortress’ complex that underscores the national consciousness of Americans, for example.

Today, the European Union is beginning to resemble Albania during its dictatorship in the second half of the twentieth century. Its main achievement was the construction of hundreds of thousands of defenses along its borders with all its neighbors.

A program to build 200,000 bunkers throughout the territory of this small country in the Western Balkans was adopted by the ruling regime in the early 1970s and consistently implemented until the late 1980s. As a result, the bunkers were literally scattered all over, and became the best-known symbol of Albania. At the same time, they exposed what happens when paranoia becomes the main driving force behind all foreign policy. Many Western European politicians are now leading their nations down this path, and they are getting away with it. 

A few days ago, the head of the EU’s bureaucracy, Ursula von der Leyen, visited Finland and then happily wrote on a social network that she was impressed by how quickly the country had managed to build 50,000 underground bomb shelters for use in the event of ‘Russian aggression’. A few years ago, it would have been hard to imagine both the Finns – who were quite friendly to us at the time – putting their country on the defensive, and EU politicians expressing their delight at this. But they are not alone.

Our immediate neighbors from the former Baltic republics of the USSR are constantly declaring their intention to build walls, the same hundreds of bunkers, or defensive ramparts on the border with Russia. German newspapers are already reporting that the Ministry of Defense has drawn up plans to regulate the construction of shelters and the distribution of food rations to citizens in the event of war with Moscow. The French are holding out so far, but probably because of a lack of funds – economic indicators suggest that France has already fallen to the level of the countries of southern Europe. 

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What happened? There seem to be several reasons. The EU's political systems are mired in crisis. This doesn't just entail the well-known collapse of traditional parties and movements, or their replacement by populists like Emmanuel Macron’s movement in France or the True Finns in Finland. The whole Western European order, which is designed to convince citizens that the status quo is the most just, is in crisis.

There is no longer enough money for it. Western Europe’s ability to extract neo-colonial rents from the rest of humanity has declined sharply in recent years. The main ‘culprit’ is China, whose power is creating alternative sources of finance for the poor countries of Africa or Latin America to develop and sustain their populations. The other is Russia, whose military and political capabilities have grown, allowing former European colonies to rely on a different kind of power support. 

Finally, the whole world is to blame for the Western European tragedy, simply because it is developing and can no longer be controlled by the shrinking powers of the old world. The Americans are less tolerant too; they are even forcing the EU to finance more and more of their own foreign policy adventures, such as supporting Kiev. That is why the ruling classes of the bloc are using every opportunity to drive their own citizens into conditions of mobilization and make them feel like they live in a ‘fortress under siege’.

They gained their first significant experience in this area in the 2010s, when Western Europe was flooded with refugees from the Middle East and Africa. Mobilization technologies were then fully deployed during the coronavirus pandemic. At that time, almost all Western European citizens, with rare exceptions such as Sweden, were locked up and their contact with the outside world drastically reduced. However, Swedes did not need to be particularly restricted as they already had the traditional Scandinavian worldview.

At the same time as strict quarantines were imposed, Western European states were denied the opportunity to choose their own vaccines. The same von der Leyen was put in charge of centralized procurement, giving observers plenty of reason to suspect her of corruption. The experiment was apparently considered a great success. And the armed conflict in Ukraine is already being used by politicians as an excuse to lock their citizens into the ‘bunker’ strategy.

Many ordinary Western Europeans are indeed as anxious and confused about the world around them as their elected or appointed leaders. In the decades since the Cold War, there has been a very interesting change in the minds of many EU citizens - a loss of the ability to make cause-and-effect connections. We can laugh about it all we want, but many people in Western Europe actually believe that they live in a ‘flowering garden surrounded by a jungle’. Those who don’t are seen as crackpots or dangerous ‘pro-Russian’ renegades.

It is difficult to judge whether this is a complete or partial ‘rewiring of the brain’. It is not easy to create in people the psychology of a ‘besieged fortress’ when there are no objective reasons to feel this way. The aforementioned Americans have them - an island position on the world map. Even Hollywood’s productions for children cultivate two feelings: their own omnipotence and, at the same time, being surrounded by dangerous enemies on all sides.

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This was not particularly noticeable in Western Europe before. But there was something else - arrogance towards other nations. If in the case of Russia it is a pronounced phobia, i.e. fear mixed with contempt, in all others it is absolutely unadulterated contempt.

After the Cold War, most Western European politicians and thinking citizens realized in principle that they were doing something very wrong by trying to expand their military and political blocs into Russia’s backyard, without seeking to include Moscow itself. The lack of a way to support their own incomes without the predatory treatment of others led them to continue a policy that the best minds in region itself doubted. The realization that such a strategy would lead to a dramatic outcome was always present among those in the EU. It inevitably forced them to prepare for a confrontation caused by their own behavior.

So the Western Europeans were ready to start shutting out the rest of the world. Over the past decade, they have sent patrol boats into the Mediterranean to turn away or sink small boats carrying refugees. Then they kept out those who hadn’t been inoculated with vaccines approved by corrupt EU officials. Now they are massively building bunkers and bomb shelters along their borders with Russia.

The EU is entangled in its own mistakes and sees no way out. Because for decades it has outgrown the ability to seriously doubt the correctness of its actions. And so, for the time being, it is left to walk along a narrow road. Ahead of it is only the construction of new bunkers and other lines of defense in all directions. 

Russia and its diplomats are now talking quite sincerely about their willingness to resume dialogue with our EU neighbors. But at the same time, we must be prepared for the fact that the distortions of political and mass consciousness in Western Europe cannot be cured too quickly.