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Back to the Wall: Myths and Mistakes that Once Again Divide Europe

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Europe is once again subject to an epidemic of wall and barrier building. The war in Ukraine is accompanied by the fortification of its border with Russia, while the Baltic republics are creating the foundations for what is an embryonic new ‘iron curtain’ dividing the Atlantic community from Eurasia. Elsewhere fences are being built to halt the flow of refugees and migrants. These new barriers symbolize the failure to build a Europe ‘whole and free’ in the post-Cold War era, and the failure of the era of globalization to create the conditions for security and development in Europe’s neighborhood. The spate of ‘walling’ reflects not the strength of national sovereignty but its weakness, and not the power of the Atlantic community to spread prosperity, peace and security but the opposite. The era of globalization is accompanied by deepening disjuncture and contradictions, and European leaders have no coherent response. The roots of the crisis lie in the patterns established at the close of the original Cold War in the late perestroika years, with a power shift rather than the transcending politics espoused by Mikhail Gorbachev. The Malta summit of 1989 only partially repudiated the politics of Yalta. The asymmetrical end of the Cold War and the 25 years’ crisis represented by the subsequent cold peace contained within itself the violence and the new divisions that now predominate. The myths and mistakes of the cold peace era need to be challenged and a new transformative politics envisaged.

Affiliations: 1: University of Kent, R.Sakwa@kent.ac.uk

10.1163/24518921-00101001
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/content/journals/10.1163/24518921-00101001
2016-03-08
2018-05-21

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