After Trump: Return of Nation State and Search for Normalcy



вк_7дNo matter what new American president will do, the world has changed by the mere fact of his election.
Trends in Europe to support isolationist right forces are similar. Dutch Referendum on Ukraine, Brexit. Marin Le Pen in French ratings with is at 25-30%. Regardless of who will become French President, with one third of right populist supporters in a number of European countries, political in Europe discourse has changed.
Globalism, which looked like an irreversible and comprehensive development questioned.
European peoples do not want any supra-national constructs. UN inefficiency is one more proof for it.
Nation state concept is not only dead as it was fashionable to think since 90-ies, but it is back in a big way. This is very simple idea. And there is basically nothing wrong with it.

Postmodernity Crisis and the West
Postmodernity has finished along with Euromaidan peaceful protest. With first gunshots in January 2014 Kyiv centre, Euromaidan got over and Revolution of Dignity commenced.
Idealists that rushed up the Instytutska street to put dictator out of power on dramatic February 20, perfectly knew what they stood for. People who don’t know what is right and what is wrong don’t put their lives at stake. In many cases active protesters on Maidan stood for traditional values. They had their idea of what is good and what is evil. They wanted dictator be ousted. They wanted clarity: the things shall be named properly.
Idea of the “end of history” and total liberal democracies domination was always poorly funded. There is and there will be no any sort of ideal system. Humans are and will be humans. They will make friendships and they will struggle. They will unite in communities and societies based on values they are able to comprehend. No “world government” as international super-powerful organization/regulator or conspiracy theory is plausible.
In politics post-Cold War euphoria led to drastic reduction of the military spending in the West. Capacity to deter aggression from the East is so low that it might provoke Kremlin for more and more “small victorious wars”.
Peoples don’t want abstract theories any more. Concept of the nation as “imagined community” never meant infinity. Peoples opt for states with the borders they can see and values they can really share with group of fellows. It is above human brain capacity to imagine infinite community even if it is imagined one.
Deconstructivism brought about what it meant – deconstruction. People worry whether they will be able to put the spare parts back together.
While driven for diversity and more colorful world, It became easier to get to EU from Africa and Asia rather than from Ukraine or Caucasus. Eastern Partnership policies’ failure is just a remote reflection of major disproportions.
Strategy of blurring differences and cultivation of multiple truths worked for a while, but ultimately it amounted ever growing tension.
Multiculturalism as part of a broader relativist discourse is also in crisis.
Anxiety and neurosis are for long in post-modern societies. With deconstruction of the reality leftovers they became unbearable.
Contemporary art in some of its performances managed to achieve what free art always meant oppose – dehumanization of arts. What Ortega y Gasset wrote about in mid-20th century is in full swing. Absurd of Orwellian scale appeared to be achievable not only under totalitarian regimes but also in democracies. With the eyes wide open, so to say.
Tradition and ritual are about humans no less than pursuit of novelties and change. Progress can be an opposite itself if gets out of hands. Ethics are relevant though rationality is at place and thousands of laws and regulations rule.
People want clarity. And, again, there is nothing wrong about it. Clarity like in 1950-s or clarity like in 19th century Tolstoy brain – it is also OK.
People need this never-ending process of search for truth. They want to know the truth. Disputable one, but the truth. The world where everything is allowed and possible (Dostoyevskiy), and nothing is real (Pomerantsev) make them sick and tired.
Philosophical positivism along with relativism are giving in. Material stuff you can touch upon is not all humans need for living.
People need to know, who they are – even if this definition changes. Nations stick to their identities in their comprehensible limits.

EU and Supra-National Constructs
European Union and globalism appeared to be unable to respond to controversy between open borders/free flow of capital and national interests. Economic advantages set off uneasiness with which societies and communities perceive intrusion into their lives, but only for some time.
European peoples rejected EU as a supra-national construct. EU was established not as a legal entity. Attempt to impose a Constitution on a set of different countries was an overflow. It was not Dutch referendum or Brexit to demonstrate this controversy. There were French and Dutch referendums of 2005 to state first time of the wrong path some European leaders and entire Brussels bureaucracy took. The idea of Constitution of EU as a legislature that would exceeded national Constitutions rejected.
European countries political classes misunderstood the message. Instead of implementing more moderate integration projects, they responded with more messages of ever-closer Union.
How is it possible until the issue of legitimacy is resolved? I mean political legitimacy rather than legality. Whom EU bureaucracy or even EU parliament is representative of? Why it is getting more remote from people and communities? If Brussels is really representative, why it turned into golden parachute for national politicians surplus? If the Union’s posts are so important, why would unqualified grey figures would get them?
Idea of Europe “from Vladivostok to Paris” was always bizarre. Now given Russian expansionism it is even more strange. EU’s agenda is how to preserve what was achieved. How to avoid fragmentation or multi-level integration rather than how to integrate Vladivostok.
The same goes for NATO. Isn’t it strange today to recall the idea of Russia in NATO prior Ukraine?
Globalism stumbled down as an extensive system. It is less and less opportunities to use up cheaper labor worldwide and changing places instead of improving national environments.
Another problem is that as EU was consolidating, regionalism was growing as opposed to nation states and local communities. Do we really want regionalism?
International financial institutions and banks grew in power compared with national governments.
Meanwhile EU bureaucracy (in a broad sense – including EU Commission, elected European Parliament and other institutions) misread the point. Basically, EU had passed its golden age between Schengen area, 1995, single currency and European Central Bank, and Brexit, 2016. The end of this golden age had nothing to do wit Trump or right-wing populism. It had to do with the end of welfare state and global crisis of 2008.
No semi-socialist country of the EU was able to come up with solid solution for pension and social reform systems after three decades of discussions. Economies can not catch up with the pace of de-facto leftist growing demand for social spending under worsening demographic situation in Europe.  Postponing solutions means that the present-day well-being is just a credit to be anyway payed back.

Rightists on the Rise
Instead of rational answers to European and global challenges, in many cases we witness arrogance towards Eurosceptics.
Euroscepticism does not mean anti-Europeanism.  Anti-Europeanism is rejection of Europe with its history and values. Eurasian or Russian World concepts, Pan-Islamism fight confront the idea of Europe. Euroscepticism is about estimate of the EU institutions and trends of its development. Europe is bigger than any political project of integration.
One can be skeptical of the EU for not rejecting Europe, but for a different vision of its development and its meaning for his/her own country.
Trump’s victory in the US showed that the tide has changed. Peoples and new politicians in the US and in European countries including Ukraine have good reasons to rebel against establishments. Just as Occupy Wall Street movement had. And how they will be able to act in line with the Western civilization written and unwritten rules and democratic values.
Paradox of the American new right and their political fellows in Europe is that they are pro-Putinist. Some of them grow up from anxieties of their own peoples. Some are paid and cultivated by the Kremlin in order to undermine Western institutions, discredit democracy. The first month of Trump in office proved that his administration policy is very much like traditional conservative republicans. Traditional conservatives are more efficient vis-a-vis for gambling and power politics. It is to be seeing what will come out of new right isolationist and authoritarian discourses.
Big question is whether nowadays controversies will be peacefully resolved or turn into wars – domestically and globally. Again, moderate turn right is in the interest of current political elites rather than cementing divisions, labelling opponents and turning discussion into hysteria.
Not only new right on the rise in the US and Europe. New left, libertarian forces improve their chances. Libertarians are in advantageous position, as their economic freedom is accordant with the new rights drive. Actually, American liberals like their European counterparts can well roll back within the standard democratic process.
Traditional politicians, including liberals, are in trouble. For the same reason – people want clarity. Merging political programs and manipulating with ideas is not trustworthy any more. And there is nobody to blame for this but themselves.
In order to halt advance of right-wing populism traditional politicians would need to shift their agenda moderately to the right.
Ukrainian liberals would better stand aside of the global liberal standoff with new right. National agenda requires close cooperation with the most capable democratic power, the US, regardless of who is in charge in Washington. Let alone that taking part in global quarrel full with subjective and emotional accusations will simply add up hit with no solid consequences.
Global drama is just unfolding, and Ukraine would better stick to its strategic partners.

Ukraine in the Time of Change
Whatever Ukrainian authorities argue, Ukraine was never close to the EU membership. And for good reasons so. Ukraine is still corrupt under-reformed country falling extra 4 positions down in annual rating of economic freedom. There is no one to blame for this, but the Ukrainian political class and electorate.
Within all its contemporary history Ukraine was not able to sustain economic pressures compared with the EU countries. Now war with combined Russian army and related territorial problems make Ukraine’s membership in EU and NATO even less plausible.
We are Europe in a broad sense. We are and shall remain pro-Western and pro-European. We are in Europe of nations, particularly given that nation state concept is and will be alive in a forseeable future.
Ukrainian government shall release its EU and NATO partners with annoying scratching on the doors of these institutions, while adopting all the relevant Western standards. Ukraine shall focus on security and internal reforms, adopting best international practices to make breakthrough. Nominal progress is not enough for country like Ukraine.

Volodymyr KUKHAR,
political analyst, civic activist, Ukrainian Military veteran. Kyiv, Ukraine

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