by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Walking the streets of Budapest along the banks of the Danube, one is constantly reminded of the glories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The grand buildings hearken back to an unwieldy political entity that eventually disintegrated in the aftermath of the First World War. Today in Europe, we see another awkward federation — the European Union — under extreme centrifugal forces of its own, threatening to pull apart the dream of unifying the continent.
Spending a long weekend in Hungary, I’ve gained a palpable sense of those destabilizing forces at work. This vibrant and proud nation of roughly 10 million sits uneasily on the fault line between the EU and Russia. And it’s pretty clear which way things are now leaning — witness Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin at Tuesday’s press conference in Moscow announcing the strong state of their nations’ relationship. …
… A unified continent has the largest economy in the world, a highly capable military with the second-largest defense budget after our own, and a shared sense of the values that truly make nations great — democracy, liberty, personal freedoms, gender and racial equality. Americans will never have a better pool of partners.
Yet, despite some positive traction out of France under President Emmanuel Macron and the continuing influence of Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany, the forces tugging at Europe seem to be growing. Russia, of course, is the principal beneficiary, and will do all that it can — in subtle and direct ways — to accelerate the process of decomposition.