“Europe has been enjoying durable peace for 70 years. It got out of the habit of military tension”
Konstantin Frumkin on the future of Western countries
Migrant traffic to Western countries doesn’t reduce year after year. People go there for a comfortable and stable life, but together with their hopes for the best, they bring new problems for the host. In an interview with Realnoe Vremya, philosopher and futurologist Konstantin Frumkin explained what such migration of peoples led to and will lead to in the future.
“I don’t see prerequisites for a big war”
A hundred years ago Oswald Spengler published his book The Decline of the West. Is the decline already taking place? Or will we maybe see it in the near future?
The concepts Spengler created have rather a historical meaning today or they need to be deciphered because he limited to quite subjective, intuitive concepts that aren’t considered scientific today.
How can they be adjusted to the modern day? Firstly, we can be talking about the “decline of Europe” in a sense that related military and economic power of Europe decreases. It doesn’t mean that Europe becomes weaker, just the difference between the West and the rest of the countries decreases. We see active growth of other countries, first of all, China, Japan, India.
Hence the decrease of relative demographic power of Europe, as it experienced a demographic transition, and the growth pace of the population of European countries decreased, consequently, the difference between the population of Western and other countries reduces. Here it is necessary to stress that from a demographic perspective other countries of the world are on the same trajectory as Europe. There is such a happy moment in the era of industrialisation when mortality (especially among children) decreases, while natality doesn’t fall yet. A sudden surge of the population happens at this moment. Europe experienced it quite a while ago. Generally speaking, there aren’t almost any countries except some from Africa where the population growth pace wouldn’t be falling. They are falling even in Islamic countries and in Iran. It is our common fate.
Another moment is that Europe has been enjoying durable peace for 70 years, consequently, it got out of the habit of military tension, total military mobilisation. A relative amount of defence costs has decreased in Europe compared to the 20th century. The defensive power of NATO bloc is so that Europe uses almost full military security, consequently, it got relaxed a bit. There aren’t political circumstances that would make a country to carry some big costs. Therefore Europe got out of the habit of staging large-scale military operations, and its military significance around the world suddenly fall. Though, if we read Martin van Creveld The Transformation of War or better The Rise and Decline of the State, we can see that the whole world has suddenly reduced the scale of military operations since the Second World War. There hasn’t been any operation in which troops would cover over 600 km in a row since then. The world doesn’t fight now like before. A small number of the population is involved in military conflicts, and a handful dies there.
These circumstances can speak about a relative historical decline of Europe. And if they signals of a decline, Europe is simply ahead of most of the countries of the world on the common trajectory of decline.
Europe has been enjoying durable peace for 70 years, consequently, it got out of the habit of military tension, total military mobilisation
You mentioned WWII. Do you think we should expect the third world war or will some local hybrid wars continue?
When the First and Second World Wars took place, the conflict happened between clear coalitions of countries that had represented enemy camps long before the war. Conan Doyle’s story The Adventure of the Second Stain, if you remember, was written in the early 20th century. So Prime Minister comes to Sherlock Holmes and says that the whole Europe is divided into two inimical camps. In other words, the First World War can take place, it had been clear as early as 10 years in advance to its factual beginning.
Such coalitions aren’t visible now. We can imagine a war of China with Japan, China and America, China and Russia, though I don’t really believe in these wars because China has a lot of domestic problems. This country is very dependent on feedstock supplies. And China has a sharp demographic decline it partially provoked itself trying to restrain its population. This is why I don’t think that China will be glad about a large-scale military conflict. One can also imagine a conflict between India and Pakistan that has been smouldering for many years or the conflict in the Far East. We can imagine a lot of conflicts, but we don’t see a big coalition. Again, nuclear weapons are fraught with awful accidents, but if there isn’t a great desire to start a war, this accident will remain an accident. For instance, a rocket accidentally is launched, there will be a reply, and the accident will quickly be regulated. I don’t see prerequisites for a big war.
Who will become the world’s leader if Europe and the USA clash?
I don’t think that we should be speaking about leadership in general. It is clear that some country will have the world’s biggest economy. Now it is China and the USA. Will China outrun the USA? Why not? But being the richest and most powerful country doesn’t mean to be a world leader. We are in a situation when even the most powerful player can’t completely or at least seriously control the weak. From a perspective of logic of colonial empires, the world is in chaos now. It means that it doesn’t have the centre of power.
Nowadays the USA isn’t the centre of power any more. Yes, it is the richest country in the world, its possibilities aren’t comparable with any other country’s possibilities, the American army seems to be able to win any other army of the world, but this doesn’t mean that the USA can rule somebody. Now some relatively weak country from Micronesia can pursue quite an independent policy, and they aren’t afraid of a Chinese or an American invasion. They manoeuvre between big players, trade with them for investments.
China is strenuously going to Oceania and Africa with its investments trying to hold sway over local infrastructure but it makes business deals. It doesn’t mean that it controls local governments. Using its money, China can achieve something from them. People give up their infrastructure, their freedom for big money. In general, there won’t be a leader who sets rules.
China is strenuously going to Oceania and Africa with its investments trying to hold sway over local infrastructure but it makes business deals. It doesn’t mean that it controls local governments
“The spirit of Western freedom is extremely catchy for migrants”
What does the migration of peoples from the East with their traditional values to the West lead to?
Natality in Europe is lower, it is higher in neighbouring countries. The quality of life in Europe is higher, and it is lower in neighbouring countries. These two circumstances generate a huge difference in demographic and economic potential and, consequently, huge flows of migrants.
What you said about the carriers of traditional values is indeed a problem. First of all, it is a political problem because these new European citizens don’t have respected political skills (participation in self-governance, political parties, democracy). I suppose that such a population poses some threat to the traditions of European democracy. But, firstly, these citizens learn, and the spirit of Western freedom is extremely catchy. There is an old Jewish joke about a metropolis and emancipation and assimilation. Jews in the Russian Empire in the 19th century said that hairdressers in Odessa had wonderful scissors — if they cut their payots, they don’t grow any more. In other words, when a Jew moves from the village to the big city where he deals with Russians, he gets rid of his traditional appearance and becomes an average citizen.
I heard a Tajik speaking about Russia: “Yes, I want to move to Russia. It is a free country”. What does he mean? He doesn’t mean politics, he in general doesn’t care how the government in Russia and Tajikistan works. But he means this urban environment where nobody cares about a person, where relatives and the elderly from the family won’t annoy you and manage you, where a person can get married and can not. Russia covered a long path of urbanisation, Westernisation, industrialisation and other European “ation”s. We don’t notice it, while a Tajik does. When he goes to a Russian city from an aul, he sees a big difference in morals. These morals are catchy and tempting.
By the way, the percentage of migrants against all the population of Europe isn’t so big. But in general, yes, the involvement of a new population to the European culture creates some tension. I can’t predict what it will end with. I hope there will be some integration, some training, and there won’t be any terrifying revolutions.
I heard a Tajik speaking about Russia: “Yes, I want to move to Russia. It is a free country”. What does he mean? He doesn’t mean politics, he in general doesn’t care how the government in Russia and Tajikistan works
So do you agree with these horror stories that, for instance, an Islamic State of France or Belgium can appear?
Before speaking about the Islamic State of France, let’s talk about the Islamic State of Egypt or Syria. Does Egypt or Syria have an Islamic state? No. We know about the Islamic states of Iran and Saudi Arabia. But it isn’t all Eastern countries we know. Egypt, Syria, Iraq are these countries populated mainly by Muslims, though there were different Muslims there and different religions, but they weren’t Islamic, to put it strictly. It was secular countries populated Muslims. Why should France be an Islamic state even if its majority of the population will consist of Muslims?
Asking this question, implicitly you meant famous literary compositions. First of all, Yelena Chudina’s The Notre Dame de Paris Mosque and Michel Houellebecq’s Submission — it is a fantasy novel where Arabs seized France, while the French were housed in the ghetto. And Houellebecq has a very subtle novel. It isn’t about Muslims who seized France but the French with some political mentality were seduced by Islam. They decided that it is very convenient to corner somebody in the ghetto, first of all, to enslave women and establish traditional moral. The president there is Arab who was born in France. French traditionalists who once bet on Catholicism but then thought than Islam was much more interesting were mentioned there. It is very interesting. It is an idea of a conservative revolution.
But I don’t believe in it because there is a right time for everything. It was possible in the 20th century, but now this time has passed. It is not a story about migration, it is a story about political discords about if we want to establish tyranny on the basis of traditional values. Pinochet in Chile tried to do something like that, but it is obvious that nowadays it can be done only with the tenth part of all dreams of traditionalists. We see that people in Iran protest against Islam. But we don’t see even Muslims in Europe require the creation of a traditional government.
“There will be unrest in Europe, it is a normal part of the country’s life”
Isn’t the western elite afraid of a union of migrants on ethnic, religious or other grounds and their opposition against power?
They certainly aren’t afraid that migrants will unite and be against because they don’t have such a desire and such powers. To put it roughly, when terrorist attacks took place in Paris, everybody shouted that Europe was vulnerable. But look, modern police has huge possibilities. Actually there is no real military and political danger for Western countries. If we read the news carefully, we can understand that almost all terrorists who staged the terrorist attack in Paris were killed by police. In other words, we can’t be speaking about some danger and equality of power. If we remember earlier unrests, for instance, big unrest in 2005, they were social. It was the unrest of the poor population born in France. Yes, they were descendants of migrants to a great degree, but there is an issue of inequality, poverty and integrity in general. Every country has a problem of social inequality, social stratification that will give birth to unrest, but countries have been living with this for centuries. Will there be any unrests in Europe? There will be some, but it isn’t a threat to the country, it is a normal part of the country’s life.
There are a lot of components, but in fact the West has nowhere to go. There is a huge flow of migrants, and it will penetrate through some holes, it is like the pressure of water on the wall
What’s the vested interest of authorities in Europe that so welcomes migrants?
Not every country receives migrants, and reception isn’t the same everywhere. A wall is built somewhere, expulsion is required, camps are built somewhere. I know a story of illegal migrants going to Australia by ship, but Australian law enforcement officers stopped the ship in the ocean. It stood there for long. Nobody knew about the fate of migrants, but then New Zealand accepted them.
Europe has a problem with a cheap labour force. There is motivation to replenish the reducing population. There is motivation linked with humanity and people’s rights, moreover, if a person arrived, what should be done with him? There is a political and legal situation because there is a tradition of accepting migrants in the West. It is one of the fundamental traditions in the USA. Reception of migrants is an important part of their politics. There are international documents that establish a person’s right to change their place of residence.
There are a lot of components, but in fact the West has nowhere to go. There is a huge flow of migrants, and it will penetrate through some holes, it is like the pressure of water on the wall. Nevertheless, Europe will work with migrants.