The chaotic withdrawal from Kabul is a harbinger of an “America First” era. The European Union – and Austria, too – have a lot to talk about.
Anyone who has followed the political debate in Austria over the past few weeks would think that after the turmoil in Afghanistan and all its global political consequences, there is only one aspect worth chewing over and over again by the locals: How many Afghans are coming into the country now?
ÖVP wants to be close to zero, like minus, so the relay is done. The Greens remained silent at first, but were then able to take care of their electoral base and speak here and there in favor of accepting Afghan refugees. The Viennese SPÖ team wants to bring Afghans into the country, and of course the FPÖ does not, and the Nyos are not noticed. But is that really all?
Thought experiment: What if, miraculously, no Afghans would come to Austria from now on? Whether it’s because we won’t let them or because they don’t want to. And let’s assume that the 44,000 Afghans already in the country will suddenly disappear – if not out of the country, then at least out of the public eye.
In short: what would the turmoil in Afghanistan mean for Austria if it could no longer be viewed in terms of flight and migration?
A look across borders shows that European politicians can handle something other than immigration.
In Germany, self-confidence is suffering: from Chancellor Angela Merkel down, there is disillusionment about a painfully proclaimed dependence on the United States. I admitted that the Europeans would not have succeeded in withdrawing from Kabul without their military machine.
The issue reached the election campaign. “We should be able to secure an airport like Kabul on our own,” Armin Laschet, the CDU’s chancellor candidate, said recently. Free Democratic Party leader Christian Lindner described the military dependence on the United States in “Press am Sonntag” as “disturbing”. When asked if Germany is living up to its size, he said: “Not at the moment.”
Also in Great Britain: A hangover mood. Conservative MP James Sunderland said: “The Kabul case, like Suez, has shown that the UK may not be able to operate independently and without US interference.”
With a brief reference to the British defeat over the Suez Canal, the former British army officer linked the withdrawal from Afghanistan to a historical trauma: in the fall of 1956, the British attempted to regain control of the Suez Canal after the Egyptian government was under rule. Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized it. Not only did the British lose one of the world’s most important strategic points, they were reminded that the days of empire were over.
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