After several centuries of slowly drifting apart, the Eastern Roman Empire’s Orthodox Church and what became known as the Roman Catholic Church of Rome split. This difference, due to arguments about doctrine and pre-eminence of Pope and Patriarch, ended up having continental consequences.
The gulf widened over time, until the Fourth Crusade in the 13th century. Due to the persuasive brilliance (if strategic foolishness) of Venice’s doge, Enrico Dandolo, this holy war was diverted from Jerusalem to target Constantinople. A Christian city. But the wrong sort of Christianity, you see.
The Latins attacked and won, conquering the city and reducing the Empire so it became (more or less) a strip of land on the western coast of modern day Turkey. In time, the Latins were turfed out and the Empire regained its seat of power. But in the meantime the Turks had advanced very significantly, and the Roman Empire spiralled into inexorable decline. Fast forward a few centuries to the 15th, and the desperate pleas for help from the last emperor, Constantine Dragases. The assistance from Latin Europe was minimal. Constantinople was all but abandoned, and fell, this time permanently.
In the decades and centuries following, the Ottoman Turks took more territory and plunged deep into Europe. An internal disagreement within Christendom had been a glorious gift to the Turks.
With all the talk of the UK and EU’s relationship, there hasn’t been enough attention on the consequences of the formerly fictional formation of an EU Army.
Replicating much of NATO’s requirements, it will necessarily be directed by EU policies. And this is deeply concerning. There are some nations that vary from rogue pariahs to rather powerful and menacing states, and a democratic set of nations that can stand to benefit from mutual co-operation. Amongst these latter are European countries, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea (I’m aware the latter two are not the friendliest of neighbours for historical reasons).
But if the EU Army really gets going its concern will be focused almost entirely, as one might expect, on European matters. It may cause lasting, perhaps fatal, damage to NATO, and divide the USA and Canada from traditional European allies. In those circumstances, who benefits?
Nobody with an interest in free, democratic nations triumphing.
I do think the EU’s desire for empire-building and centralising power that belongs to nation states risks creating a security schism, the impact of which will only truly be seen once the divide is sufficiently deepened.
You might think I’m being a bit of a doom merchant. But consider the Scottish Parliament. Intended, as one daft sod said, to ‘kill nationalism stone dead’, it was established in 1999. In 2014 there was a referendum on Scotland leaving the UK.
When you create institutional divisions, the divides tend to widen as a natural consequence. Atomising the component parts of the natural security alliance of the West could be as intense an act of self-harm as the Fourth Crusade.
Historical note: the church of the Eastern Empire wasn’t called Orthodox at first. Ironically, the term ‘Catholic’ was first used by Constantinople’s Emperor Theodosius the Great. His sons, Arcadius and Honorius, were wretched incompetents who each had one half of the empire and mutual loathing, helping to split the empire apart politically.
Morris Dancer is a long standing contributor to PB