There was a trifecta this weekend, and it wasn’t the Derby. France elected its first socialist President since Francois Mitterand, the Greeks unexpectedly backed anti-austerity parliamentary parties and Vladimir Putin was inaugurated for his third term as Russian President. Europe just kind of went to hell in a handbasket.
None of these developments really bodes well for the continent. Francois Holland, the French President-elect, has vowed to spend in order to overcome the economies woes that bedevil France. The Greek anti-austerity party Syriza opposes the measures that are needed to overcome Greece’s budgetary morass. And Vladimir Putin is nothing more than a reconstructed KGB agent running the world’s largest nation as nothing more than his own personal fiefdom.
The two problems are political and economic. With France and Russia, they’re political. With Greece, it’s economic. Markets have reacted accordingly, with the euro dropping to recently unseen lows against the dollar and the pound. In Russia, the nation is bracing for another four years of autocratic oligracracy, wherein nothing much will change. But despite the apparent refusal to budge in all three of these countries, what will happen is that in making these choices, these countries are merely putting off the ultimate day of reckoning. The changes the electorates of these countries have opted not to make today will eventually have to be made, and when that do or die moment finally arrives, the changes that will have to be made then. They will be more severe and difficult, politically speaking, to effect, and ultimately, more destabilizing.
My analysis may well be alarmist. But on the face of it, the political changes that occurred this weekend in Europe, from Paris to Athens to Moscow, do not bode well for the continent, and trying to forestall the inevitable just makes the future that much more fraught with doubt than it otherwise would be.