The Greeks started the whole thing. Their economy was in the crapper and coupled with the strain placed on them by refugees, religious, nationalist and far right parties overwhelmed the social democrats and liberals. It hurt at first, but they diverted some funds and began to refit their navy and land forces in order to patrol and secure their borders. The Serbs and Croats didn’t fuck around either. After all, they’d killed more than enough Muslims during the Balkans War, so they made it very clear that no Arab was going to be welcome or safe on their territory and the politicians who believed in a liberal vision of the European Union soon found themselves out of a job. The East Europeans eventually united against what they saw as yet another Muslim invasion and stopped them cold at the border with a multinational task force which ruthlessly patrolled the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas. Boats sank, nobody knew or cared how many. Word got out and many refugees were stuck in Turkey as a consequence. It soon became clear even to the religious nuts backing the newly fundamentalist government there that they couldn’t feed, house and police them all. Slowly at first, the refugees were pushed back towards where they came from. The media tried to milk this with stories of hardship and the horrors that awaited those forced to return to Syria and Libya, but the fed up Europeans just didn’t care anymore.
The West Europeans were a little nicer. However, pressure on center-left governments there began to tell. Faced with the prospect of losing the next election, governments which until then had had fairly soft outlooks on refugees and immigration began to tighten up security on their borders and processed with a vengeance the refugees they already had. One way or another, by hook or by crook, they bought off or outright packed up those whom they couldn’t forward to England, and sent them back to their countries of origin as fast as they could arrange the flights. In this, the Germans unsurprisingly proved to be scarily efficient. Their bureaucracy kicked into high gear and began to process every immigration case they had, even taking cobwebs off the Turks’ long stay there. Harnessed to a thoroughly integrated security infrastructure, their police and intelligence agencies started rounding up everybody who wasn’t a citizen and began to deport them. The Turks complained about families getting torn apart, but the German government decided their loyalty had to be to Germany and Germans first, and relations with a fundamentalist regime on another continent wasn’t quite the priority it once was, so within five years the country had less than 1% of the immigrants and refugees it once had.
By then, the English had had enough too. After decades of taking in anything ranging from West Indians to Pakistanis and suffering what they saw as looting of the state welfare system and abuse of their hospitality, the Syrians and Libyans were the last straw. The traditional Labour and Conservative parties didn’t stand a chance. The UKIP made serious inroads and soon became the dominant force on the political scene. The government cracked down on refugees and tightened up border security to such an extent that the price of drugs skyrocketed. The British used everything at their disposal, starting with police sweeps of traditionally immigrant-dominated neighborhoods, picking up illegals and jailing anybody who sheltered them. In a reverse of the retreat from Dunkirk during World War 2, the government enlisted airlines and ships to return refugees to their countries of origin- no apologies, no excuses, no hand-wringing. Nobody cared anymore about fancy ideas of tolerance. If it wasn’t adaptable to local cultures and customs and above all law abiding, it wasn’t getting in or staying- that simple. Things changed for the Muslims who were naturalized European citizens already. There was a time when Christian Britons faced uphill battles with their city councils against the encroachment of Muslim mosques and madrassas, while security services tied themselves up in bureaucratic knots trying to catch extremists and terrorist fundraisers, but not anymore. After putting up with a century of Muslim persecution of Christians in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia, Europeans decided turnabout was fair play, so the fun and games were over. Mosques either joined the 21st century and stopped blasting out prayer calls at 5 AM along with funneling manpower and aid to terrorists, or they were shut down. Faced with closure, the mosques cleaned house, became more local-oriented and sent out text messages in bulk for their congregants to pray wherever they were, or go to their nearest soundproofed mosque, all of which had to comply with stringent noise pollution requirements and provide documentary evidence they had enough adherents in the neighborhood to even open up shop, which in turn led to the creation of a database of registered Muslims in the country, greatly simplifying the work of security services while offending the fuck out of liberals and democrats.
In the middle of this, Russia kept playing its power games, though it had less of a leg to stand on because the Europeans were taking on the Muslims and its Orthodox church along with the faithful approved. The old idea of taking the world back to a Cold War-like bipolar political order became increasingly discredited by the withdrawal of the United States from its role as predominant global superpower during the Trump administration. As a result, NATO became a more European-led effort which began to get more money from member states than before, and they increasingly frustrated Russian efforts to bully them. For the first time, the U.S. found itself largely as a paid ally of NATO and consequently the American government was able to plough money into its economy, which was on the mend after more than 10 years of recession. Much like under Roosevelt, the nation began to repair and upgrade its infrastructure. Once again, it was cool to wield a hammer and tar roads. Steel mills which until then required those who looked upon them to take a tetanus shot, were sparkling as they started to put out millions of tons of high quality steel for railways, bridges and the like. It looked as if president Donald Trump’s promise on baseball caps made in China to “Make America Great Again” was becoming a reality, especially when Russian president Vladimir Putin miscalculated Europe’s resolve in the face of a Russian gas supply cut during the winter of 2019.
Europe suffered for the first two or three years because of the expense, but they got as much gas as they could from the Middle East and the U.S., which had begun drilling in national parks to exploit previously untouchable reserves. It was almost like a reprise of the 1948 Berlin blockade, only this time the Europeans paid for the gas they needed and contributed to a rise in the fortunes of America’s petroleum industry. It would take another 7 years, but in the end both Americans and Europeans were working on a trans-Atlantic pipeline, their LPG carriers kept busy ferrying loads and the Russians quietened down after they saw there was more to be gained from working with friendly Europeans than messing with their governments. How could it be otherwise, when the formerly powerful Greens party in Germany tried to argue against reactivating the nuclear power stations closed years earlier, and in a televised debate, a nationalist German told the environmentalist “My dear, you can go hug Putin’s Christmas tree to keep warm, but I don’t care if I’m going to glow in the dark tomorrow, I want every German family to be warm today!” Oh, the Russkies got hurt… The ill-advised attempts to bring Europe to heel through gas cuts during the winters of 2019 to 2021 backfired spectacularly and their economy nearly went under, which weakened Putin’s regime and caused a significant rise in domestic opposition which its security services were struggling to contain.
End of Part 3. To be continued…