Recently I visisted Orléans cathedral. It is one of the largest cathedrals in a country of huge ones, a magnificent late Gothic construction whose interior soars more dramatically than the heavier interiors of Chartres or Notre Dame de Paris. Orléans is also one of the most dramatic towns in French history, the site of the greatest battle of the Hundred Years War when Joan of Arc, “the Maid of Orléans”, defeated the English and thereby ensured the liberation of her country from the foreign invader.
I have had few sadder disappointments than when I entered the cathedral. Not the architecture, to be sure, which is magnificent, but the ambience. It was like entering a morgue. There was not a soul to be seen. No clerics bustled about; no women arranged flowers; no one came and went to choir practice. There was certainly no Mass in progress or even, it seemed, in prospect. The side-altars had evidently not been used for decades. The magnificent Gothic revival confessionals gathered dust silently in the cold. The only sounds came from the rainwater which leaked copiously through the roof to form an enormous puddle by one of the columns, and the ridiculous sound of a CD playing, round and round, Verdi’s requiem. It was like a scene from a cheap movie in which frightened travellers stumble across a recently abandoned house, but it was frighteningly easy to imagine the cathedral, a few decades hence, completely ruined as so many cathedrals and former abbeys are elsewhere in Europe.
The choice of the requiem was, of course, sinisterly apt. The cathedral is its present state is nothing but a magnificent mausoleum to a dead Christian culture – with the only difference that, in modern mausoleum’s like that of Lenin and Atatürk, the dead man inside is venerated for his political action to this day. By contrast, the Christian culture of Europe has died not with a bang but a whimper.
Morose thoughts like this crowd in on my mind when I read magnificent panegyrics like Srdja Trifkovic’s recent appeal for the constitution of a “North”, i.e. a political alliance of the United States, Europe and Russia, to replace the current so-called “West” which, led by America, aims precisely at breaking what would otherwise be a natural link between the European nations on the European continent and those in the New World. The USA has done everything since the end of the Cold War to perpetuate the artificial fracture running across the continent, in pursuit of a geopolitical goal of pushing Russia ever further East and North by increasing the area of American domination to include Ukraine and the Black Sea, both Russia’s natural geopolitical space. It is a ridiculous and grotesque project and I hope that it fails quickly, as it is started to do last August when Georgia attacked South Ossetia, provoking a Russian response and the despatch of Russian troops to two breakaway Georgian provinces. Georgia will never now join NATO and nor, in my view, will Ukraine.
“The West” has often been a rather ridiculous politico-cultural concept in the past. As the great medievalist, Ernst Kantorowicz pointed out in an essay written in 1942, The Problem of Medieval World Unity , it was mythical for the Western Europeans of the Middle Ages to think of the Holy Roman Empire as “Christendom” because of course there was a rival “Roman Empire” to the East, based in Byzantium. The Byzantines, likewise, thought of themselves as the bearers of universal Christendom and the Western Empire as merely an irrelevant and irreverent construction of the Frankish kings. This was in spite of the fact that both the Western and Eastern empires were threatened, militarily and religiously, by Islam – and both within decades of the creation of that religion. The West started to repulse Islam at the Battle of Poitiers in 732; the East fell to it seven centuries later. But the pressure of Islam brought the self-consciousness of Christians into the sharpest possible focus and indeed it is precisely after the Battle of Poitiers that the term “Europeans” was used for the first time. 
Maybe the Islamic threat is now leading to a similar sense that what Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian ambassador to NATO whom Srja Trifkovic quotes, calls “the white Northern hemisphere” needs to hang together or hang separately. Unfortunately I think that the proposed solution – an alliance of Russia, Europe and the United States – misses not one point but two.
First, and as Srdja Trifkovic is the first to argue, Europe and Russia suffer from catastrophic demographic collapse. Even America’s projected population growth will be the result of immigration. Christian civilisation, in other words, is not threatened from outside by aggressive jihadists or Turkish expansionism as in the past. It is threatened by its own materialistic suicide – a protracted and determined suicide which has been going on for decades now and which consists not only of the refusal to have children (a flagrant indication, if ever one was needed, that modern so-called “progressive” Europeans and Americans think only of the present and never of the future) but also in the willful abandonment of the Christian religion of which the leaking roof in a deserted cathedral is a perfect illustration.
Ever since the Second Vatican Council, any growth in Christian observance has been exclusively a Third World phenomenon, helped along by a liturgy which is as moronic as it is ugly. As a result, the great Catholic shrines in Paris (the miraculous medal chapel of the rue du Bac, for instance) is staffed entirely by nuns from the Philippines, a pleasant irony since the seat of the Missions étrangères which evangelised Asia from the 17th century onwards is right next door. Nature abhors a vacuum and is it therefore any wonder that Islam steps in where Christians fear to tread? The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.
Second, and concomitantly, I feel that such grand geopolitical plans are a distraction. The natural political unit is the nation. It is the unit which makes sense to its citizens because it is real. Nations are the irreducible facts of political geography, rather like mountains in ordinary geography and rather like families with a state, and it is absurd and dangerous to try to overlook them or to overcome them. No doubt the idea of a Grand Alliance against a revanchist or Muslim Third World can give us a frisson of excitement and a moment of escape from the reality of our willful self-destruction. But it is just that – an idea, a wish, a dream – not a realistic political project.
Even if the men existed to put it into place, it would not last. If even the deeply Christian men who led the Eastern and Western empires could not unite in the 8th century against the Muslims who had overrun France and Spain; if instead of recovering the Holy Land in 1204, Venetian Crusaders sacked the capital city of the Eastern empire; if Greeks preferred the Sultan’s turban to the Cardinal’s hat when they rejected the agreement reached at the Council of Florence in 1439, when the reunion of the Western and Eastern Churches was agreed and signed, then there really is not much hope of us doing so now. Far better to put our own houses in order first, itself a monumental task. Once we have done that, then we can start talking about grand alliances.
 Reprinted in Ernst Kantorowicz, Selected Studies, Selected Studies, Locust Valley, J.J Augustine Publisher, 1965, p.78
 See Roberto de Mattei, De Europa, Tra radici cristiani e sogni postmoderni, Roma: Casa Editrice Le Lettere, 2006, p. 84.