The EU deserves never to recover from its shameful failures in Ukraine


Crisis does not shape character; he reveals it. And so it was with the European Union and its handling of events in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s motives may remain unclear, but whether the ongoing military escalations on the Ukrainian border are the preamble to a full-scale invasion or simply a stress test of Western resolve, there is no doubt that the reaction of the EU was deemed insufficient.

The block emerges as fractured; unable to agree on military support or economic sanctions, divided between bilateral and multilateral modes of engagement. As Poland and the Baltic states offer military hardware to Ukraine and France makes its own demarches to Vladimir Putin, Germany’s response has been a mixture of hesitation – in its “strategic ambiguity” over sanctions and the future of Nord Stream 2 – and outright conciliation, as exemplified by its embarrassing and symbolically revealing offer to send Ukraine just 5,000 helmets instead of weapons last month.

Ukraine has also highlighted other historic Achilles heels; a deplorable lack of investment by EU members in their own defense capabilities; the clear reluctance of Germany and other member states to end their dependence on Russia for energy; Italy’s comfortable trade ties with Moscow, and much more. It turns out that nothing like a crisis on its external border to reveal the internal dysfunctions of the EU.

Some will no doubt cite the crisis in Ukraine as an argument in favor of some kind of European army – but the question must be: would it even be possible to organize one given the obvious lack of unity displayed by the Member States? ? And if such an army existed, whose side would it be on anyway?

At best, despite their claim to be a ‘world power’, the EU institutions themselves can be described as insignificant. European leaders, reportedly impressed with Westminster’s handling of recent events, plan to invite Britain to lead a new security committee to discuss geopolitical challenges. The move looks as much like an admission of EU failure as an acknowledgment of British diplomatic success – in an emergency unfolding in a country bordering a number of EU member states. EU, which itself aspires to EU membership, why wouldn’t Brussels itself was the convener?

The greatest irony of the EU’s cowardly response to Ukraine is that the country that most wanted to be European has been abandoned by Europe. When Ukrainian activists flocked to Kyiv’s Independence Square in 2013 for the protests that would lead to its democratic revolution, they carried EU flags and appealed to ‘European’ virtues – modernity, rule of law , democracy, freedom. Brussels also liked to speak lyrically about these values, but it is the Ukrainian people, neither in NATO nor in the EU, who are now ready to pay the ultimate price to defend them.

Of course, establishing a convincing foreign policy between 27 members with conflicting goals and priorities was never going to be an easy task, but it has always been Europe’s much-vaunted dream – to use a muscular EU and the solidarity of its supposedly close-knit member-states to maintain stability. Indeed, this comforting fiction won him the Nobel Peace Prize ten years ago. Yet when the chips are down, it is clear that the national interest and individual weaknesses of member states will always trump everything else – and this is not the first time the EU has been exposed in this way.

During the financial crisis, it became clear that the euro was not a sensible step on the road to economic convergence, but an ideological project that would sacrifice notions of solidarity and humanity on the altar of economic dogma. To this day, Greece bears the scars of the misuse of EU institutions to enforce the will of the strongest powers and the quest to push starkly different national economies into the shackles of monetary union. . Greece’s joining the single currency may have required industrial levels of creative accounting for the extent of its debts, but Eurostat happily endorsed it and Greece’s GDP never recovered from the experience.

Then came the pandemic. Slow to get off the ground and over-centralised, the continent’s rollout of the vaccine has exposed the worst aspects of the EU project – the shortcomings of technocracy and its slowness to react quickly to new events. Self-interest prevailed; like when Berlin ordered extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine even as it touted the virtues of a joint purchasing strategy while assuming the rotating presidency of the European Union.

But perhaps most damaging of all was the bloc’s toxic feud with AstraZeneca, which exposed a vicious nationalism that should have destroyed the EU’s reputation as a force for good on the world stage.

European leaders like Macron and Merkel have openly denigrated the safety and reliability of the only vaccine the developing world can afford. Nearly a dozen countries have reduced use of the vaccine across Europe, after a single study revealed the remote possibility that its recipients could develop blood clots.

With breathtaking hypocrisy, EU leaders then complained that they had not received enough doses of the vaccine whose distribution they themselves had delayed, and imposed export bans on factories. AstraZeneca. It’s hard to gauge the damage to the EU’s global reputation in all of this, but Sir John Bell, the vaccine czar who helped broker the deal between Oxford and AstraZeneca, recently said that the rhetoric of EU leaders was probably responsible for “hundreds of thousands of deaths”.

Intimidating but toothless, both impulsive and slow – the Imperial EU has failed on its own terms. Yet instead of sticking to narrower, more achievable geopolitical goals, such as free trade and cooperation, Eurocrats seem to specialize in overreacting to petty infractions; just compare their relaxed attitude to Ukrainian border tensions with their policing of the Northern Irish border. When they are desperate to save face, they react like lightning. But when the time comes to defend their noble principles, they respond with deafening silence.

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