Whatever the outcome of Russia’s war against Ukraine – although a swift decisive victory for Kyiv is the only result that can be hoped for by the Free World – it is likely that irreparable damage has been done to Western political cohesion. The reluctance or inability to see Russia as a legitimate threat, coupled with domestic national concerns that Europhiles would rather pretend simply did not exist, have resulted in a house divided.
One aspect of this sorry set of circumstances that has been felt most keenly by the likes of Poland and Ukraine is just how predictable the events of 2022 truly were. Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, stated in September “We should have listened to the voices inside our union — in Poland, in the Baltics, and all across Central and Eastern Europe. They have been telling us for years that Putin would not stop.”
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made similar remarks in the wake of the Kremlin’s war, lamenting the inability of the Western world to observe the clear signs given by Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 and its original assault on Ukraine six years later.
As a former Foreign Secretary, one could fairly wonder how he did not come to this conclusion years earlier; although he was one of the first responders to the Ukrainian call for aid in arms, ammunition, and supplies, the nations of Eastern Europe deserved a Western champion far earlier than 2022.
But Johnson’s relevance over the course of events is not limited to his leadership of Britain for the first six months of the ongoing conflict. Since his unceremonious ousting from office – and the subsequent dashing of his hopes of returning to power – the former Prime Minister revealed the unseen reactions of various European powers to the sudden outbreak of war in February.
“This thing was a huge shock … we could see the Russian battalion tactical groups amassing, but different countries had very different perspectives. The German view was at one stage that if it were going to happen, which would be a disaster, then it would be better for the whole thing to be over quickly, and for Ukraine to fold,” Johnson said. “Be in no doubt that the French were in denial right up until the last moment.”
European denials of the former Prime Minister’s claims are decidedly unconvincing, especially considering that neither Germany nor France responded with the sudden influx of military aid that poured into Ukraine from the United Kingdom, United States, and Poland. To this speculation can be added the early rhetoric from Berlin and Paris, wherein the calls for peace failed to mask the essential desire for Russia not to be provoked and for France and Germany to be allowed to return to worrying about their own domestic problems.
To any observer of European politics, none of this should be overly surprising. Both France and Germany continue to grapple with problems of their own making. Establishing energy dependence on a country which has bugled its hostility to the West for centuries was an idea that has always been bereft of wisdom, and allowing mass migration from countries whose cultural and social values are fundamentally incompatible with the classical notions of liberty has led to outcomes as tragically worrying as they were utterly predictable.
These issues, in tandem with Russia’s war against Ukraine, have finally proved beyond what could be considered reasonable doubt that the notion of a pan-European state is not only ridiculous, it simply does not work. The divergence of political perspectives and cultural values is simply too great, and the dominance of the few over the many creates uncomfortable historical parallels.
Nor are matters helped by the language used by those who enjoy supremacy within the media and dominance of the political stage. That there are people within Europe who harbour abhorrent far-right beliefs is doubtless true, but they do not include the majority of people who are sceptical about the prudence of continuous waves of Middle Eastern immigration and troubled by the inability of Islam to harmoniously accept Western norms. It would doubtless not occur to the champions of opening Europe’s borders that they themselves are the architects of the shadowy right-wing movements that they fear the most.
It is at best ironic that France and Germany will champion the religious beliefs of Middle Eastern and North African migrants while decrying the conservative Christian values of Eastern European countries that were once behind the Iron Curtain or were within the Soviet Union, itself. This in turn will exacerbate the considerable exasperation already expressed by the likes of Poland and Bulgaria towards Brussels, Paris, and Berlin. The EU, it seems, values equality – but some EU members are more equal than others. The pathetic and prissy treatment of Britain since its democratic vote to leave the European Union likewise demonstrates Brussels’ ill feeling towards democracy.
Whether it’s in regards to Russia’s threat to the Free World or waves of Middle Eastern migrants, the answer lies in the obvious – the European Union is simply too big; it is composed of too many cultures and political perspectives; and, despite Brussels’ claim that it values diversity over all other issues, this does not include a deviation from what it considers its own norms. As matters currently stand, the EU runs the risk of collapsing under its own weight; it could quite easily lose the enthusiasm of its East European members with its positions on illegal Middle Eastern migrants, and though France and Germany have supplied Ukraine with significant military aid, it has never been granted with the wholehearted support of Britain, the United States or Poland.
Although it is perhaps not too late to save the European project, it would require a political approach as radical as it would honest, and little of what Brussels currently exhibits in its class of political heavyweights suggests that this is likely. Eurosceptics across the continent would delight in the collapse of the EU, and see it as proof that cooperation between nation-states does not mean federalisation is either desirable or inevitable, they would also not be alone.
Moscow would doubtless be the most pleased observer, and in losing its physical battle in Ukraine, could still win its undeclared political war against the European project and all of the values that it allegedly stands for.
To prevent this, the Europhiles would need to take measures that are demonstrably beyond them. Europe’s entire recent history has consisted of acts rooted in little more than moral exhibitionism, which is then followed by catastrophic socio-political consequences, and either denials that mistakes were made – e.g. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s admitting that not letting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO in 2008 was an error – or refusal to acknowledge any responsibility for their misdeeds.
Honest conversations towards immigration, an end to their reflexive hatred for the conservative social values of Eastern Europe, and greater cohesion in acknowledging security threats would be significant steps in rebranding the EU as an effective political body with a legitimate claim as a form of a future government. The European federalists and the Brussels Bubble true believers would also have to publicly take responsibility for the damage done by their two-decade-old cosy relationship with the Kremlin, as well as their penchant for doing political business that has more in common with Soviet politburo members, rather than the defenders of democracy that they claim to be.
Sadly, such a Herculean task appears to be beyond the EU’s limited abilities at this time.