Europe against Putin


The leaders of the European Union and its member states must not allow Russia's President Vladimir Putin to ignore them in addressing and negotiating the terms of a crisis as serious as the one that has arisen over the situation in Ukraine. Even NATO as an organisation is not playing the role it should and with the weight that the organisation's European allies should be able to bring to bear. Publicly at least, Putin has managed to focus the crisis directly with the United States and has sidelined the Europeans, with whom he has relevant business that it may be in everyone's interest to preserve.

There is the obvious and basic issue that the geographical location of the crisis is centred on a country like Ukraine on European soil. Putin has achieved his first objective of once again being considered a great superpower and dealing one-on-one with the United States, leaving out of the negotiations that the heads of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, and Russian diplomacy, Sergey Lavrov, held in Switzerland last Friday, which has made it possible to give himself a little more time while waiting for Washington to offer written answers to Russia's demands and for Moscow to begin withdrawing the thousands of military troops it has deployed on the border with Ukraine. The great Russian threat to invade Ukraine, in whole or in part, is still hanging over the air, although everyone is aware that no one is interested in a medium- or large-scale military confrontation, if one can measure in these circumstances the degree of intervention and the scale of the Western response in terms of sanctions and, above all, the consequences of all kinds that intervention and response would entail.

For the response and sanctions, Europe is indeed on board, but curiously, at the moment, the role of NATO and its main allies such as Germany, France and the UK is merely one of consultation by Washington. Why is Europe on the outside? There are several reasons. The most important is a lack of leadership and energy. It is no coincidence that Putin's bid has materialised when Angela Merkel is out of power in Germany and in winter when German dependence on Russian gas goes beyond factories and businesses and affects the homes of millions of Germans. Merkel decreed the closure of German nuclear power plants, which someone will explain in due course. France is on the campaign trail and the UK is ashamed of Boris Johnson's parties. And everyone, including Italy and Spain, has their interests with Russia. In the end, Europe will be the loser.