Europe's Fading Unity Over Ukraine
Dempsey is a nonresident senior fellow at Carnegie Europe and editor in chief of Strategic Europe. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, as he keeps repeating, doesn’t have time on his side. As for the Europeans, despite their unity over imposing sanctions on Russia and their repeated condemnation of Putin’s war against Ukraine, visible cracks are emerging. If and when this war ends, these differences will make it more difficult, not easier, for the EU to create a strong foreign, security, and defense policy. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, along with Slovakia and the Czech Republic understand what Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is about. Over the years, these countries repeatedly warned their West European counterparts of the strategic folly of depending on Russian energy.
Furthermore, because of their history and proximity to Ukraine—as well as their experience of living under Soviet domination—the publics in this part of Europe show few signs of weakening their support for Zelensky even if it means higher energy and consumer prices. Their historical and political experiences contrast sharply with those of some other EU countries. In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government is now bitterly divided over what kind of military support it should give Kyiv. And when the issue of imposing an oil and gas embargo on Russia is repeatedly raised, Berlin says such an embargo would lead to higher energy prices for German households. The high price that Italy is worried about is an increase in interest rates. If the European Central Bank were to raise interest rates this would have a devastating impact on Rome’s ability to service is very high public debt.
The EU cannot afford one of its leading economies to come under such pressure. In France, the economic impact of the war has played into the presidential election, where the runoff between President Emmanuel Macron and the populist candidate Marine Le Pen takes place on April 24. This picture of Europe exposes how governments have their own interests in ways that could buy Putin some time. It is the time factor that matters so much to Ukraine as Zelensky continues to fight for his country’s independence.
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