The EU’s Lost the Plot
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master – – that’s all." ~ Lewis Carroll's 'Through the Looking-Glass'
The EU, with much ado, this week announced the NINTH sanctions package on Russia. What is it about sanctions the EU doesn’t ‘get’? Russia has comfortably survived Western financial sanctions (even the fervently anti-Putin Economist concurs). Perhaps it is the tech sanctions which ultimately will ‘strangle Russia’. Good luck with waiting that one out! Who ends up strangling whom?
The EU still is busy trying (“legally”) to annex any, and all, Russian assets in Europe. And what Russia targets has the EU found to sanction? Well, that was no easy hunt, as so much has already been sanctioned. So the focus is on making illegal any last remaining Russian voice still extant in Europe.
Yes, we Europeans have been so afflicted by "head-spinning" disorientation through the rain of state disinformation, and by outrageous, obvious lying, that many have begun to question their own and surrounding levels of sanity. In their bemusement, they have come to see the "messaging" of endless sanctions as "perfectly rational". They have been hypnotised into "You are either ‘with the narrative’ or ‘against it’."
So, clearly, all Russian discourse within Europe must be eliminated:
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.”
(Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass)
Last week the EU General Council put out a statement that it is "concerned Turkey is maintaining a close partnership with Russia, despite the war in Ukraine and tough Western sanctions against Moscow." The deepening economic ties between Turkey and Russia are “a cause for great concern”, EU foreign policy chief Borrell said in a letter to the European Parliament. Also “of concern” was Turkey's continued policy of “not joining the EU's restrictive measures against Russia", the letter said. It was important that Turkey not offer Russia any workarounds to sanctions, Borrell cautioned.
To which, President Erdogan riposted: “It's an ugly statement. Borrell can’t define and formalize our relations with Russia. He has neither the qualifications nor the ability to make such decisions. Who is he to assess our relations with Russia with respect to sanctions?”
Then, on 12 December, Borrell announced that the EU will agree on a “very tough” package of sanctions against Iran: "We are going to approve a very tough package of sanctions. [The EU] will take any action we can to support young women and peaceful demonstrators. And we will try to agree further sanctions on Iran over the supply of drones to Russia."
Put plainly, the EU doubles-down; nay, triples-down: spraying its sanctions toward anyone ‘not with the narrative.'
It is surprising (or maybe ‘not’), that the EU is not reading the runes on Ukraine accurately, in terms of the struggle over Ukraine policy taking place in Washington. Loosely put: the élite US Realist constituency, together with Henry Kissinger -- a ‘hawk’, sometimes posing as a Realist -- is going head-to-head with the Russophobic constituency within the élite, hinting that the latter covet a bigger war (which US would be ill-advised to wage).
Although the notion would be no surprise to most readers, Kissinger -- in saying that a dismemberment of Russia or the destroying of its ability to conduct strategic policy is a ‘no-no’ -- implicitly strips naked the neo-conservative constituency by putting their covert aims into objective consciousness (the latter has always denied their aim being to dismantle Russia into inconsequential statelets and then to seize its resources). Kissinger at least ‘outs’ the issue.
So far, this maneuvering between US élite constituencies is more about preparing the ground within the US foreign policy discussion groups, than birthing a new policy. (It is too early for that, perhaps?).
The EU however, wants to ‘mark its territory’, but does not think things through. Olaf Scholz, limp-wristed, mutters about a ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
The British PM, however, has poured cold water on any ceasefire: The West should consider any Russian call for a cease-fire in its war against Ukraine “completely meaningless” in the current circumstances, Rishi Sunak said on Monday.
Well, even if there were a withdrawal to positions of 24 February 2022 (the Kissinger proposal), that just won’t work as the basis for a ceasefire, but rather highlights the naïvety of EU ‘thinking’.
The EU wraps the Ukraine into a fantasy of a like-minded democratic state struggling for its independence against an overweening ‘big brother’. This is nonsense. Ukraine is ethnically, linguistically, culturally and affiliationally divided. It is in midst civil war. It has been in civil war for decades. Tens of thousands dead.
Simply to pretend that this fundamental fact does not impinge on any ceasefire framework is ridiculous. The armed nationalist siege lines are arrayed within rocket range of those northern (culturally Russian) civilian cities (such as Donetsk) the radical nationalists wish to conquer and subdue.
Such a ceasefire would be analogous to re-inserting the Catholic Irish Republican Army (IRA) forces under the nose of the Protestant Northern Ireland paramilitaries. Does anyone believe that London would be able to just abandon the Protestants to such a prospect? Well, neither can Moscow allow the ethnic Russians (particularly in lands which have been a part of Russia for centuries) be allowed to swing in the wind of a ceasefire in which all is restored to ‘as it was’ (i.e. when the nationalist forces were freely treating Donetsk City as a coconut shy).
To give Kissinger his due, he recognises the ceasefire's implausibility by referring to the possible partition of Ukraine (via referenda) becoming a necessity -- were his ceasefire proposal prove impossible. (The EU are miles off such thinking.)
Rather, the EU has dug itself into a ‘Bakhmut trench’ with its Ukraine “must win”, and “we must support Ukraine for ‘as long as it takes’”. The EU acts as if it believes itself to be in control; that is, that the EU will decide whether ‘to confer a ceasefire’ on Russia -- or not.
Most likely, the EU will be a bystander watching events from the outside. It will not have a seat at the table.
And there may never be a formal ‘ceasefire’. Diplomats are overly fond of saying that conflicts are never resolved by military means -- but that is quite untrue. Often a demonstration of military strength is required, precisely in order to catalyse and bring about a tectonic shift.
Or, simply, the outcome may emerge from the ‘inside-out’: i.e. from a bottom-up, or outside-in, leadership realignment occurring inside Kiev or in the Ukrainian military -- separate from any EU or US direct involvement. The possibility should not be overlooked.
The consequences to these EU high pretentions of having agency in respect to events in Ukraine are not trivial, but of a strategic order. The most immediate is that the EU’s fanatical support for Kiev has moved ethnically ‘anti-Russian Ukraine’ further and further away from any possibility of serving as a neutral or buffer state.
Pari passu for any EU role. It has burnt any bridges as mediator. Why would ethnically Russian Ukrainians trust the EU (when the Kremlin doesn’t)?
The fanning -- by Ukraine ‘activists’, inside the EU leadership class and at the highest level of the EU -- with toxic anti-Russian sentiments inevitably has plumbed a bitter fault line in Ukraine.
Yet, not one confined to Ukraine alone: It is both fracturing Europe, and creating a strategic fault line between the EU vs the rest of world.
President Macron said this week that he sees ‘resentment’ in President Putin's eyes. -- “a sort of resentment" directed at the Western world, including the EU and the US, and that it is fueled by “the feeling that our perspective was to destroy Russia”.
He is right. The resentment however, is not confined to Russians who have come to despise Europe; it is rather, that across the globe, resentment is bubbling up at all the destroyed lives strewn in the wake of the western hegemonic project. Even a high-ranking French Ambassador now describes the rules-based order as an unfair “Western order” based on “hegemony”.
Angela Merkel’s interview to Zeit Magazine confirms for the rest of world that EU strategic autonomy always was a lie. She admits that her advocacy of the 2014 Minsk ceasefire was a deception. It was an attempt to give Kiev time to strengthen its military -- and was successful in that regard, Merkel said. “[Ukraine] used this time to get [militarily] stronger, as you can see today. The Ukraine of 2014/15 is not the Ukraine of today”.
The EU posits itself as a strategic player; a political power in its own right; a market colossus; a monopsony with the power to impose its will over whomsoever trades with it. Simply put: the EU insists (and believes) that it possesses meaningful political agency. But it has no political or military power per se (it being a US vassal). Rather, its influence derives from its economic breadth -- and that has been wasted through self-harm.