When Good Men Do Nothing: Europe and the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Published: Mar 15, 2022  |  

International journalist and moderator

Seventy-seven years without war between major European powers ended on February 24 with a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. It was what President Putin declared the start of a “special military operation.”

Putin wants to re-establish Russia’s traditional sphere of influence in Eastern and Central Europe. Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, is on his own. The US offered to evacuate him, but the brave President said, “I’m staying. I want ammunition, not a ride”.

President Putin’s declared aim is what he calls the “de-Nazification of Ukraine,” and he warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the action will lead to “consequences they have never seen.” The one thing Moscow will not want is to get bogged down, allowing Ukrainian forces to regroup. The Kremlin will want the war won in days.

The new realpolitik among European democracies is the realisation that they can’t just look the other way when dictatorships stalk the continent once more. I find it incredible that Remainers and others never realised that Europe has been so parochial for so long. Now they find themselves powerless to intervene militarily to save a European democracy from unprovoked attack and occupation by a harsh, militaristic dictatorship.

Invading Ukraine may be Putin’s biggest mistake, but who cares? Ukrainians dying on the streets of a country on the borders of the European Union—that is what counts. Not long-term sanctions trying to find Putin’s wealth.

As Ukrainians fight to the death for their homes, these sanctions are virtually meaningless. At an emergency summit in Brussels, EU leaders claimed sanctions will threaten Putin and are “massive and severe.”  But the stark reality is that these are no more than an irritant to Putin: he will blink them away in an instant, and has in fact been “sanctions-proofing” his country since invading Crimea in 2014.

Does Brussels, Washington, and Berlin really think Putin hasn’t spent years preparing Russia and the oligarchs’s bank accounts for this take-over? He has a war-chest of hundreds of billions of dollars and his national bank accounts are all in credit. Meanwhile, Western Europe is up to its ears in debt, mainly to pay for the short-sighted politics behind Euro-energy-deals for power—from Russia. Remember: Europe is still burning hundreds of millions of Euros of Russian coal every year. 

You won’t see Brussels or Berlin proposing energy sanctions. Nor will Brussels agree with Britain and America to suspend the SWIFT banking system. Each country is acting out of total self-interest.

Angela Merkel thought she was so clever and Germans were smug about Nord Stream 2. And remember they haven’t cancelled the pipeline—only “suspended” it. 

Now Germany is run by a coalition, which, like all coalitions, can’t agree on even the time of day. Especially with the Green Cabinet members, who seem more worried about being “woke” than war. At the height of the Cold War, the German military—with its extensive heavy armour and large land army—was in the vanguard of Europe’s defence against the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. Today, it’s a shadow of its former self, with fighter jets that can’t fly, tanks that don’t move, soldiers equipped with broom handles for guns in Arctic exercises and even a lack of basic clothing. Germany agreed to help NATO, and sent a 1000 helmets: if they had sent 1000 Helmuts—real manpower—that would have shown more willingness.

The Ukrainian tragedy unfolding in front of us shows how wrong we’ve been. Focusing on social justice over the past decades obscured the stark reality of countless post-WWII issues we’ve never confronted. The enemies at the gates. And who knows what might happen in Asia while the eyes of the world are on Ukraine.

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