What makes the EU unable to ‘wholeheartedly and wholeheartedly’ support Ukraine?

The diplomat Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord under Emperor Napoleon once said: “A diplomat who says ‘yes’ means ‘probably’, says ‘probably’ means ‘no’ and says ‘no’. ie ‘no’.

More interested in ending the war than who will win

Talleyrand died in 1838 but to this day, his judgment is still true. From debates about the Russian energy embargo or the prospect of Ukraine joining the EU, European diplomats are using the diplomatic art of “perhaps”.

High-level EU representatives regularly visit Kiev and pledge to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky strong military, economic and diplomatic support. But these promises are almost impossible to maintain when they are at odds with the political realities and national interests of EU member states.

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Self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery Gepard Germany committed to deliver to Ukraine. (Photo: Reuters)

While negotiations on an EU embargo on Russian oil by the end of the year have stalled, it remains unclear when the flow of oil from Russia to Europe will officially stop. And even if this does happen, the EU proposal has many exceptions, such as allowing the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia to continue importing Russian crude until 2024 – which is possible. creating countless opportunities to circumvent the embargo.

The same is happening with natural gas as the European Commission has issued new directives on sanctions, allowing European countries to pay for Russian gas in rubles as requested by President Putin. In addition, most importantly, the end of 2022 is still far away and by then the embargo may be outdated.

Clearly, in recent months, many European countries are more concerned with ending the war than with who will win, especially Germany, which seems to favor a return to the status quo before the war in Ukraine. . It is worth mentioning that Berlin is not alone in this regard. After his re-election, French President Emmanuel Macron insisted that the future of peace in Eastern Europe should not include unnecessary aggression against Russia and could include some concessions to Moscow on territorial issues. earth.

From the beginning of the war in Ukraine, European support for Kiev was not as strong as the reaction from Britain and the United States. According to the Kiel Institute for World Economy, in the first month of the conflict alone, the US provided $4.4 billion and other assistance to Ukraine, twice as much as the EU and its member states. . Ukraine currently receives the most support from the US, UK and some Eastern European countries, especially Poland. However, even hardliners like Poland want the US to ensure they replenish their arsenals before they deliver advanced weapons to Ukraine.

Germany is increasingly willing to supply Ukraine with more military equipment, but each commitment comes with internal political and logistical obstacles that can take weeks or months to resolve. decide. The most recent example of this is Germany’s delivery of a Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft gun to Ukraine, but lacked the ammunition to operate it.

It takes 15 or 20 years to join the EU

With the current developments, it seems that Ukraine’s accession to the EU is unlikely to happen anytime soon. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock insist they support the move, but they both know that at least one in 27 EU members has the power to veto Kiev’s full membership. . It is not yet clear whether this veto can come from Hungary, Austria, France and even Germany, but President Macron made clear calculations for the future when he proposed the so-called “Community of Government”. rule Europe”.

France’s European affairs minister, Clément Beaune, also said that countries that want to become an EU member but do not yet meet the conditions like Ukraine can join the political project “European Political Community”. to enjoy some privileges as a full member. However, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba rejected the idea, saying only full membership of the EU would be accepted, not an alternative.

Clément Beaune stressed that the formation of a new European security architecture would probably take one to a few decades and certainly could not be without Russia. France’s European affairs minister also warned that it would take a long time for Ukraine to become a full member of the EU.

“It has to be honest that it would be a lie to say that Ukraine can join the European Union in the next six months, one or two years. This is not true because to join the European Union, it will certainly take 15 or 20 years. I don’t want Ukraine to be delusional or deceived.”

Not only security but also future distribution of power

Despite the ambitions of an EU supranational state with its strongest supporters, national interests still dominate the political calculations of the member states. For Paris and Berlin, the Ukraine crisis is not only a security issue but also determines the future distribution of EU power.

Key positions in the EU are mainly held by Western European politicians, such as European Commission President von der Leyen (Germany), European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde (France) until The EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell (Spain) and European Council President Charles Michel (Belgium), reflected the imbalance in the balance of power between Eastern and Western Europe. The governments of Eastern Europe have made it clear that the current situation is becoming increasingly unacceptable to them, and that the war in Ukraine only makes them feel the need to change it.

The EU is formed around Germany and France, and both have successfully defended their positions as the ultimate decision makers in Europe over the years. It is well known to policymakers in both countries that an EU with Ukraine as a member could lead to the formation of a competitive Warsaw-Kiev axis, which neither France nor Germany want. Ukraine is culturally and politically closer to Poland than to Germany, which means that German power in the EU could be significantly diminished and replaced by Eastern European influence.

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