You Don’t Know Whether to Laugh or to Cry. The EU Now Has a Masterplan to Hit Putin Where It Hurts

Hit Putin where it hurts? He’s more likely to hurt himself from laughing. Try harder, Ursula.

The EU is about to unveil its own sanctions plan to wean its own member states off Russian oil. But getting backing from all EU governments might be harder to push it through. Try not to laugh.

On the foreign policy circuit the EU doesn’t have an impressive track record. For anything. More, if anything, for leaving a trail of havoc in its wake when it dabbles in international politics. The problem is simply that the EU, while quite capable at agreeing on new directives for the size of your windscreen wipers, or the size or shape of a given piece of fruit, struggles with the big stuff. There simply isn’t the support from member states yet to hand over to Brussels how those same governments unilaterally deal with conflict around the world. The result is actually quite comical as who can forget Federica Mogherini’s offer to both President Assad of Syria and opposition fighters of cash from the EU to stop the war? Or for the same office to suggest using British frigates off the coast of Libya to literally blow out of the water smuggler boats laden with African migrants trying to get to Europe. Or that unforgettable foray into conflict resolution on the Chad border in 2001 where French officers under a so-called peacekeeping mission from the EU fled for their lives when rebels actually started firing live rounds at them? Imagine. Live rounds.

And then there was the EU police force in Afghanistan which was so terrified of the streets of Kabul that they simply decided it would be safer for them, even though they were armed, to stay in their barracks. And then the fiasco of Covid where the EU couldn’t even get an agreement from its own governments on how to proceed with a rescue plan and so did nothing, while thousands of its own citizens died. Even Brexit was a catastrophe for the EU, given that after all that drama over the negotiations and the empty threats by Brussels, Britain turns out to be not merely a survivor but a champion with economic growth the envy of the 26-member bloc.

The list just goes on and on. Someone really should write a book about the EU’s comical attempt to be a superpower and how it fails every single time.

And it will be the same with the latest escapade from the European Commission’s own President who seems to have set a new record for being especially ineffective – even for European Commission presidents. Ursula von der Leyen, an unremarkable German politician, bereft of any real dynamism and a particularly obscure foreign minister when she held the post, is grasping the nettle and facing Russia head on. Oh yes she is. Dear Ursula has a new draft directive which will ensure that all EU member states will abandon their deals with Russia oil, or at least phase them out over a period of time. We don’t know what the timeline is but the ambitious plan will have to have the support of all member states and this where it might run into some obstacles. Given that some EU member states have made it pretty clear that they don’t have the means or resources to look for alternative sources of gas, for example, it’s hard to see how an EU directive is going to make any differences. Some might argue that an EU directive is a by-product of a lack of unity in the first place and so the failed superstate needs to look to the bureaucrats to find a fix. But contrary to popular belief, the EU Commission isn’t as powerful as it likes to believe and cannot impose draft legislation on member states or the European parliament for that matter.

Realistically, the Russia move is an act of desperation following the EU’s grotesque support for U.S. and British objectives in Ukraine, i.e the toppling of Putin. The announcement shouldn’t therefore be taken seriously and given the recent Covid ordeal which lost von der Leyen considerable credibility it’s hard to see how she can galvanise opinion across 26 member states. What’s more likely is that this latest ruse will be a rod for her own back as more independently-minded EU member states who have made the headlines of late for not getting in line, will use it as a political tool to hit back at Brussels. And time is also a factor. If, say, it takes a year to be adopted – which is fast tracked – has the Commission president considered the present financial hardship that many EU citizens themselves are facing due to the Ukraine war and the political blowback that this directive would have, if adopted? While Joe Biden says remarkably stupid things like the U.S. is looking to Qatar for a solution to Europe’s energy dependency (they haven’t got any spare capacity to ship to Europe), it seems the EU is duty bound to follow the trend of talking nonsense and producing fake news. Hit Putin where it hurts? He’s more likely to hurt himself from laughing. Try harder, Ursula.

By Martin Jay
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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