Will Ukraine War Divide The West? – OpEd


No thinkers have succeeded to predict how the Russia-Ukraine war will end while the Russian invasion is just few days away for completing a year on 24th February. Ukraine now stands in ruins of graves. Thousands of civilians, soldiers have been killed and lakhs wounded. Much of the population is without water, heating, food and shelter during the not so severe European winter.

Ukraine will one day need the kind of financial aid and support that Western Europe received after the Second World War to rebuild its shattered cities and again the US will force the UN and the EU come to their assistance. The damage to Russia has also been hefty. Its army has suffered heavily along with Sanctions.

Russian invasion on Ukraine brought Europe and the trans-Atlantic alliance (US-NATO-EU) together to challenge the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. The impact of the conflict has spread from the battlefield to the economic, energy, political, and other fields. Ukraine war has been exposing important differences among the US,NATO members on various issues which are likely to further deepen in the ensuing months.

Important Differences Exposed:

  • Russian Gas was the first difference of major concern. It was about Russia-Germany gas pipelines linkages and their developing economic relations through gas. Some political parties have blamed the US of taking advantage of Europe’s energy problems. Europe has also fallen into the trap of being highly dependent on US energy supplies, with Washington becoming the biggest beneficiary of the European energy crisis, taking advantage of the opportunity to profit from it and destroying European industrial production capacity in the process. The US has opposed the Russian Gas through Nord Stream 2 on the grounds that direct supply of gas to Europe would strengthen Russia’s economic and political influence over the region.Russia’s natural gas is just not a resource, but the Russia-Ukraine war has turned it into a political and economic weapon.
  • Sanctions on Russia. The US called for sanctions against Russia, and then reaped the benefits, making billions of dollars in gross profits off the sale of liquid natural gas to Europe. Rising energy prices are a very visible sign of economic turmoil. In the EU energy prices have risen 40%, contributing to inflation. Rising energy prices hit those on the lowest incomes and combined with higher food prices can lead to difficult choices for the most vulnerable households. 
  • US Advisory to avoid Trade with China. The Europeans, however, still regard China as “a partner for cooperation,” and do not fully support US to use European nations against China. German chancellor Scholz’s visited China, the first by a major Western leader after the elevation of Xi by the 20th Party Congress. This reflects a break with the Coalition Agreement. France and Germany, opposed a confrontational attitude toward China, and believed that a more balanced strategy should be adopted, and more European interests must be taken care of. Despite the friction, the EU and China continue to remain strongly intertwined economically.
  • Supply of Tanks. European and US defense leaders met at Ramstein Air Base in Germany and failed to reach an agreement to send German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine. US promulgated the policy to sacrifice Europe to the cause of a proxy war with Russia and later some sort of agreements has been arrived to supply tanks to Ukraine. Political leaders make strong willed promises without realizing the ground realities. The US spokesman has realistically pointed out the supply problems especially of the American Abram tanks. Abram tanks may never reach Ukraine and now Poland seeing the US reality may also slow down! If tanks are to take over 6 months plus training it appears US-NATO is all prepared to continue with this Russia-Ukraine conflict with peace nowhere in sight.   
  • Ukraine asking for F-16s. Top Ukrainian officials have in recent days escalated their public show of asking for F-16s describing it as a “Priority”.Earlier the US had believed that supplying Ukraine with fighter jets would be provocative and risk an escalation between NATO and Russia. Last March, Poland was prepared to transfer its MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine as long as the US agreed to fulfill Warsaw deficiency with F-16s. Earlier President Biden had said an emphatic “No”. However, he has said that he will discuss with President Zelensky the latest request for weapons. “We are providing them what we think they are capable of operating, maintaining, and sustaining,” deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said ; “The F-16 this is a very complicated system.” European countries with F-16s and other types of fighter jets in their inventory do not appear prepared to transfer them now, either. German Chancellor appeared to balk at the idea; “Domestic political motives” and so has Croatia criticised Western nations for supplying Ukraine with heavy weapons.
  • European security is linked to EU member states’ historical existences and the resultant threat perceptions. No matter how much NATO-US hypes up the Russian threat to Europe, it is impossible for many Western nations to sacrifice their own interest to become active participants in NATO’s plan to defeat Russia. France and Germany consider a future European security architecture involving Russia in some form. France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Spain don’t expect Ukraine to take back Crimea, and they see the inevitability of a negotiated solution and the durability of Russia as a neighbour. For the East Europeans, security is about defending themselves against Russia and that is why the East European nations want the NATO to defend Ukraine. “If Ukraine is not ‘Armed to the Teeth’ to ensure a Ukrainian victory by the West and capable of retaking its territory, including Crimea, then Russia would destroy Ukraine”.  Berlin is still viewed today as not doing enough for Ukraine!

As the war in Ukraine drags on, the costs for Europe are mounting.The economic and social pressure Europe is facing will undoubtedly make the European people recognize the true intention of the US. They will re-evaluate the Europe’s involvement in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and Europe’s support for Ukraine. Countries are already concerned about the continuing costs to support Ukraine and for how long?

These fissures won’t have immediate impact on the EU in the near future. But they will deepen and create resentment between Western and Eastern Europe unless there is awareness between both sides about their real threat perceptions from Russia. End of the Ukraine war whenever it ends, Europe may break away from the American dream of American dominance and security in Europe to the reality that Europe must look out for itself and for its own interest.

Patial RC

Patial RC is a retired Infantry officer of the Indian Army and possesses unique experience of serving in active CI Ops across the country and in Sri Lanka. Patial RC is a regular writer on military and travel matters in military professional journals. The veteran is a keen mountaineer and a trekker.

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