We may not yet know where this alarming confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine will lead, but at least we should be clear as to why it has arisen. The media persist in saying that it was triggered by Ukraine’s wish to sign a “trade deal” with the EU. But what is at stake is far more than this. For more than a decade, the EU has been trying to sign up not just Ukraine but also other parts of the former Soviet Union to “partnership” agreements, designed to further “European integration”.
As we can see from its proposed “Association Agreement” with Ukraine, this was intended not just to give it access to the EU’s single market but also to align it with the EU across a range of political issues, from energy and the environment to human rights and judicial systems. In other words, having already absorbed three other former Russian satellite states, in its insatiable desire to expand its empire, the EU is looking for Ukraine to follow suit. Not surprisingly, as a good Russian nationalist, when President Putin sees the EU parking its cardboard tanks on his lawn, he sees this as a threat. If we poke the Russian bear, it acts accordingly.
But what has been terrifying has been the confusion of the West in its response. From the American Secretary of State John Kerry to such aptly named nonentities as Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Nato and Stefan Füle, the EU’s Commissioner for Enlargement, we see them stumbling from one press conference to another, with no idea of what to do.
The truth is that, lost in its vain dream of ever greater expansion, the EU has at last been caught out. An organisation set up to put an end to nationalism has run up against the fact that a sense of national identity is too powerful to be suppressed.
On one side, we see a leader made strong by the sense that his country’s interests are being intolerably challenged. On the other, the mediocrities of the West, emasculated by their collective fantasy, have seen it finally running into a brick wall. For the “European project” this is indeed a solemn moment.
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