Vladimir Putin just achieved the impossible: genuine European unity.
The Russian president’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has united Europe and the transatlantic sphere like nothing since the fall of the Berlin Wall, as even his erstwhile allies on the Continent abandoned him over the weekend.
From Sofia to Stockholm, Europe’s internal divisions over how to react to Putin’s aggression have melted away in recent days as the historic dimensions of the invasion — the greatest challenge to the West’s security architecture in decades — sank in.
As images of Russian tanks rolling over the Ukrainian border and families huddled in subway stations filled the airwaves, concerns in national capitals about the local impact of tougher measures, such as barring Russian banks from SWIFT (a linchpin of the global interbank payment infrastructure), gave way to a shared resolve to do whatever it takes to halt Putin in his tracks.
Faced with the cold reality of what the invasion means not just for Ukraine, but also for the security architecture across Europe, parochial objections, whether Italy’s desire to keep selling luxury goods to Russians or Germany’s to maintain easy access to Russian gas, evaporated.
Even Putin’s staunchest allies abandoned him, from Czech President Miloš Zeman to Hungary’s Viktor Orbán to French nationalist leader Marine Le Pen.
By Sunday, Europe had not only agreed to impose sweeping financial sanctions on Russia and Putin, but most countries — including neutral ones such as Austria and Sweden — had closed their airspace to Russian planes or were preparing to do so. The EU even decided to ban Russian broadcaster RT, the Kremlin’s main conduit for sending propaganda abroad. [Continue reading…]