In Europe, will growing fears of recession overshadow the threat of Russian imperialist expansion?

By | May 31, 2022

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Collectively, European governments have been able to agree on measures to isolate Russia’s economy that once would have been unthinkable, including an embargo on most of the crude oil Russia sells to Europe. But opinion is sharply divided on the stakes of the war and Ukraine’s chances.

Public statements by the leaders of France and Germany and comments by those countries’ officials suggest they are skeptical Kyiv can expel the invaders and they have called for a negotiated cease-fire, triggering complaints from Ukraine that it is being pushed to make territorial concessions.

Leaders in the Baltic States, Poland and elsewhere argue instead that supplying Ukraine with increasingly sophisticated heavy weapons is critical to not just hold the line, but reverse Russian advances and deal Moscow the kind of blow that would deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from any further military action in the future.

“This is an unprecedented attack on Ukraine,” said Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks. “Our understanding, which is based on a long history of interactions with Russia, is that we cannot rely on Russian mercy and we see the Russian attack on Ukraine as simply the prelude for further Russian imperial expansionism.”

Some Western European nations are losing appetite for sustaining a war they think is unwinnable and has reached a bloody stalemate that is draining European resources and exacerbating a looming recession. By contrast, Poland and the Baltic countries, who once lived under the Kremlin’s boot, see themselves as next in line for Russian imperialist expansion.

The flow of millions of Ukrainian refugees into those countries has brought the war much closer to citizens’ ordinary lives, while for Germany, Austria and Italy, the conflict is primarily felt through higher energy costs.

“Every phone call, ministers from the north of Europe and central Europe are getting more and more angry,” said a senior Czech official. “This is destroying the unity. It’s precisely what Putin wants and what the French and Germans are giving him.”

Unlike the leaders of Britain, Poland, the Baltic nations and several central European countries, French and German leaders have yet to visit Kyiv. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly warned that the conflict could lead to a third World War and nuclear annihilation. The goal of Western engagement, Mr. Scholz has said, was to keep Russia from winning.

Germany hasn’t sent tanks to Ukraine and agreed to ship seven pieces of heavy artillery. So far, Europe’s largest economy, with a population exceeding 83 million, has sent military aid worth about €200 million, according to government estimates—less than Estonia, with a population of just over one million. France has sent 12 howitzer-type cannons to Kyiv and no tanks or aerial defenses.

Poland has delivered more than 240 Soviet-designed T72 tanks to Ukraine, alongside drones, rocket launchers, dozens of infantry fighting vehicles and truckloads of ammunition. The Czech Republic has shipped helicopter gunships, tanks, and parts needed to keep Ukraine’s air force flying. [Continue reading…]

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