Europe sidelines as US tries to stop war between Russia and Ukraine – Archyde

U.S. Army soldiers stand in formation during a joint military tactical training exercise Blowback 2016 with the Bulgarian Army at the Novo Selo military compound April 11, 2016.


As crisis talks between US, Russian and NATO officials continue, Europe has been conspicuously absent from many recent negotiations aimed at preventing tensions between Russia and Ukraine from escalating into conflict.

Western allies are preparing for some sort of military confrontation, with NATO mobilizing more forces and attempting to reinforce Eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets. Meanwhile, the US Department of Defense announced on Monday that around 8,500 American soldiers were on increased alert and awaiting orders to deploy to the region in the event Russia invades Ukraine.

Some analysts believe Europe has been “sidelined on its own turf,” as Eurasia Group’s Emre Peker and Alex Brideau characterized the bloc’s lack of a crucial role in the talks.

“The EU has failed to unequivocally position itself behind a strategy to counter Russia’s increasingly aggressive stance towards Ukraine and will find it difficult to do so in the future. That will marginalize Brussels while the US and Russia debate the future of Europe’s security architecture,” they noted on Monday.

Several European officials have complained that the EU has been sidelined in discussions on Ukraine between the US and Russian officials; Ukraine has also complained about being left out of talks where it is the focus and concern.

But part of the European Union’s difficulty in dealing with its belligerent neighbor Russia is that there are divisions within the bloc over how to deal with Moscow. Some countries take a more dovish stance on Russia (like France and Germany), while others, like those in Eastern Europe or those that were formerly part of the Soviet Union like the Baltics, are more hawkish.

Furthermore, the EU is uncomfortably dependent on Russia for a large part (around 40%) of its natural gas supplies, which means that Russia can use this resource to its own advantage, especially in winter. Germany in particular is in a difficult situation, as the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which has yet to be approved, is intended to transport gas directly to Germany and boost Russian gas supplies to the continent.

Another part of the problem is that there is no consensus in the EU about its future security landscape. Some countries, like France, are pushing for more strategic autonomy from the US and NATO, while others (again, those in Eastern Europe and the Baltics where NATO troops are stationed) prefer to remain under the aegis of the military alliance.

“Barring an invasion, Europe cannot and will not mobilize,” Eurasia Group analysts warned, predicting that the EU “will struggle to bridge internal divisions between Russian hawks and doves over tensions in Ukraine.”

“These dynamics will drive another nail in the coffin of EU defense integration and deepen the bloc’s split into pro-US and more-European security camps,” Peker and Brideau noted, effectively meaning that “the talks between the US and Russia will decide the future of the European security architecture that the EU will follow.”

Crisis talks between Western officials and Russia have been going on for several weeks, following high-level talks between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Concerns about Russia’s behavior towards Ukraine grew amid reports that it had deployed around 100,000 troops and military equipment at various positions along its border with Ukraine. There have also been some intelligence reports that an invasion is being planned.

Russia has repeatedly denied these reports.

In talks with the US and NATO, Russia has sought legal assurances that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO, as Putin seeks to halt any eastward expansion of the military organization and urges NATO to roll back deployments in Eastern Europe and the Baltics. So far, the USA and NATO, among others, have refused such demands.

Since Ukraine is not a NATO member, the military alliance is under no obligation to defend it, which begs the question how far the US and EU are willing to go to defend the country – one that aspires to both EU and NATO membership. Russia vehemently opposes these efforts.

While the US, Europe and NATO have all spoken tough when it comes to Russia, promising “massive consequences,” as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday, so far it looks like further sanctions will target key Russian sectors imposed when Russia invades the primary response of the international community.

While the US and Britain have sent military equipment to Ukraine to help it defend itself, the EU states’ response has been more nuanced – Germany has refused to provide direct military support to Ukrainet and supposedly Prevented Estonia from sending German-made weapons to Ukraine.

NATO itself has strengthened its military capabilities in Eastern Europe, putting forces on standby and deploying more ships and warplanes to the area. Some European countries, including Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands, have announced their intention to send military hardware to bolster NATO’s defense capabilities.

Mariana, 52, a marketing researcher who has volunteered at a Kiev Territorial Defense Unit for the past two years, trains in a forest on a Saturday January 22, 2022 in Kiev, Ukraine.

Sean Gallup | Getty Images

The Kremlin on Monday accused the US and its allies of escalating East-West tensions by announcing plans to strengthen NATO forces and the US decision to evacuate diplomats’ families from its embassy in Ukraine .

The EU said Monday it will remain with Ukraine, and diplomats in Europe continue to push for peace despite preparations for conflict.

A flurry of diplomatic meetings continued in the region this week, with the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Monday and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holding talks with foreign ministers from Finland and Sweden.

On Monday afternoon, Biden held a video call with several European leaders and NATO chief Stoltenberg.

In a statement, the European Commission said the meeting “aimed at coordinating the collective response to Russia’s aggressive behavior towards Ukraine. The Heads of State and Government shared the assessment of the seriousness of the situation all eventualities.”

It added that it was “working on a wide range of sectoral and individual sanctions in case of further Russian military aggression against Ukraine” and was working with EU countries and allies on preparation, from energy to cybersecurity.

On Monday, the EU announced a new €1.2 billion ($1.36 billion) financial assistance package to Ukraine in the form of an emergency aid package and €120 million in additional grants. European Commission President Von der Leyen said the aid is aimed at helping Ukraine “meet its funding needs stemming from the conflict”, adding: “Let me be clear again: Ukraine is a free one and sovereign country. It makes its own decisions. The EU will continue to stand by them.”

European leaders are also set to try this week to bring Russia and Ukraine closer together with political advisers Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany are holding “Normandy format” talks on eastern Ukraine in Paris on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Such talks have in the past resulted in the so-called “Minsk accords” — peace deals aimed at ending the ongoing lower-level conflict in eastern Ukraine — but the accords have not stopped the ongoing skirmishes and some fighting between pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass region and Ukrainian troops, and both sides have accused each other of violating the agreements.

Therefore, the Normandy talks cannot be expected to be fruitful. Timothy Ash, Senior Emerging Markets Sovereign Strategist at Bluebay Asset Management, said that “Normandy and Minsk processes are dead”, with Moscow showing what he said was “zero interest” in the peace talks continuing.

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