July 11, 2017

The EU can’t stand up to Russia

The EU can’t stand up to Russia

Vested interests mean the EU fails to present a credible force to face up to Vladimir Putin’s ambitions. In reality, the West will be defended by a strong NATO, says Joseph Hackett.

For many Remainers, the EU is the great defender of the West. To turn your back on the European project is to turn your back on Western freedom, and to weaken the EU is to help leave the democracies of Eastern Europe at the mercy of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

In their view, with Brexit and the election of President Trump, the UK and USA have abandoned the stage, leaving the EU to stand up for the West. This mind-set has even led some more unhinged Europhiles – like Labour MP Ben Bradshaw – to accuse Russia of “interference” in last year’s EU Referendum.

The whole idea is, however, a fantasy. Not least since Putin himself rejected David Cameron’s suggestion he wanted Britain to leave the EU, and even described Brexit as “traumatic” for both Britain and the EU after the Referendum.

More importantly, however, the fantasy falls apart when one realises the EU is not serious about standing up to Russia. Brussels likes to talk the talk – Baroness Ashton, then the EU’s foreign policy chief, wasted no time in heading to Kiev to celebrate after Ukraine’s revolution in 2014, for example – but when it comes to action, the EU’s mess of competing interests, breaks its resolve.

Pro-EU liberals who worship German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her tough talk about Trump and Putin have already been shaken by her recent vote against gay marriage, but they will be truly shocked to find Merkel leads one of the West’s most pro-Russian governments. Since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, Germany has constantly dragged its feet on the issue of sanctions.

Last month, this came to a head when Merkel blasted American plans to toughen sanctions on Russia, which would include sanctions against non-Russian companies which support Russia’s energy export pipelines. A joint letter signed by Merkel’s Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern slammed the American proposals for “illegal extraterritorial sanctions against European companies that participate in the development of European energy supply.”

This gets to the heart of the matter. EU countries like Germany and Austria are refusing to get tough with Putin because they rely on him for their energy supply. The Austro-German joint statement essentially admitted as much, proudly declaring “Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, not the United States of America”. The EU’s staunch defenders would surely be surprised to find Trump’s America proposing tough new sanctions on Russia, only to be rebuffed by Merkel’s Germany.

Germany’s reliance on Russian gas stems in part from its opposition to nuclear power. In 2000, when then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder agreed a deal to close all the country’s nuclear power plants by 2022, almost 30% of German power generation came from nuclear energy. This has halved since, and should drop to zero by 2022. Schröder aimed to fill this gap with Russian gas, and agreed to guarantee funding for the Nord-Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany shortly before he left office in 2005 – getting a lucrative job with Russian gas giant Gazprom soon after.

Last year, the German government compounded this problem by banning fracking. In doing so they followed France and, stunningly, Bulgaria – which gets almost all of its gas from Russia. Ultimately, this has left little appetite in many EU Member States for tough sanctions on Russia – after all, Russia could retaliate by either raising the price of gas exports to the EU, or shutting off the flow altogether and causing a major European energy crisis.

Perhaps the loudest EU voice against harder sanctions on Russia has been Italy. With broad and extensive trade ties with Russia, Italy is Russia’s fourth-biggest export partner worldwide, and it is believed to have lost billions of euros from the sanctions which have been imposed since 2014.

The EU’s reliance on Putin is significant, and likely to deepen in the near future as EU countries continue to eliminate alternatives to Russian gas imports. As a result, while the EU might like to present itself as the great enemy of Russia’s expansionism and authoritarianism, the political will to do anything about Putin is weak. Any effort by threatened countries, like Estonia and Poland, to take a tougher line, will struggle to get past the self-interest of Germany, Italy, Bulgaria and others.

Needless to say, this dynamic is reflected in military spending. Poland and Estonia are, like Britain and the United States, among the few NATO members who spend the expected two per cent of GDP on defence. Germany, Italy and Bulgaria are well short of the target, and have no intention of meeting the target any time soon.

It is therefore no surprise Putin was not jumping for joy over Brexit. The EU is not a credible threat to his ambitions. In reality, the West will be defended by a strong NATO, including a Brexit Britain which continues to meet its defence spending target and maintains a tough line on sanctions against Russia. As we Get Britain Out of the EU, we are not guilty of turning our back on the West – if anyone is, it’s an EU which just cannot afford to stand up to Putin.

4.73 avg. rating (93% score) - 11 votes
Joseph Hackett
Joseph Hackett
Joseph Hackett is a Research Executive at Eurosceptic campaign group Get Britain Out. He joined the campaign in 2016 after studying History at Oxford University.
  • Nockian

    A mixture of confirmation bias and false news prevents the truth getting out. Politics has become a popularity contest where the facts are ignored and emotion decides who the baddy and goody will be. It’s been that way for a decade or more; Trump is demonised because he is Trump; Brexit because Brexiteers are scumbags or idiots; Corbyn and Hillary are lionised as being honest, nice and genuine-they could display all the actions of Attilla the Hun and still be regarded as better than May, or Trump. Putin has been cast as Mr Evil and the pantomime crowd boo and hiss loudly in an attempt to show how much they hate him.

  • norman’s nonsense

    If only more people realized this… so true

  • Ravenscar

    […] Stoltenberg said he welcomed Ukraine moving toward meeting NATO
    standards with political, economic and defense reforms, regardless of
    membership.

    “These reforms are essential to ensure security and prosperity for all Ukrainians and to bring Ukraine closer to NATO,” Stoltenberg said.[/quote]

    “meeting NATO standards” indeed?

    Er wot?

    Is it NATO?

    Or, is it actually the EU expansionary idiocy, which is the biggest problem? Any moves on behalf of the EU puppet [Poroshenko] to joining NATO will surely nark the Bear and no end, who wants war, tell me who?

    On the German question, firstly during 43 years of membership of the club of the damned, all the Germans ever did for us was to milk us and insofar as WeltPolitik goes for the UK they are certainly and never were: friends of ours.
    Germany, they’ve played both ends against the middle ever since before the ‘Iron Chancellor’, it is no surprise to see them doing the exact same currently, why change the habits of duplicity and double dealing during its nation’s lifetime?

    Britain, Russia and the US have mutual interests, leaving aside the NWO lunatics/the EU for a moment, maintaining and strengthening diplomatic links with Moscow should be a vital necessity, important pertaining primarily to: the welfare, long lasting security of Britain.

    Get real, get real politik!

    ‘We,’ or should I say HMG needs to revisit it, there is no world order just the UN stitch-ups, and sordid global corporatism, plus not least; a lying, mendacious oligarchy of fabulously rich, meddlesome but tainted men – across the globe: they talk all the time and that’s never in our [UK] interests, never.

    Britain, needs to step back and find and forge our destiny, to cut its own path, if our politicians would allow it and on that, the jury is out.

  • ethanedwards2002

    Indeed but why does that concern us. We’re on our way out of the deeply hated all consuming political behemoth.
    Better to co-operate with Putin than pointless todger waving contests that the EU seem to be seeking. Yet another example of the EU’s incompetence and arrogance.

  • Nockian

    Russian expansionism ?
    Really ?
    Except for the EU/US colour revolution in Ukraine forcing the hand of Russia to defend their base in the Crimea from Neo-Nazi thugs – a base which is mostly Russian speaking and which Russia leases from the Ukraine government, which is now a puppet Government which wants to outlaw the Russian language in Ukraine (you can only imagine what is in store for the Russian speaking people). This same Crimea which has belonged to Russia since the time of Catherine the great and which held a referendum during the collapse of the legal democratically elected Ukranian Government which was illegally deposed by a group of thugs supported by the West.

    Or perhaps what is meant here is the Russian support of Syria against another western colour revolution which allowed the flourishing of AQ, Al Nusra and ISIL (apparently the enemy of the West though you would hardly know it ) by which Putin sent out a decrepit navy and some ancient fighter bombers to try and clean up the mess left by Obama ? This same Syria which Russia has been helping to modernise to be more in keeping with Western civilisation, which is now a horrible mess of dead, dying and destruction.

    This isn’t 1960. Russia is a tiny country economically and only enormous geographically. They don’t have much in the way of a navy, their man power is tiny compared to what it was as the USSR. Russia itself is disorganised and confused as it is still trying to understand what happened to it after perestroika. Russia isn’t threatening Europe, but NATO has a ring of nuclear capable missiles along its every border aimed at Putins head.

    Whilst we should no more trust Putin than any other state actor, it seems to me that this bogey man is much more of a jelly baby than the Goliath the media present him as. Just because he won’t go along with US imperialism shouldn’t make him a dangerous enemy of Europe. We should be cautious, but we should also be aware that this consistent pressure through NATO and the Western media has the potential to destabilise Russia and that may well result in less cool Russian heads deciding to cook off nuclear missiles – the first of which will land, not on the USA, but in Europe itself.

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