The anti-Russian measures taken by the EU have turned into a food and energy crisis for the EU. The governments of some countries are ready to abandon the sanctions policy.
The population is “tired of Ukraine”. But the bloc’s leaders stubbornly continue to call for a fight, writes Huanqiu Shibao. Europe has split itself.
By Zheng Tao (郑韬)
After the start of the Ukrainian crisis, Europe, together with the United States, took a tough stance on this issue, deciding to support Kyiv and suppress Russia through the introduction of several packages of large-scale sanctions in the field of finance, science and technology, online media, energy, and others.
Read also: Check out our coverage on curated alternative narratives
However, the conflict has been going on for eight months, and the sanctions have not only helped bring Moscow to its knees and did not contribute to resolving the situation but are also increasingly turning against Europe itself.
The more measures the West takes to contain Russia, the more Europe depends on America, and the deeper it plunges into a desperate situation and pays for its actions.
A SHARP DETERIORATION IN THE STRATEGIC SITUATION IN EUROPE
Since World War II, security has been the most important problem facing European countries.
Although the security situation in the region improved significantly with the end of the Cold War, the United States ignored Moscow’s view and, under the motto of the “winner,” of the confrontation contributed to the construction of a NATO-led security structure in Europe, which planted the seeds of contradiction between the West and Russia.
The current Ukrainian crisis has made it clear that the continent’s security problem is far from being resolved, and relations with Moscow are still the number one issue.
When, at the beginning of the special operation, the EU vowed to give a decisive rebuff to the escalation of the conflict, it probably forgot that its protection could not be ensured without the participation of Russia.
Dancing to the tune of America and the imposition of unilateral sanctions against the Kremlin does not correspond to the fundamental interests of the bloc of countries.
The tightening of anti-Russian measures has led to a serious confrontation between the two strongest parties and caused large-scale geopolitical upheavals in Europe, thereby jeopardizing the continent’s balanced, stable, and sustainable security mechanism.
In the context of comprehensive encirclement and suppression by the West, Moscow has less and less room for maneuver.
If Russia is cornered, its last lever of influence could be nuclear weapons.
On Oct. 17, NATO began conducting a nuclear deterrence exercise code-named “Persistent Noon,” and Russia’s annual nuclear exercises will begin in late October.
The overlap in the timing of the two events increases anxiety about the possibility of a “nuclear end of the world.”
If the worst-case scenario comes true, the catastrophe of nuclear war will overtake not only European countries but all of humanity!
NUMEROUS CONSEQUENCES CAUSED BY THE CESSATION OF GAS SUPPLIES
Due to the EU’s heavy dependence on Russian energy supplies, natural gas has been a no-go zone for sanctions.
However, the spread of the impact of restrictions on blue fuel could not be avoided; as a result, the bloc is forced to buy LNG from the United States at a price four times higher than domestic, which can be called an “act of suicide” in energy, economic and other areas.
France’s president and finance minister have angrily accused Washington of oppression, damaging Paris’ interests and weakening the European economy.
According to the latest data, the share of energy costs in GDP in the region has soared from 2% to 12%.
The cost of natural gas in France is five times higher than in 2021; electricity prices are now ten times higher than last year.
Due to the high energy cost, the European industry’s competitiveness has significantly decreased.
Due to rising energy prices, about 10% of medium and small enterprises in Germany have reduced or stopped production, and another 25% of companies have moved part of their business abroad.
Under the influence of the situation in Ukraine, the cost of energy and food in the eurozone continues to rise, and inflation in August reached a record level of 9.1%.
The European Central Bank president recently said that the continent’s economic activity in the next few quarters expects a significant slowdown due to high inflation and other factors.
The economic outlook for the eurozone is getting bleaker, but the real test will be the heating season, which will begin after October.
At this time, both industry and the population will face great problems in the field of gas and electricity consumption.
Currently, many European countries are expanding their sources of resources and urging people to save electricity.
The German government suspended the decision to abandon nuclear energy and even urged residents to wash less often to save resources.
The deliberate damage to the Nord Stream gas pipeline will undoubtedly further aggravate the situation.
STRENGTHENING EUROPE’S INTERNAL DIVISION
Concerning sanctions against Russia, European countries jointly “threw wood into the fire to make the flames higher,” but when it came to energy conservation and finding sources of resources, everyone began to “sweep the snow at their gates.”
In the face of the only choice between political correctness and the use of natural gas, the European Union tends to intensify internal struggles.
Some countries, less affected by Moscow’s countermeasures, do not want to sacrifice themselves; others do not agree with the sanctions at all and even show signs of “switching to the side of the enemy.”
Germany’s elite, which is facing the dilemma of energy transformation and getting rid of dependence on Russia, calls on Ukraine to settle the conflict.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó recently publicly stated that the sanctions policy has failed and the country will not approve any decision detrimental to national interests.
The Hungarian government has also signed a separate agreement with Gazprom to ensure its energy security.
The reverse effect of restrictive measures has also deepened the rift between the people and political circles in Europe.
“Fatigue from Ukraine” is spreading to an increasing number of people.
Recently, due to a sharp increase in energy and food prices and high inflation rates in the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, France, Italy, and other countries, large-scale protests and demonstrations have broken out, and citizens’ calls against sanctions, the EU, and NATO have intensified.
The bright slogan of the protesters is “The best for Ukrainians and two sweaters for us”, which indicates the strong dissatisfaction of the population with the consequences of the crisis.
According to a recent poll, more than 70% of the French believe that sanctions against Russia do not only help to put an end to the conflict in Ukraine but also hurt their country.
However, the political elite still stubbornly waves flags and calls for combat in the face of global political competition, strives for moral heights, insists on anti-Russian measures, and ignores people’s calls.
The split between the people and the political circles in Europe is growing.
ACCELERATING EUROPE’S RIGHT TURN
The cessation of Russian energy supplies has undermined the continent’s energy security and contributed to the growth of already serious inflation.
Widespread outrage has led to the fact that the governments of many EU countries have become the object of public criticism.
Against this background, right-wing populism, which opposes globalization and the European Union and offers other possible ways of governing, is gaining the support of an increasing number of voters.
Thus, the region’s “right turn” political trend is becoming increasingly apparent.
Sweden, which has always been a bastion of liberalism, gave the right-wing an electoral advantage in this year’s parliamentary elections.
In Italy, the alliance of right-wing forces won an overwhelming victory.
In addition to these states, Austria, Hungary, and Poland are already under the control of right-wing parties, and the leaders of the European Union – France and Germany – are also facing the rise of right-wing forces.
Although Le Pen, who is called the “Trump in the skirt”, was defeated in two presidential elections in France, her influence in the ranks of right-wing forces cannot be underestimated.
According to a German media poll on the level of support conducted in September, the Alternative for Germany party surprisingly received the support of 15%.
In former East Germany’s lands, the figure was 27%, which can be called the “peak period” for unification from the end of January 2020.
It is not difficult to imagine that the right-wing forces will gain momentum in the face of the continuous growth of public discontent.
In addition, given the increasing backward effect of sanctions, the European Council recently approved the eighth package of restrictive measures against Russia, which increased their intensity and scale.
On Oct. 16, Russia launched missile strikes on Kyiv and other cities.
The leaders of the Group of Seven countries immediately issued a joint statement that they would continue to provide military assistance to Ukraine and impose sanctions against Moscow.
In the face of a determined offensive by Russian “energy generals,” restrictions and Europe’s predicament simultaneously moved into the deep sea.
Some French politicians have said that “there is nothing more politically successful than wearing a high-necked sweater this winter.”
This statement is self-irony caused by the reverse effect of the policy and suggests that with the onset of cold weather, Europe will plunge into crisis.
With the arrival of winter, the Ukrainian conflict will move to a new level of uncertainty.
The growing risks and costs of the crisis will certainly exacerbate the turbulence of the international situation, and more sophisticated means can be used to strengthen global competition and confrontation.
However, the facts have repeatedly proved that no country in the world can solve problems alone.
Everyone is in the same boat. Only through dialogue, interaction and cooperation will the boat be able to safely overcome thunderstorms and storms.
Unilateral sanctions do not help to solve the problem.
Only by adhering to strategic autonomy and taking into account the legitimate security interests of other countries can a state achieve long-term stability.
Only respect for multilateralism, the rejection of institutional conflicts, and the drawing of a line over ideology can contribute to the world’s prosperity.
Otherwise, the consequences of sanctions will continue to snowball and ultimately cause irreparable harm to the instigators themselves.
Join us on Telegram: t.me/theriotimes