The current leaders of the Western European powers, acting under the guidance of Washington, for years have been going out of their way to impose new sanctions on Russia. By going into an anti-Russian frenzy, they have actually begun to harm themselves. This is best illustrated by the example of the United Kingdom and Germany.
As the Saudi newspaper Arab News noted on September 13 this year, “the vast majority of people in the UK agree that the country is broken,” that it has reached a stage of decline that infects virtually every aspect of British life, from crumbling schools to a shortage of health practitioners and striking doctors and nurses.
The British media discusses the situation and wonders whether the country is suffering from corrupt leadership or from a lack of any leadership.
Virtually all observers agree that the Labor Party is likely to win the next general election, but it will inherit a country with an empty purse: the mess left by successive Tory leaders will only increase the need to spend more on an ageing population.
A significant number of Conservative voters agree with the judgement that Britain is falling apart and people are getting poorer.
A growing number of British people believe that leaving the European Union, the so-called Brexit, was a mistake.
The current leaders of the European Union lack any strategic vision and are unable to set their priorities right.
With a growing fatigue of fixation on helping Ukraine and acting against Russia, some European observers wonder if the current leaders have a Plan B: what happens if the Kiev regime collapses or if President Trump wins again in the US? It is highly likely that under such a development the entire current EU top brass will have to resign.
The West, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram writes, always personalizes its conflicts and demonizes the identity of the enemy. This is now being done to President Putin. Meanwhile, louder and louder are the calls for Western officials to “deal with him as a rational political adversary.” Henry Kissinger was the first to express this idea. Other prominent critics of the West’s course towards Russia include former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, former Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The latter explicitly stated that Europe should not follow US policy towards Russia because European interests are not identical to American interests: Ukraine should remain a neutral country and Crimea is an integral part of Russia.
Another major area of EU action, which is objectively criticized, is the so-called “green energy” policy. After several years of crazy experiments and very strict measures taken without regard for economic and social consequences, the world is beginning to gradually but steadily abandon the “green energy” policy, which lately has looked more like extremism and diktat than good will with decent intentions, according to Oil Price.
The world media published sensational appeals of the largest energy companies Shell and BP that they are committed to preserving the environment, but they will never stop producing oil and gas, and will most likely increase production in the very near future. In Germany, after multiple cases of local civil disobedience and strikes, a bill on heat pumps in homes and other “energy efficiency” measures was withdrawn and amended. It was followed by the UK government announcing a new approach to achieving “net zero” targets by 2050, heavily softening some key policies as the deep cost of living crisis is the worst in a generation and a general election approaches next year. In fact, there is an avalanche-like backlash against the fashion agenda.
The European Union has no way to cope with the problem of migration.
Apart from objective reasons, all these negative phenomena are due in no small measure to the short-sightedness of the policies of European leaders.
The EU chief Ursula von der Leyen is particularly notable for these qualities. Even in the current situation, when the EU industry is stalling, her obsession with anti-Russian sanctions still comes to the fore: for example, she said the other day that the EU needs to develop a new approach to Africa, not to help African countries overcome poverty, “but to confront Russia.”
The President of the European Commission has been increasingly criticized by various forces in the European Union. Perhaps she is a model of short-sightedness and incompetence. The sanctions against Russia, as well as the pro-Ukrainian stance, have led to a slowdown in the EU’s economic development, constantly affecting the lives of ordinary Europeans. The Swiss Central Bank estimated in September that the negative effects on the European economy will double this year: if it were not for sanctions, the GDP of Germany and the UK could have been 0.7% higher last year, 2022.
In August, German newspapers reported that the German government had approved two bills that practically contradict each other and testify to the incompetence of the country’s officials: one bill was agreed upon to solve the problem of acute personnel shortage in the country while another liberalized the procedure of sex reassignment (as one newspaper put it, after sex reassignment, it is rare for anyone to be able to reproduce naturally).
The European Commission’s proposal to reauthorize the use of the controversial herbicide, glyphosate, has drawn sharp opposition from France and Germany.
However, the biggest rift in the European Union was caused by Poland’s decision to stop supplying arms to Ukraine and its refusal to allow the sale of Ukrainian grain in Poland. The French newspaper Le Monde in an editorial on 22.09.2023 noted that such actions are dangerous not only for Ukraine, but also for the whole of Europe, and they are dictated by the upcoming October 15 elections to the Polish legislature. At the same time, the polls are very uncertain about the ruling national-conservative Law and Justice party. The same newspaper believes that the ruling party’s election rhetoric has reached an outrageous level of fury, citing in particular as an example the anti-German campaign against the leader of the opposition, former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is accused of receiving his salary from Berlin: “This festival of electoral demagogy is detestable in itself… In this affair, it is not Ukraine that is drowning, it is Poland.”
Another issue provoking a political crisis in the European Union is the contradictions between EU countries on the immigration problem. According to the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell, migration is dividing the EU and it can be a unifying force, as five EU states do not want to accept people of “other cultural traditions” at all. It is perhaps pertinent to recall that last October, the same Borrell angered many states of the Global South by saying that Europe is a flowering garden and the rest of the world is a jungle.
Migration is becoming the most acute problem of many European states and its essence was expressed by Le Figaro on 18.09.2023 in the headline “Europe powerless in the face of the migrant influx.” (In September, 8,000 migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa, far exceeding its population. As a result, Arab News concluded that the world is divided on many issues and the rivalry between Germany, France and Italy is becoming dangerous).
In the last 10 years, according to rough estimates, more than 30,000 people have died in the Mediterranean Sea in an attempt to reach the European coast. On September 22, Pope Francis arrived in Marseille to offer prayers for migrants missing at sea. According to a sarcastic remark by a French newspaper, prayer is the most effective method of dealing with the migration issue.
A special mention should be made of the falling popularity of French President Macron, who is increasingly criticized by both left-wing and right-wing parties, which is primarily explained by the adoption of a law bypassing Parliament to raise the retirement age. It is no coincidence that in many parts of France Macron is simply booed during speeches. In the recent midterm elections for the French Senate, the pro-government party lost several votes.
Paris’s foreign policy, especially its relations with the fourteen former African colonies, is also condemned. It is notable that even the New York Times columnist Anne-Elisabeth Moutet emphasized that Africa was tired of President Emmanuel Macron’s ignorance and arrogance.
Demonstrations against police violence continue in French cities.
For the French authorities, as well as for most EU governments, their words almost never meet their deeds: as Le Monde noted, President Macron speaks about the dangers of plastic, while the Elysee Palace orders hundreds of thousands of “disposable items” for its kitchens.
The fact that the countries of the Global South openly express their dissatisfaction with the West’s fixation on Ukraine has even been recognized by the British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.
The coming months are likely to bring much new evidence of the failures of the European authorities.
Veniamin Popov, Director of the “Center for Partnership of Civilizations” in MGIMO (U) MFA of Russia, Candidate of Historical Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.