Waiting for Putin to take the initiative would make the cut-off no longer a sanction.
The European Union is tearing itself apart over the question of stopping Russian gas and oil imports. It thus assumes, without a qualm, the opprobrium of financing the Russian war effort to the detriment of imperative humanitarian considerations, relayed by the unbearable spectacle of the exactions and suffering endured by the Ukrainians. This iniquitous stance, justified by the need to maintain the fragile, barely reestablished “unity” of the 27, is precisely what will definitively destroy it.
The argument that the suspension of hydrocarbon purchases will be enacted “as soon as possible” is a peak of hypocrisy, rarely reached and reminds us of this sentence of Christ (Mat.8, 21-22):
Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, allow me to go and bury my father first.” But Jesus answered him: “Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead”.
Indeed, if the initiative for suspension were taken by Putin, the EU would – whatever the cost – have to live with the inconvenience. Obviously, politicians would then have the alibi of not being responsible for the sacrifices imposed on their population. However, it is likely that citizens would overwhelmingly approve the unilateral suspension of imports by the EU for deep-seated moral reasons. They are disgusted by the scale of the exactions that are increasing daily: the bombing of a crowded railway station in broad daylight (30 dead – 110 wounded) whereas its destruction at night would have been a “military” target (within what is already a criminal war).
If, on the other hand, the sacrifices are imposed by Russia, the public is likely to blame the EU and some of the Member States for their lack of foresight and to seek those responsible. The two previous German Chancellors are already being pilloried and “Europe” is being blamed for dragging its feet on its energy strategy.
It will be particularly interesting to see the impact of these events on the French elections.
Initially, public opinion was in favor of the action of the President of the Republic. More recently, public opinion has relativized the Ukrainian events, giving more importance to its impact on domestic purchasing power than to its geopolitical implications. This explains the remarkable breakthrough of Marine Le Pen in the polls on the eve of the first round of elections, despite a long-standing close relationship with the master of the Kremlin.
Even if it remains a low probability, a victory of the extreme right in France can no longer be ruled out. The suspense will continue at least until the legislative elections in June, the result of which could challenge the President’s mandate (if renewed) to pursue his European program. Coming on the heels of Victor Orban’s victory – with an enlarged majority – in Hungary, there is every reason to be concerned about the possibility of maintaining and further deepening cohesion between the Member States of the Union.
It is imperative to put a stop to the Kremlin’s declared imperialist ambitions. Beyond a step-by-step annexation of Ukraine initiated in 2014, Putin’s avowed objective is the dismantling of the EU. This will not be achieved by military force, which he clearly does not have (except for the suicidal use of nuclear weapons); on the other hand, with the support of extremist parties that are already in – or aspire to – power within the 27, this claim is quite realistic. Deepening EU integration with a common defense policy, an EU-wide single currency, a common foreign and immigration policy etc., is the only plausible answer to Putin’s aims. While for a brief moment the supporters of a “Powerful Union” were able to rejoice at the progress that was taking shape in response to the Ukrainian crisis, the resurgence of national interests is already casting doubt on the Union’s ability to equip itself with the means to effectively protect its citizens.
NATO will soon have to respond to Finland’s request for urgent membership. A positive response is essential, regardless of opponents who see it as a justification for Russian recriminations. The Finns (members of the EU) must not be abandoned to the fate reserved for the Ukrainians in 2008 when France and Germany vetoed their accession, the consequences of which we are witnessing.
This is why it is necessary to show firmness by immediately imposing the embargo on gas and oil. The price to be paid will be derisory in comparison with the price already paid by the Ukrainians and the price of prolonging hostilities that the Union will have helped to finance. Without ignoring it, we must not allow ourselves to be paralyzed by the fear of a nuclear war and confront Putin, who has already demonstrated his indifference to human suffering. He has made it known that he would have used nuclear weapons if necessary to annex Crimea. Any weakness in the Union is a step towards its own dismantling and the end of the European dream of peace, democracy and prosperity.
Our values, born of European civilization, which we have prematurely erected as “universal”, are increasingly being challenged, as demonstrated by the vote to exclude Russia from the UN Human Rights Committee, by a derisory majority! Our exemplarity in the application of our own standards, whether it be the fight against inequality, terrorism, corruption, etc., or the promotion of solidarity, respect for human rights or democracy, will be the yardstick used to establish – or not – our influence in the world.