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Europeans must have realised now that their confused and contradictory behaviour may have led to prolonging the war Image Credit: Gulf News

It has become clear that the Ukraine war will continue for some time. The most optimistic projections talk about a possible ceasefire by the end of the year. The conflict will thus go on in the absence of a serious attempt to mediate.

Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron sparked outrage by urging the West not to “humiliate” Russia by isolating Moscow, imposing more sanctions, and pushing the limits of the military aid to Ukraine to include offensive arms including long range rockets.

The reason he offered for his call is that communication channels with Russia need to be open when the war stops. Italian Prime Minster Mario Draghi seems to be agreeing with Macron. He said last week there is a need for “credible negotiations” to end the war. Probably, he meant that some Russian demands should be met.

Apparently both men drew inspiration from the controversial suggestion by Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State. Speaking at Davos earlier this month, the 99-year-old ‘master of realpolitik’ and America’s foremost strategist, suggested that in order to end the war, Ukraine must cede parts of its territory to Russia, particularly those with Russian-speaking majority.

The Kissinger statement sparked outrage in Ukraine and Western capitals. Some drew comparisons to the Munich Agreement of 1938, which allowed Hitler to annex large parts of Czechoslovakia. The agreement was signed by Britain, France, and Italy.

A changed course

Macron’s statement was also slammed by the Ukraine government. Last week, under such heavy criticism, Macron changed course. A French presidential spokesman insisted that Paris will not make concessions to Russia. France seeks a Ukrainian victory, he said.

France’ contradictory statements, supported by Italy, and the increasing silence of other European capitals, coupled with the noticeable ambiguity of Germany, highlight the inability the European Union to come up with a clear united policy to deal with the ongoing war. Instead, since the start of the war four months ago, the EU’s policy has been amateurish, confused and mostly followed the US line.

Europe toed America’s hawkish policy by tightening the sanctions, suspend Russia’s membership in several international organisations and providing Ukraine with all sorts of heavy military equipment. The US has of course strategic and tactical reasons to act aggressively on Russia. Tactically, President Biden’s approval numbers at home are incredibly low.

Almost two thirds of the American people don’t like the way he runs the country. Therefore, the war was his chance to recover by acting as a war president and being tough on the US’ eternal rival, Russia. Strategically, America’s long-lasting policy is to support any efforts to weaken Russia.

Prolonging the war

Prolonging the war is a short path to weaken Russia’s military and economic abilities. And that explains the recent American shipment of long-range missile to Ukraine despite warnings that these rockets might be used to strike inside Russia. What the US does in Ukraine is in the US’ self-interest, Europe has probably found out.

The delay of the EU’s sanctions on Russian oil until early next year partly explains the recent statements by Macron and others that call for cooling down the political confrontation with Moscow. In Kissinger’s words, a hawkish policy towards Russia could very well become a “new war against Russia itself” instead of the publicly declared objective — “the freedom of Ukraine”.

However, despite the seemingly appeasing statements of some of its leaders, the EU has continued its confusing stances. Last week, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, visited Kyiv and met Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. She promised the Ukrainians a speedy integration into the EU, knowing fully that that would anger Russia. Moscow considers this a red line, along with admitting Ukraine in Nato. The latter has been cited as one of the reasons Moscow gave to justify its offensive.

Moreover, the untimely insistence of the EU on Ukraine’s membership will certainly diminish the bloc’s chances of playing the role of an honest mediator to end the war, a role Macron claims he is well-positioned to play. Rushing to admit Ukraine in the EU, with all the perks involved including the military protection, would make Europe part of the conflict.

Europe could be the natural mediator in this conflict. After all, the war is being waged in the heart of the continent. The war, like Kissinger said, could expand at any time to involve other countries. But the confused policy of the EU, obviously under extreme pressure from the US, will deny it the ability to mediate.

Kissinger is not exactly Mother Teresa. His legacy of atrocities in Asia makes doesn’t qualify him as a man of peace. But the German-born strategist often stated that his life’s objective is to spare the Western world another devastating war. He in fact supported the war on Iraq, but when it comes to Europe, he believes peace in Europe justifies all means, in contrast to the current US administration.

EU leaders thus will probably do their continent a historic favour by listening to the old man this time instead of caving to his government’s pressure. They have to remember that in the first month of the Russian offensive, Russian officials held three rounds of talks with Ukrainian counterparts to stop the war.

Those efforts stopped as the West intensified both the sanctions on Russia and the military aid to Ukraine. Macron and others, such as the German Chancellor, were welcome in the Kremlin. That is history now.

The Europeans must have realised now that their confused and contradictory behaviour may have led to prolonging the war.