Friction within the US-EU alliance
On the occasion of the nearly one-year anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the 59th Munich Security Conference was held from February 17 to 19. Political figures from many countries gathered in Munich, and the focus of the issue was indeed Russia and Ukraine.
Christoph Heusgen, who was Merkel’s foreign policy adviser during her tenure as chancellor and later Germany’s permanent representative to the United Nations, now chairs the Munich Security Conference. He came forward to invite countries to participate in the conference, but Russia was absent from the Mu’an Conference for the first time since 1999.
Heusgen explained that this was to avoid “providing a propaganda platform” for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government.
Once again, the West appears to be united in support of Ukraine’s fight against Russia. It is precisely because of this that most of the NATO countries participating in the meeting focused on how to further provide military assistance to Ukraine at the Muan Security Meeting. Since the United States provoked the supply of Western main battle tanks, mainly the “Leopard 2” tanks produced by Germany, to Ukraine, then, in the next step, will it provide Ukraine with NATO-style fighter jets and ships? Is there a red line? If so, what is the red line?
According to numerous sources, negotiations between Ukraine and Russia on a ceasefire and even a peace agreement in March 2022 have made considerable progress, and a Russian-Ukrainian ceasefire is almost on the verge of being negotiated. But the West succeeded in sabotaging the early end of the war due to persistent opposition from NATO, especially the UK. They told Zelensky that Putin was not as powerful as people had previously thought and that there was an opportunity to “put pressure on him”.
The Russia-Ukraine war has lasted for nearly a year, and 10 and a half months after the West broke the Russo-Ukraine armistice agreement, the former chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Ischinger, complained that for the war that has not ended because of the insistence of major NATO members, There is no unified line within NATO. “So I think there’s a need for a political-strategic liaison group to clarify the West’s war goals so that we all know … where to go.”
On February 3, local time, Ukrainian soldiers participated in an armed forces exercise near the border between Ukraine and Belarus, near Chernobyl, sitting on top of a German tank.
Europe is clearly divided
On February 14, US Secretary of Defense Austin announced after the NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine was entering a “decisive moment.” But it is worth mentioning that the NATO defense ministers meeting attended by more than 50 allies supporting Ukraine ended without “making any major commitments”.
German media pointed out that this meeting mainly reiterated some announced aid plans, including the main battle tanks promised to Kiev. But regarding the provision of fighter jets to Ukraine, the meeting failed to achieve any practical results. Not only that, but some allies’ plans to aid tanks have even changed. For example, the defense ministers of Denmark and the Netherlands claimed that they would not participate in the delivery of the Leopard 2 main battle tank to Ukraine. Prior to this, these European countries joined forces with the United States to put pressure on Germany to provide Ukraine with main battle tanks. Germany finally had to let go, not only promising to provide Ukraine with “Leopard 2” main battle tanks, but also agreeing that other countries can also provide Ukraine aided the German-made tanks, but now, these countries have turned their backs and refused to deliver the “Leopard 2” main battle tank to Ukraine. It is not difficult to see that on the matter of continuing military aid to Ukraine, there are obvious differences within Europe.
Among EU member states, Poland and the three Baltic countries are extremely anti-Russian. The old EU countries have a relatively balanced attitude towards Russia, while some Eastern European countries have traditional religious and cultural relations with Russia. Even after the outbreak of Russia’s “special military action” against Ukraine, the United States and the United Kingdom advocated taking a tough stance against Russia in order to form a deterrent posture; Germany, France and Italy have repeatedly emphasized the importance of peace talks and dialogues; They do not want to intervene in disputes, let alone send troops.
At the opening of the Muan Security Meeting on February 17, Ukrainian President Zelensky once again made a video speech, calling on Western allies to speed up military support to Ukraine, and emphasized that delays will only “let Russia succeed.” In addition to tanks, Ukraine has also made further requests for fighter jets with the support of Poland and other countries.
Germany previously expressed its opposition to Ukraine’s demand for fighter jets; the United Kingdom and France stated that “this option is not ruled out in principle.” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in his first bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Scholz, emphasized the need for Britain and Germany to maintain a “record level of international support” for Ukraine. Equipment such as main battle tanks will play a “transformative role”.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed in his speech at the Mu’an meeting that we should maintain cooperation with the defense industry system in the EU to speed up and expand the production of ammunition needed for the Ukrainian battlefield and supplement the domestic military reserves of member states.
On February 17, local time, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attended the Munich Security Conference and delivered a speech via video.
Despite growing tougher on Russia, French President Emmanuel Macron has insisted that a compromise is needed to end the war. This made him “stand out” among the leaders of Western countries who advocated a tough stance against Russia. Macron said in a speech on February 17 that he was looking forward to seeing the “surprise” peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, but was also ready for a long-term conflict.
Undoubtedly, the Russia-Uzbekistan conflict has not only complicated historical latitude and longitude, but also realistic factors of the game between major powers. After the Russian-Ukrainian conflict broke out, it was no longer a discord between Russia and Ukraine, but a power contest between Russia and NATO, and Ukraine became a testing ground between the two. Therefore, it is difficult for the Ukrainian authorities to decide the direction of the situation in Ukraine, and NATO’s support plays a decisive role.
Gou Liwu, a young researcher at the Russian Studies Center of East China Normal University, said in an interview with Xinmin Weekly that for the United States, Ukraine, as an important link to contain the European Union, bring down Russia, and weaken Sino-Russian relations, is the key to the United States’ consolidation of its global hegemony. The key point is that this means that as long as the US and Europe continue to provide assistance to Ukraine, the situation between Russia and Ukraine will remain stalemate for several years. “The end result may be that Russia actually occupies Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson regions and uses them as a military demarcation line to contain Ukraine.”
Poland becomes anti-Russian “vanguard”
In the blink of an eye, the Russia-Ukraine conflict ushered in the first anniversary of the “sadness of miles”.
From 2022 to 2023, the location of US President Biden’s two close interventions in the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been chosen in Poland. Poland has become the new bridgehead of the United States in Europe. In fact, in the past year, Poland has been playing the role of an anti-Russian “vanguard”.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict has in fact broken the original balance within the EU, and the comprehensive influence of the eastern EU, represented by Poland, has increased significantly, exacerbating differences within the EU.
Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki said in an exclusive interview with the Italian Corriere della Sera on February 9 that defeating Russia “is the meaning of the existence of both Poland and the European Union.” This is his clear expression of Poland’s anti-Russian stance again in a short period of time. On February 6 at the first Warsaw conference – the Permanent Review of Work in Support of Ukraine, Morawiecki stated that “Poland is ready to take responsibility for a new world order without Russia”.
Since the outbreak of the Russia-Uzbekistan conflict in Poland, the Polish government has experienced unprecedented anti-Russian sentiment. Polish President Duda has repeatedly expressed radical anti-Russian views, and put them into practical actions, actively proposing and introducing a series of severe sanctions against Russia. To overcome the high domestic inflation, we must also strive to “de-Russify” in the fields of energy and economy. On January 11 this year, Poland announced that it would hand over a “Leopard 2” tank company to Ukraine. Afterwards, it joined forces with Finland, Denmark and other countries to join the plan. In cooperation with the pressure from the United States, Germany finally forced Germany to let go of providing the German-made “Leopard 2” to Ukraine. This type of main battle tank has crossed NATO’s red line of not providing offensive weapons to Ukraine, and has promoted the escalation of the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Poland’s rush to become the vanguard of anti-Russia is related to the general anti-Russian and anti-Russian national sentiment from the government to the people caused by historical reasons, and also related to the Polish government’s geopolitical considerations. Poland hopes to win the trust and support of the United States through these anti-Russian actions, in order to become a new generation of leaders in Europe and gain greater voice and influence in NATO and the EU.
”After the transition, Poland has readjusted the country’s historical narrative, and strengthened the retrospection of the Lublin Union of Poland and Lithuania in history and the compassion for the 123-year history of the country’s destruction, so as to clarify its own national positioning, and because of the Russian-Georgian War Incidents such as the Ukrainian crisis and the Ukrainian crisis have deepened concerns about the country’s geopolitical security, and it is committed to guarding against Russia by improving its comprehensive national strength internally and deepening the relationship between Poland and the United States through NATO.” Gou Liwu said.
In the past year, Poland has been the most resolute country in Europe to assist Ukraine. It has provided a large amount of assistance to Ukraine, including 3.8 billion U.S. dollars in military and humanitarian support, accepted more than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees, and provided Ukraine with about 300 tanks.
In fact, Poland has long been an arms warehouse for the United States to intervene in the situation in Ukraine. As early as 2015, the United States pre-stored 250 tanks and armored vehicles, 1,750 wheeled combat vehicles, and a large amount of military supplies in Poland on the grounds of the tense situation in Crimea. The US military base in Poland will also be expanded in 2022, and the number of US troops stationed in Poland has reached about 13,000.
With the continuation of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the continuous influx of refugees, Poland, as the gateway to the east of the EU, is open to accept refugees and has become the country that receives the most refugees among EU member states. At the same time, with the arrival of U.S. and European aid, Poland has become a transit hub for Western weapons and equipment to enter Ukraine. Poland has taken the opportunity to narrow its ties with the United States. High-level mutual visits have been frequent, and military and economic and trade exchanges have increased significantly.
Before the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Poland had been planning to increase defense spending, from 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to an expected 2.5 percent. But in mid-March, Poland passed the Homeland Defense Act, raising defense spending to 3 percent of GDP. Poland has increased its defense budget to expand its armaments, and has also actively asked NATO to deploy more military forces in its own country. All of these are in line with the wishes of the United States, which has greatly enhanced Poland’s voice in the EU.
On February 17, Polish President Duda (right) visited the UK and met with the British King Charles III.
Obviously, today’s Poland is no longer willing to be a small EU country that obeys orders from major powers such as Germany and France. Radical words and deeds towards Russia are an important means for Poland to enhance its international influence. However, because the values pursued by Poland have always been inconsistent with the EU, Poland and the EU are also “internal strife”.
On February 16, the European Commission took Poland to the European Court of Justice on the grounds that Poland “overrides” its own laws on EU laws. No matter when or how the EU-Poland judicial dispute is declared to end, it shows that the EU seems to be monolithic, but in fact it is full of dissatisfaction. Within the EU, while the attitudes of the member states towards the Russia-Ukraine conflict have clearly differentiated, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has in fact broken the original balance within the EU. exacerbated divisions within the EU.
Who will win?
The Russia-Ukraine conflict has lasted for a year, and it has had a long-term and profound impact on the international situation, the global economy, energy and food, and the Western camp that supports Ukraine is no exception.
After Russia launched the “special military operation”, the United States and Europe have provided almost unprecedented military, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. This kind of assistance gives people the illusion that the relationship between the United States and Europe has been improved. In fact, special military operations cannot improve the relationship between the United States and Europe during the Trump era, just like the enemy of the enemy is not all friends, at best they are comrades-in-arms. Because, during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, apart from casualties, the European Union suffered no less than Ukraine. On the contrary, the United States is the biggest winner.
In terms of economy, with the tense situation in Europe, a large amount of European capital flows to the United States, and the world has quickly entered the era of a strong dollar. The United States has also stepped out of the dangerous stage of easy money that has lasted for many years. In 2022, the interest rate will be raised seven times from close to zero, and the interest rate will reach 4.5%, the highest level in 15 years. This means that the United States seems to have stepped out of the “rescue” stage of stimulating the economy by “releasing water” after the 2008 financial crisis, and the risk of inflation has been greatly reduced. In terms of politics, the efforts of France and Germany to compete for leadership in European affairs have been hit hard. Not only is the Western world closely united around the United States, but the soft power of the United States, which has declined rapidly since the Trump era, shows signs of rebounding.
The current situation in Europe is extremely beneficial to the United States.
After the end of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Franco-German leadership in Europe may be greatly weakened again. This is not only because of the weakening of soft power brought about by the two countries at both ends of the war, but also because the integration process of Poland and Ukraine may be greatly accelerated after the war. The community formed by the two countries has a population of more than 80 million, which is not the same as that of Germany. Comparable. Although the economies of the two countries lag far behind Germany, the military deterrence of the two countries tempered by war will be stronger than that of Germany. Coupled with the fact that the United States deliberately supports Eastern European forces to suppress Western Europe, the center of gravity of power in Europe may shift eastward after the war. It is conceivable that as the US dollar becomes stronger, the US economy will have more capacity to invest in Poland and Ukraine, and the economies of the two countries may also experience rapid development in the future.
After the change of the Australian government, on July 1, 2022, the new Prime Minister Albanese (right) visited France and was received by French President Macron at the Elysee Palace. But the rift in the relationship between the two countries has not fully healed.
Gou Liwu believes that in recent years, the relationship between the United States and France and the United States and Germany have also experienced constant friction.
The United States put aside France and established a new military alliance “Ocus” with the United Kingdom and Australia. On the condition that it promised to share nuclear-powered submarine technology with Australia, Australia gave up the huge deal worth about 66 billion U.S. dollars signed with the French Naval Group five years ago. Order. In response, France recalled its ambassadors to Australia and the United States and stressed that France would reassess its position to defend its own interests. This is the first time since France and the United States formed a long-term alliance in 1778 that the French ambassador was recalled to Paris in this way, which became an important turning point in the history of French-American relations.
Gou Liwu believes that after Biden came to power, although Trump’s plan to abolish troops stationed in Germany was revoked, it seems that the Nord Stream pipeline has been exposed and intensified. The bombing of the two Nord Stream pipelines not only damaged the economic and trade relations between Germany and Russia, but also exacerbated the energy crisis in the European Union, and also caused ecological and environmental pollution in the Baltic Sea. Five months later, Seymour Hersh, a well-known independent American investigative journalist, confirmed that the bombing was planned by the United States and ordered by Norway. Even so, Germany has been criticized by the United States for ineffective sanctions against Russia.
Although the United States and Europe currently maintain a united front on sanctions against Russia and military aid to Ukraine, NATO’s wishful thinking of driving Russia out of Ukraine may not be so easy to achieve.
An obvious fact is that if the Bosnian Community wants to narrow the economic gap with Western European countries and maintain the lifeline of ties with the United States, then Crimea, as a guarantee base for the Black Sea outlet, will never be tolerated in their vision fell into Russian hands. In this way, Russia’s fundamental interests will be damaged, and it will be difficult for Russia and Ukraine to achieve peace. Are the two sides really going to a state of immortality?