An irreconcilable fight between Russian Firepower and Ukrainian confidence mask a growing ferment in European politics.
The UK, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Finland and Sweden are dealing with internal drama. What happens in the coming months will determine the fate of every country in ways that are difficult to predict
What is happening at Downing Street may be a sideshow in the face of the agonizing decisions facing other governments on security and energy supplies, but our nearest neighbor’s politics are plagued by Boris Johnson’s salacious and chronically disingenuous personality.
He has now been fined by the police for breaking his own Covid rules during lockdown. A silly, carefully crafted apology just didn’t ring true.
But despite yesterday’s loss of his justice minister, a change in leadership seems unlikely for the time being for two reasons. The war in Ukraine has changed priorities across the continent. Disregarding pandemic guidelines doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore.
Johnson’s immediate survival is also helped by the fact that his most likely challenger, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, has also been fined for Covid misconduct. This comes while he is grappling with a major controversy surrounding his wife’s tax affairs.
More fines could follow for other Downing Street parties who flouted lockdown rules. If Johnson gets hit by any of them, if there are allegations that he lied to Parliament and if he does poorly in next month’s local elections, he’s done for. Meanwhile, in France, it’s hard to imagine Europe’s answer to Donald Trump becoming president. Should Marine Le Pen oust Emmanuel Macron, it will rock the future of the EU.
She is an unabashed right-wing populist who has given herself over to her admiration Wladimir Putin. Should she oust centrist Macron, it will change the way Ireland conducts its foreign policy.
This country relies heavily on the consensual middle ground that has been a staple of EU culture for so long to get things done.
At best, Le Pen would be an obstructionist. She even proposed a Frexit and took France out of the Brussels club.
Meanwhile, post-Merkel Germany was plunged into a burgeoning economic crisis resulting from the Ukraine war. The full realization that the standard of living depends so much on Russia’s energy supply shocked those in power in Berlin.
The new government faces a nightmare. If it weans itself too quickly from Putin’s gasoline, the economy could falter and the current coalition could collapse.
But there is unprecedented pressure from some of their EU and NATO allies to do something dramatic and fast. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly warned that paying millions of euros a week for Russian gas is funding death and destruction in his country.
In Central and Eastern Europe, the war has brought old and new tensions to the surface. Governments there know they are on the front lines should Putin-inspired expansionism threaten their independence and survival.
However, Viktor Orban, re-elected as Hungary’s prime minister, remains an outlier. He is another occasional Putin admirer. Although the current conflict has dampened his zeal, his inner intentions remain unknown.
In Poland there is no such hazy view of the Kremlin. Though his government shares some of Orban’s hardline views on immigration, Poles’ antipathy to the Putin regime is deeply felt.
The Poles and their Baltic neighbors are clamoring for as much NATO military equipment as possible. History warns they would be foolish to ignore the risk of a Russian attack.
Finland and Sweden could decide to give up their traditional neutrality. Fearing for their future, they may join NATO despite warnings from the Kremlin that there will be “consequences” if they do.
The consequences of the Ukraine conflict will continue. When the guns finally fall silent, the dynamics of the European continent will change forever.
We have our own arguments. Maybe the Tony Holohan affair doesn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things. After all, everything is relative.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/when-guns-fall-silent-europe-will-be-utterly-changed-41551975.html When the guns fall silent, Europe will be completely changed