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Europe can’t defend itself Current border crises highlight the weakness of the EU

The border between Poland and Belarus has become a battleground. Credit: WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty

The border between Poland and Belarus has become a battleground. Credit: WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty


November 10, 2021   5 mins

Europe is a continent, but also an ideal. The trouble is that the first Europe is too big for the second.  

When British Remainers claim to “believe in Europe” — most of them literally don’t know what they’re talking about. As one travels eastward from the pointy western end of the continent, Europe just keeps widening out. It contains entire nations and peoples that most of us haven’t even heard of. How about Kalmykia — Europe’s only Buddhist state? Or the ginger-headed Udmurts? Or the Alans of South Ossetia? 

Faraway countries of which we know little? Evidently. But Europe beyond the borders of the EU is still out there — and it is currently reminding us of its existence.  

Most urgently, there is the crisis on the border between Poland and Belarus. The Belarusian government has discovered that migration from the Middle East and elsewhere can be used as a weapon against the EU. Migrants are being flown to Belarus, bused to the Polish border and then pushed across the frontier. The Polish authorities are pushing back, trapping thousands of people in the no-man’s-land between the two states. As temperatures drop, we’re coming closer to a full-blown humanitarian crisis — and perhaps to armed conflict. A regime capable of using people as weapons is also capable of giving weapons to people. 

Meanwhile, a thousand kilometres to the south another crisis is brewing. The Dayton Agreement that brought peace to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 is breaking down. This fragile state is divided into two main parts — Republika Srpska (predominantly populated by ethnic Serbs) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in which ethnic Bosniaks and Croats are the biggest groups. 

It was never the most robust of arrangements, but now the Bosnian Serb leader, Milorad Dodik, is making moves towards independence for Republika Srpska. Most ominously, he wants to divvy up the Bosnian armed forces. What could possibly go wrong?

Unlike in the Nineties, this is happening right on the EU’s border. Bosnia is roughly triangular in shape and is surrounded on two of its three sides by Croatia, which is now an EU member. If the Bosnian state collapses, then that could bring the EU into conflict with Serbia and Russia — both of which support the Bosnian Serbs. And if that wasn’t enough, Turkey could be dragged in too — as the patron of the predominantly Muslim Bosniaks. 

Turkey is itself a potential source of instability for Europe. President Erdogan has long been a thorn in the EU’s side, but at least he was willing to do a deal on curbing the flow of illegal migrants from the Middle East (in return for money). However, he’s reported to be in poor health — and his party’s grip on power is slipping. Polls show that the opposition is in with a chance of winning the next general election. Whether they’ll be allowed to win is anyone’s guess. But one way or another, disruption is coming — and that could mean an end to the immigration deal. 

Could the European Union cope with multiple crises on its borders? No, because it just doesn’t have the capacity. You only have to look at Ursula von der Leyen’s statement on the Belarus border crisis. She condemns the actions of the Belarusian authorities — describing them as a “hybrid attack”; but she only offers unspecified “support” to the Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian governments. Significantly, there’s no mention of the only EU agency capable of acting in this matter — which is Frontex — the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. Even though Frontex is headquartered in Warsaw, the Polish government has declined the agency’s help. Clearly, the Poles have little confidence in the EU’s approach to border control.

In Bosnia, it’s the US keeping a lid on the situation. The EU has been of scant use — it couldn’t even stop the circulation of a diplomatic note that proposed a three-way partition of Bosnia (between Serbia, Croatia and a rump state for the Bosniaks). The Americans have rejected this dangerous idea, but what happens if they lose patience with policing Europe and tell the Europeans to sort themselves out? 

As for Turkey, any agreement with the EU depends on the ongoing cooperation of the Turks — or, when that’s not enough, turning a blind-eye to the alleged strong-arm tactics of the Greek and Bulgarian authorities.

What all of these crises reveal is the essential powerlessness of the European Union. We’ve been told ad nauseam that the EU is the producer of peace in Europe. The truth, however, is that the EU is the product of it. 

A political entity that lacks an army, a police force or the legitimacy conferred by national sovereignty, cannot survive without an international order created by others. If this order is compromised — even to a limited extent — then things start falling apart. Just look at the refugee crisis of 2014 and 2015, which contributed to Brexit, the election of a populist government in Italy and the tightening grip of the Hungarian leader, Viktor Orbán.

What would a deeper, longer crisis do to the EU? A number of possibilities present themselves, none of them good. The least worst option is that America, through NATO, rides to the rescue; in which case the western pecking order is settled for years to come. Alternatively, Brussels does a deal with Moscow — and essentially pays Danegeld to the Russians from hereon out. 

Or maybe the EU could start manning-up — either by creating an actual European Army or expanding Frontex into a de facto military. However, that creates a problem of democratic accountability. Von der Leyen as Commander-in-Chief? I hardly think so. A more likely scenario is more of what we’re seeing already — which is the EU relying on its eastern member states to hold the line. That means allowing them (indeed, paying them) to do things their way — which won’t be pretty. As Aris Roussinos argues, expect to see more barbed wire, more walls, more tear gas and worse.

We should certainly expect Belarus — with Russia in the background — to keep up the pressure. If the line breaks, then illegal migrants will pour into Europe fuelling a renewed populist backlash. Don’t forget there’s a Presidential election in France next year and that candidates of the far Right are in second and third place. 

Of course, the line may hold. But what would be the price of that? I’m reminded of the fate of the Roman Empire. Long before the western half of the empire fell and Rome was sacked, the institutions that had defined the state were reduced to hollow shells. That’s because all the real power had leaked away to the legions on the troubled frontier. 

The decisions that actually mattered weren’t made in the Senate or anywhere else in Rome, but in the forts and watch towers along the Danube and the Rhine. In the Crisis of the Third Century, marked by multiple invasions and rebellions, the Roman establishment was usurped by a series of “barracks emperors” — leaders of men who owed their position to soldiery not aristocracy. 

Obviously, the EU is not the Roman Empire — but it is an empire of sorts. And like all empires it has to choose a frontier and defend it. 

The stability of the EU currently depends on the sort of politician who can agree a budget proposal in a committee meeting or strike a backroom deal over dinner in a Brussels restaurant. It’s a dull, bureaucratic and sometimes corrupt culture of government. If, however, the EU comes to depend on the sort of person who can repel a column of cold and hungry migrants, then we’ll look back on the present era with fondness.


Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.

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Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

Peter Franklin provides an intelligent analysis of some of the problems the EU faces as a non-state entity. However, as a speech writer for the Conservatives he can’t help describing Le Pen and Zemmour as far right candidates for the French presidency.
In what meaningful sense do the platforms of either share comparison to the German National Socialist Party or Mussolini’s Fascist Party? They have no armed and uniformed thugs intent on beating up their opponents nor are either likely to be marching on Paris to seize power in an armed coup. Neither seek lebensraum for the French people or support expansionist military adventures.
Even the BBC in an analysis published in 2017 described Le Pen’s policies as mirroring those of the conservative and centrist parties in France. Their rhetoric against immigrants is mirrored throughout the French political class. They simply have a slightly harder edge to them.
To describe popular politicians who support policies aiming to reduce immigration, particularly from people that don’t share French cultural values, as far right simply because their policies sound slightly more robust than the centrist politicians peddling the same message is merely a rhetorical trick to try to discourage voters who think of themselves as moderates from voting for them by tarring them with association with the National Socialist and Fascist parties of the interwar and wartime period.
That is, of course, to leave aside any analysis of National Socialism and Fascism that would in fact position them as authoritarian socialist parties that have nothing to do with libertarian conservative thought.

Ri Bradach
Ri Bradach
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

“As a speech writer for the Conservatives”? Where?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ri Bradach
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

The following self description of Peter Franklin on the Guardian website appears as the first item if you google his name coupled with the description “speechwriter”: “Peter Franklin is a Conservative policy adviser and speechwriter
June 2008 â€œ. No doubt if this is incorrect the author can put me right.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Excellent response! Extremely well said. We must take back the language and not play the woke game: “far right” and “hate speech” are two examples.

George Glashan
George Glashan
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

i now understand hate speech, when used by guardian -land types to mean literally that, they hate speech. everyone else should shut up and do what their know better masters are telling them

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Think of “far right” as a media dog whistle and you have it right.

Peter Francis
Peter Francis
2 years ago

The article says that the EU “just doesn’t have the capacity” and that a solution is “expanding Frontex”. Expanding Frontex would be like replacing a chocolate fireguard with a larger chocolate fireguard. Europe has plenty of “capacity” to enforce proper borders and to curb illegal immigration. The real problem is that Europe is hidebound by obsolete legislation, treaties and “international law”, and its leaders are beholden to the pro-immigration lobby. This has rendered Europe effectively impotent with respect to immigration control. It is not a “capacity” issue.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

Spot on.
It’s the will not the means. France could conscript over 2 million men into the Grand Armee from a population of around 30 million.
Now it might be a silly comparison and I’m not suggesting we conscript a giant European force. But I’m merely reinforcing the point you make about it not being about resourcing.

Peter Francis
Peter Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Also, the Bundeswehr would have to be persuaded to patrol at night this time round.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

To be fair, being out at night is very scary

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

What ! Even carrying Ursula’s broomsticks ?

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

Lets hope that the EU does not learn from Belarus and bus them to Calais with a supply of boats.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Let us hope not. England is now the lowest sump into which the drains can flow.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

Seems like it isn’t that ‘the EU “just doesn’t have the capacity” – but rather ‘the will’…..

Last edited 2 years ago by Cathy Carron
Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

Of course Europe has capacity. But even more than being hidebound by obsolete legislation, its, and our, governments lack the will.

If anyone can get a copy of The Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail you will recognise immediately what is happening. If we don’t have the will to oppose a “peaceful”, only in the sense of not being armed, invasion by people whose values are inimical to our own, what is the point of a nuclear deterrent? Who, apart from ourselves, are we kidding?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

like replacing a chocolate fireguard with a larger chocolate fireguard

that made me laugh out loud

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

The situation on the Polish and also LT/LV borders, brings into sharp focus the problem, and it is essential that each and every one of these invaders lose. The EU cannot win unless each and every one of these invading hordes lose, and that means no entry into the EU. It is a zero sum game: there will be winners and losers. They cannot be allowed even 1cm into the EU–a message must be sent to Belarus and Russia–the West will not back down.
It is a sickening and disgusting sight to see these invading hordes show their contempt for the rule of law and EU law in particular. May I pose a question to my EU friends: who gets to decide who is a refugee, where they “must” initially settle and apply for asylum, what the rules are? Is it the EU, through its member nations, or is it the invading hordes themselves? I have seen the English speakers among them say NO POLAND, GERMANY NOW! May I see your passport? Nope, I shredded it on the plane. May I take your fingerprints? Nope, I scuffed the tips of my fingers so you can’t do that. Would you please apply for asylum in Poland? Are you daft, I’m going to my cousin in Munich…..They are not seeking “freedom,” they are seeking a better life in Germany. I don’t care what the rules are, I’m not staying in Poland, EU being played.
Newflash: just because you lose your job–or even your country–it doesn’t mean that you are entitled to live in Berlin. Too bad, so sad. And what does it mean to accept one of these scammers? If Abdul, who claims to be 15 but looks 28, is re-settled in Frankfurt, can he bring his mother, his father, his cousins, his siblings? Where does it end?
BBC coverage yesterday was particularly sickening, in that it treated members of “do-gooder” organizations with respect, allowing them a platform for their lies. These organizations should always be referred to as human smugglers–that is what they are. These do-gooders who operate boats to “save” migrants coming from Libya–they are simply the final chain in the immigration scam. Their boats should be seized and sunk.
If a shooting war breaks out, at least it will show EU resolve. Lock and load!

Last edited 2 years ago by James Joyce
Peter Francis
Peter Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

You ask “who gets to decide who is a refugee”. Treaties, etc. say that their refugee status must be assessed before they are sent back. So you let them in and they come out with some un-checkable sob-story. But once they are in, human rights legislation applies to them and it becomes near-impossible to get them out. Also, everyone on the planet knows exactly what kind of sob story to produce in order to tick the boxes in the asylum assessment.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

You are exactly right and I know the story well. Look at the US. For a time, every Chinese said that she was forced to have an abortion because of the 1 child policy, every el Salvadorean is a victim of gang violence. Every Gordita Mexicana says her husband beats her. The smugglers give them the story. Some years ago there was the case of the Chinese court interpreter who didn’t interpret but simply said the magic words so asylum would be granted. Rare case? Rare that he was arrested, I believe it happens all the time.
The point of my comment was the the West–US, EU, maybe Australia to a point–simply succumb, they give up, the can’t stop the numbers. That is why I strongly believe that each individual migrant must lose, and lose big. Why am I heartless you ask? Because when an invader wins, all those back home know, and they come too. They must lose!

James Stangl
James Stangl
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

You took the words out of my mouth. This is how a lot of Yanks feel about the Biden-condoned flood of illegal migrants from south of the border. Either immigration laws mean something and are enforced, or it’s Katie bar the door.
And this is coming from someone whose ancestors immigrated legally to the USA, and who continues to help a naturalized immigrant family from Africa.

Brian Burnell
Brian Burnell
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

Then change the rules. That’s what sovereignty means. Our country, our rules.

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
2 years ago
Reply to  Brian Burnell

Hungary did that. 150 years of Turkish occupation made us immune to “white guilt”.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

We’ve been told ad nauseam that the EU is the producer of peace in Europe. The truth, however, is that the EU is the product of it. 

ï»żSuccinct and accurate.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago

Yes, I liked that phrase a lot. I hear the “EU has maintained peace for over X years” line repeated over and over as if it is an absolute truth. Saying that it is simply a belief – as no causal link between the existence of the EU and the maintenance of peace can ever be proven – is the fastest way of getting the jaws of most mindless utterers of this phrase to hit the floor. Sometimes I do it for sport.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

Spot on! Well done you! Wish I had thought of that!

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
2 years ago

Echoed by the false claims that the EU was somehow involved in creating the peace agreement in Northern Ireland and, somehow, has a guardianship role over it. The truth, however, is that the EU refused admission to the UK, and to Ireland, until it was convinced a binding peace accord was in place.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

Eh? The UK and Ireland both joined on 1st January 1973. The Troubles went on for years after that.
The Good Friday agreement was in 1998.

Last edited 2 years ago by D Glover
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

You cannot be referring to the Good Friday Agreement. Maybe the Sunningdale agreement? Although that was only signed in December 1973, after UK and Ireland had joined.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
2 years ago

You mean Alastair Campbell was lying. Again?

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago

“A more likely scenario is more of what we’re seeing already — which is the EU relying on its eastern member states to hold the line. That means allowing them (indeed, paying them) to do things their way — which won’t be pretty.”

Definitely not if an Eastern European state is concerned. I visit the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary often and the policing and border guards there are very different from their counterparts Austria. Personally I’ve never had any problems with them but one look at them is enough to let you know: do NOT be messing with these guys.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Hungary fought the Ottomans from 1526 to 1699. The last raid into Hungary by the Ottoman vassal Tatars from Crimea took place in 1717.
The Hungarians share with Poles, Greeks and many eastern european nations a deep history of fighting encroaching Muslim power. We lucky Brits never had to fight that battle.
The Royal Navy did fight at Navarino, 1827, but that led to Greek emancipation, our own freedom was never in danger
We don’t have a statue of Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Codrington, allied commander-in-chief at the Battle of Navarino. How long would it last before someone pulled it down?

Last edited 2 years ago by D Glover
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

I wasn’t thinking that historically; rather that these guards in CZ/SK/HU are generally physically much larger than their friends in AT and just seem more menacing. Even the armed guards who patrol train stations etc. in France seem less scary.

Last edited 2 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Indeed the blue plaque commemorating Sir Edward Codrington in Brighton was removed in June 2020 as soon as it was learned he had inherited part of the Room Estate in Antigua from his uncle which included a slave population to work it.

Apart from that his part in the battle of Navarino which effectively ended the Ottoman occupation of Greece seems not to be remembered. Perhaps if his part in the battled could be reframed as a successful anti-colonial victory his plaque might be restored with a suitable apology for his failure to reject his uncles generous legacy.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Thanks, but you forget; anti-colonialism only works one way.

Mary Thomas
Mary Thomas
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I remember driving from England to
Moscow in 1969 through Belgium, East Germany, Poland and multiple hundreds of miles of Russian pine forests. The Russians and Poles at the border were frightening, but by far the scariest were the East Germans. The guards seemed straight out of a war or horror film, you would NEVER dare disobey them and guns on watchtowers were trained on you all the time. Where are their sons and daughters? One day soon I fear they will be needed.

Of all the border guards I’ve had to deal with they were the worst, followed by the border guards between Jordan and Iraq where I lost all agency including speech because I’m a woman. I dread to think what will happen on this border, between the Middle East and the Eastern bloc.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Mary Thomas

Wow, that must have been a real adventure! The scariest guards I’ve come across were on the border between Hungary and Serbia when I went down to Belgrade on the train from Vienna in 2005. I was alone in the carriage and they spoke no English so I didn’t have any idea what they were saying to me or whether the brusque tone was just officiousness, but it was quite an intimidating experience.

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
2 years ago

I see Poland, which is in fact merely enforcing EU law by preventing illegal immigration at the Union’s external frontier, is now being attacked for its “inhumanity” by leading members of Germany’s future Coalition government, the Greens and the SPD.
One really couldn’t blame the Poles if they were to throw open their borders and escort the thousands of desperate people now shouting “Germany! Germany!” to their favoured destination.

Last edited 2 years ago by Eddie Johnson
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Eddie Johnson

Correct. As the Germans shouted in 2015/16, “Wir Schaffen das”…let the second wave begin.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
2 years ago
Reply to  Eddie Johnson

In effect that’s what Hungary did. I think the Poles would quiet cheerfully ship them all through to Germany but they all know that German clout (Klaut?) in the EU would mean they would be sent straight back to Poland again, once the productive are sifted through for retention.

George Glashan
George Glashan
2 years ago

to give Belarus credit, they are (despicably) but rightly exposing the hypocrisy of the EU. The EU is comprised of correct thinkers and do nothinger’s, they say all correct thinking things. Belarus is giving them the opportunity to live up to their correctspeech.
Here are a gift of bus loads of the downtrodden the EU claims to care for. says Belarus.
You Scoundrel, don’t you understand we are only posing, we only want immigrants when we want cheap labour, Germany just filled up a few years ago so those economic migrants are now the wrong type of immigrants , they are someone else’s problem. retorts the EU.
Maybe Beleraus could start chartering flights to Brussels, that would create real change real quick.
Terrible for the people caught in between, but as usual its the EU actions which have led to this self made crisis, although crisis is the only thing which sustains the EU governance so this isn’t even bad news for them, in their own eyes its further justifies why EU “leadership” on these matters is required.
Ive stolen this line from JACOB HOWLAND‘s article its exactly what i was trying to express  “Not least because the multiplication of crises furnishes a pretext for ever greater extensions of governmental control.”

Last edited 2 years ago by George Glashan
Ri Bradach
Ri Bradach
2 years ago

The denouement of the EU continues apace.

The only question is to which empire the EU pays its Danegeld: USA or the revitalised USSR?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

Silly comment.

Rather more, see if it can keep sponging off the Americans, or if it has to pay the Russians.

The EU is the most useless group imaginable. Corrupt and cynical leadership, woke and weak people, and a world about to get a lot wilder. Brexit was the best thing Britain has done in a generation.

The analogy of the Fourth Century Rome in decline is good, but without “the forts and watch towers along the Danube and the Rhine” and the “barracks Emperors” not being actual soldiers with armies, but Brussels, un-elected, Gravy Train riders, with massive pensions and champagne expense accounts.

Ri Bradach
Ri Bradach
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Silly comment how?

Do you deny that the object of Trump’s policy vis NATO was to have the European nations pay for US bases in Europe?

Do you deny that the USA gets favourable treatment for its citizens in and around these bases?

Do you deny that the USA uses the protection those bases provide to serve its own political and economic ends with near impunity in host States?

Do you deny that Putin’s militaristic revival of Russia, utilisation of puppet states and “near abroad” policies have created something whose external objectives are best referenced to those of the USSR?

Do you deny that the EU, a pathetic, powerless technocracy of fools is being exposed for what it is?

Do you deny that the EU has no hope of defending its own borders without NATO?

Do you deny that the EU is therefore caught between which master it must pay, in one form or another, for their protection and benevolence?

The only silly thing on this page is your snap judgement and condescension.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

Why shouldn’t EU pay for American bases since it is American soldiers who defend Europeans? Personally, I think we should close all our bases abroad, bring all our soldiers home to defend our borders, and leave Europeans to train, build, and pay for their own armies.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago

‘couldn’t agree more. The USA supports the economies of entire towns / regions in Germany. It’s nuts. It’s time to withdraw. It’s time for Europeans to uniform up.

Ri Bradach
Ri Bradach
2 years ago

I don’t disagree, Allison. As an Englishman I’d like to ensure that no fellow national ever again does fighting to resolve Europe’s problems as millions did in the last century particularly.

I’d love to see an end to NATO and Europe – who have gone out of their way to make clear their hatred for Britain since Brexit – left to defend itself.

However, that wasn’t the point of the exchange. What I said was that Europe pays its dues to it’s Empirical masters, the USA.

What is happening now is a possible switch to Russia being that master.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

Trump was right – it is time for the USA to stop paying-the-piper. It’s time for Europe to take responsibility for its own defense. Enough already. Let the Europeans begin the 3rd European World War.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

The USSR conquered all of Central Asia, the Caucasus, north and south, the Baltic States, all by 1939. Then the West handed them most of Central and Eastern Europe. Much of Poland , Hungary, the Baltic states and all of East Prussia was absorbed into the USSR itself in 1944-5. . Putin’s only puppet state now is Crimea. What others are there? Putin follows the Serbia, Bulgaria and N Macedonia, but had done nothing more. These comparisons are absurd.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

What happened to Belarus, the puppet state currently being manipulated? And Germany looks like being the next puppet state.

James Stangl
James Stangl
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

It appears to this Yank that Germany is already paying Danegeld to Putin in the form of energy dependence. Of course, our current resident of the Oval Office seems to think that shutting down the domestic oil and gas industry and relying on OPEC is a smart thing.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

The West didn’t hand the Soviets central and eastern Europe. The Red Army conquered them from the Nazis.

Ri Bradach
Ri Bradach
2 years ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

Don’t count your chickens. Further, as Germany in particular jumped away from using nuclear power, they handed the Russians the keys to the kingdom.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

This This This…

Bill W
Bill W
2 years ago

The rise of China, the reemergence of Russia, and the decline and retreat of the USA is predictably revealing the inherent contradictions in the EU project. Germany and to a lesser extent France will decide the EU’s future.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago

Trouble with Bosnia, Serbia, Russia, Turkey – I trust the Austrians aren’t going to ask the Germans for help.

Patrick Fox
Patrick Fox
2 years ago

This is a very good analysis but in my opinion it omits an important aspect. These incidents are the result of the EU’ s ( not to say the West’s ) contempt for former eastern block countries and Russia. Perhaps a more amicable / respectful approach to Russia on behalf of the EU would see things de escalating in the area. Russia is no longer the enemy and for quite sometime now, in fact it is Europe’s front line to China who is the real danger, so where are our interests?

Of course one should understand and take into consideration the justified worries of those European countries like Poland who suffered the Soviet domination, but Russia is not the USSR and Russia’s reactions have mainly been triggered by western arrogance not by a renewed Russian desire of reconquest (Crimea was the answer to a broken promises to Russia by the West not to expand NATO on their borders) and the West bluntly ignored Putin’s warnings of 2007. If they had taken Russia seriously the EU would not be in such a mess or I’d rather say Poland would not be in such a mess thanks to the EU and the US. As for Frontex it is a none entity and there are probably too many strings tied to it ( Blackmail from the Commission in relation to the EU’s conception of the rule of law perhaps) for Poland to accept.

Another question I have always asked myself is why does the EU need a defence when NATO and NATO only preserved the peace which allowed the EU to grow. Even if it where to be , it would never be a at the required level to defend itself without the intervention of the US. My belief on this is perhaps very Schmittian ( Carl Schmitt) you create an enemy to justify your existence and I believe that this is what the EU is doing to justify/gain existence on the international plane ( well partially at least).

The EU(and the others) ignored China for the best part of the last century and the present one, thus Russia was the only available enemy against which the EU should arm itself and make believe its populations of the eminent danger posed by the wounded bear and ask for more powers and competences from the Member States (EU power grabbing again and again). So if the EU ever becomes a super state Orwell’s 1984’s geopolitical dystopias that ruled the world will be renamed.

The recent proposed initiative by the EU ( pushed by Macron ( the international seeking attention firebrand) to allow military EU intervention without unanimity but at a qualified majority is a perfect example of the danger residing in giving the EU military competences especially if one knows how these EU civil servants function.

Last edited 2 years ago by Patrick Fox
Red Reynard
Red Reynard
2 years ago
Reply to  Patrick Fox

I have to concur. When the Middle East started to collapse twenty years ago, the EU should have thrown it’s hat in with Russia. There is an existential threat in the radical Islamification south of Turkey, and we missed an opportunity to halt it due to the ancient obsession with ‘The Great Game’.
Post Cold War we squandered the opportunity to foment a much more stable relationship with Russia by consistently pushing NATO further and further East. The NATO Alliance assured Russia that it was a non-expansionist organisation, and yet year by year, country by country it expanded ever eastwards – and the ‘peace dividend’ never materialised. But hey! why should the US worry; they haven’t got the barbarian’s at their gates.

Charles Mimoun
Charles Mimoun
2 years ago

“Europe is a continent, but also an ideal. The trouble is that the first Europe is too big for the second.”
The opening sentence is simply wonderful. I’ve rarely read a substantial description of European problems that fits in two phrases. I would just add that in fact the UE have always considered, secretly or not, that the USA would furnish the army and the soldiers to protect the Old Continent. The European Army is called NATO. It’s obviously a losing gamble. Because at unlike the Europeans Americans still attach importance to reality, to military strength and have not lost the sense of realpolitik. They will not defend anyone without taking advantage of it. And I’m not sure they have a real interest to help Europe. 
By the way, it would also be interesting to reflect on the reasons why these two Western societies differ so much on this subject. Catholics vs Protestants ?

Patrick Fox
Patrick Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Mimoun

Not religion, nation building history

Last edited 2 years ago by Patrick Fox
Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago

Leadership in the EU is a mixed blessing. It would help solve problems but it could also take Europe in a direction one does not like. What the EU does need is increased competence. A co-operative approach to risk assessment that enables it to draw on the resources of member states. The risks that should be addressed include policing the borders, cyber attacks, virus attacks, energy supplies, food supplies. The analysis of each risk requires questioning and debate. The weapons require research. None of this need be expensive. Implementation could be expensive and is different for each risk. The one that might be the most expensive is the risk of cyber attacks which may require a totally new approach to hardware and software. It should not be politicised, the UK should be part of it – we do not have the resources to go it alone.

Bill W
Bill W
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

The EU is and always has been a German French alliance. It took a long time but we finally did the correct thing and left the EU. Given their attitude towards us the less we have to do with them the better.

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Bill W

“Given their attitude towards us the less we have to do with them the better.”
Agree. I read an article in the nominally centre-right FAZ 3 weeks ago, openly indulging in some undiluted Schadenfreude at the UK’s high infection rates, sluggish growth and supply-chain problems, which were all eagerly, (and wrongly) ascribed to Brexit.
This rift will take many years to heal, I fear.

Ian French
Ian French
2 years ago
Reply to  Bill W

“The EU has always been a German French alliance”. That is because we did not want to join the ” losers club” when we had most to gain from it back at the outset of the Coal & Steel Union.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

‘Leadership in the EU’? Is there any? From the other side of the pond, it’s hard to discern who’s calling the shots in the EU, as the EU bureaucracy is large and bloated with ‘crossed’ or duplicative positions of responsibilities.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cathy Carron
Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Actually it is not large and bloated at all. The EU Commission staff are c. 36000 people, roughly the number in the UK’s pension headquarters.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

The EU is an alliance that primarily sets common rules so that there is no friction in business between EU members and therefore no need for border checks. As Anna says employees number under 40,000 compared with the US Federal Government’s 3 million. Big decisions rest with member states and historically Germany and France have dominated because they chose to. The UK chose not to participate. The EU president is generally quite obscure, by design, so there is no leadership. Which I think is probably a good thing but it does mean that no one has overal responsibility for competence and commonsense which was a factor in Brexit.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

I voted Leave, but as an ideal I’m happy to upvote this. I read it as Jon arguing wishfully, based on current realpolitik.
The depressing reality though is EU are still following their 50’s/60’s Franco/German Soviet playbook and lucrative non-jobs are secured by it. Change will not happen in my lifetime, and I doubt full, proper union will either. A huge waste.

Last edited 2 years ago by Dustin Needle
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago

One musn’t pity these migrants. They have agency and with it they have chosen to become fodder.

Patrick Heren
Patrick Heren
2 years ago

Excellent. This gives rise to a tangential thought about modern European armies: they are simply not large enough to defend their national borders, let alone the borders of the EU. Of course they have much more firepower than their WW2 predecessors. But ultimately to hold ground you need soldiers. The migrant crisis on the Polish border is not an invasion and needs to be solved at political level. But could the 62,000 man Polish army, for all its proud traditions and modern equipment, defend the country against an invasion by one of its larger neighbours to the east? For that matter, could the shrunken British Army, down to 82,000 and with commitments all over the world, protect our long coastline against a determined enemy. Yes NATO is supposed to deal with such threats, but would it?

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Patrick Heren

Could the British forces defend our coastline? Depends on how much violence their political masters will license.
It’s no use having machine guns if you aren’t allowed to fire them. As for nuclear weapons; I can’t imagine any circumstance where they would be used.
Imagine if, in 1588, Queen Elizabeth had sent Drake, Hawkins and Frobisher to sail to Cathay and back instead of stopping the Armada. They’d have come back, a couple of years later, to find Philip II on the throne of England and Elizabeth burnt as a heretic. But, we would have asserted our right of free navigation around the island of Formosa!

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
2 years ago

Well, seeing as some Germans and Swedes have been arrested for being involved in smuggling people into Poland from Belarus, it seems the problem may be, at least partially, an ‘in-house’ one.

R Baron
R Baron
2 years ago

The border crisis has nothing to do with the EU’s defence capability unless one were to argue that had we have the troopers they should open fire on the refugees trying to enter the Schengen lands, is that what would happen if the EU had a top fighting force? Hmmm
What’s happening on the border between Belarus and the surrounding EU member countries (mostly Poland) is not essentially even about the countries involved, Putin or Erdogan, they are all but a collateral outcome of our invading Afghanistan and the ME, messing things up in those lands without really curing the boils we invaded to eliminate, it’s the result of a poorly thought through American foreign policy that we and the EU endorsed and supported, if we didn’t destabilise the countries in the first place, both those desperate and those hoping to better themselves from those countries wouldn’t be arriving here destabilising us.
And another thing: What is the difference between the attempts by one group of refugees trying to enter Poland from Belaruss assisted by the latter’s border force and another group of refugees arriving from France into the UK assisted ably by the French Navy?
Could anyone explain?

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  R Baron

And all Belarus has to do is point out that neat comparison you have made, with indeed no difference between Belarus and France.

However, even before 9/11, there were many refugee camps in Pakistan holding Afghan refugees from the Taliban.
The West desires that the non-Western countries get themselves good governance. Sometimes a Western military presence is required in a troubled country because there are enough of the good natives, as it were, who want to give the land of their ancestors a go – while the Americans and others are conveniently there.

Hundreds of thousands of Spanish refugees fled over the Pyrenees into south-west France in early 1939, in fleeing Franco’s advance. As far as I know, none of them fled to Britain on rickety boats. They gave France a go – and several descendants of them became household names in French society: in sport, cinema and the arts as well as politics. Can the same be said for Syrians who are stuck in Turkey? Could they dream of becoming a part of Turkish society? Are there Syrian names in Turkish sports teams and in Turkish movies? So the Spanish were happy enough in France. Some may well have fought for France against Nazi Germany in 1940, and by joining the French Resistance. Maybe there is in France a book on the Spanish in France.
And what of the conduit to Europe? Are the Kurds cynically encouraged to pass through Turkey in order to lessen the manpower they can muster in Kurdish regions against ISIS and their allies? Not even the Yazidis wanted to abandon their ancestral homeland: their only one in the world and one they do not want to see disappear. They would fight any lebensraum policy acted against them if they could. But they had been easy to persecute and drive out because for so long they had minded their own business and tried to quietly live their lives and traditions.
But there will always be a reason to join the great migrations: at the COP summit in Glasgow, it has been stressed by the VIP speakers how climate change affects the poor the most, of which the “rich countries” should be ashamed. As climate change is here to stay, and as it will never be tackled well enough, the rich countries are to expect more refugees from climate change in the future: they have been as good as told. That message will circulate around the world. And the corrupt countries of the earth will simply not have the motivation to accommodate the desires of its most discontented citizens.
They will outsource them to the fairly gullible West.
The poor old West does get unfairly maligned these days, doesn’t it?

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago

It is clear that Angela must return and work really hard with Macron if this problem is to be solved.

Bogman Star
Bogman Star
2 years ago

All true, and a good argument for a USE and against the atomisation of Brexit. Europe is made of a mix of small states and states that, like Britain, haven’t yet realised their relative puniness on the world stage. A United States of Europe is long overdue, but an easy diet of high sugar / easy answers populist nationalism at regional level will ensure that it will never happen.

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Bogman Star

How on earth do you propose to constitute a USoE given the fundamental differences between the member states, such as the VisegrĂĄd Group and say France, Holland and Germany, particularly on issues such as immigration?
They can’t even agree on a common foreign policy in respect of countries like Russia or China, which renders the notion of a joint EU army impossible.
You may dislike Britain and Brexit (I voted remain), but the current problems facing the EU have nothing to do with either.

Last edited 2 years ago by Eddie Johnson
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Bogman Star

But it never CAN happen !

Red Reynard
Red Reynard
2 years ago
Reply to  Bogman Star

Bogman,
I’m not sure I understand your point. Cast your eye around, and you will find that all states are punified, at the moment. The EU or ‘Europe’ in the political sense is a ephemeral aspiration, a vague, not universally held, ideal; people don’t fight for a vague ideal – they fight for their homeland. That is the benefit that ‘nationalism’ (a place of belonging) brings. The hardest fighters in the world are those fighting for their homeland who have nowhere else to go, spiritually speaking.
There is no common thread, no common story, and no common world view across the nations of Europe to hold them together; one only has to look at how quickly the borders came up when CV19 hit.
All the best
Red