March 31, 2024 - 8:00am

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has stated that Europe is now in a “pre-war” state. “I know it sounds devastating,” the Prime Minister said, “especially for the younger generation, but we have to get used to the fact that a new era has begun.” This comes only three weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron floated the idea of deploying French troops to Ukraine.

There is no need to sugarcoat what these European leaders are saying: young people in Europe need to get ready to mobilise. Nor is there any need to sugarcoat how they come across: they are completely out of touch with reality.

This is shown clearly in the polling: only 17% of people would voluntarily fight, and another 14% would only fight if they had to. The rest would push against conscription. Clearly, Europe’s youth are not willing to put on their boots and march East to die under artillery fire in a trench.

We have all heard the historical folklore of how old men sent young men to die in the trenches of the First World War. Now we see the same impulse among some leaders in Europe. But they differ from their ageing predecessors in that they cannot actually send their sons to sacrifice themselves. It is all talk and they look deeply unserious.

Why are these leaders behaving so irresponsibly and hysterically? Simply put, they signed onto the war in Ukraine thinking it would be an easy win. They were told that the Russian army was weak and could easily be beaten if they poured arms and money into the country. They duly did so and the Russian army survived.

Now there are rumours of a massive Russian offensive this spring. Ukrainian President Zelensky has stated that without additional support they may not be able to hold off the attack. This introduces the prospect that the frontlines might collapse and allow the Russians to advance as far as they would like in the country.

European leaders fear that a major defeat in Ukraine may mean that the Americans will pull out of Europe. This would mean Europe would have to provide for its own security, which would cost money that the continent currently does not have. Hence the hysteria: when no realistic option exists to save oneself from disaster, the human impulse is to retreat into fantasy.

But such fantasy does not help us. The European youth will not align with the grim fantasies of Mr Tusk. Nor will Russia invade Europe. There’s every chance that Ukraine may lose more territory this year, and the Americans will try pass the buck onto the Europeans. Our leaders would be better off facing up to this reality rather than trying to dodge it by engaging in their nihilistic war fantasies. They made their bed, let them sleep in it.

Philip Pilkington is a macroeconomist and investment professional, and the author of The Reformation in Economics