In addition to the two states, the Russia-Ukraine War also deeply affected Europe. The war, which started at a time when discussions on the existence and future of the European Union (EU) were ongoing, created an important break. This situation directly affects the balances and dynamics within Europe.
In that sense, the Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM) presents the views of Emanuel Pietrobon, who is an expert from Inside Over, to evaluate the situation of Europe, which was affected from the Russian-Ukrainian War.
- How do you evaluate the policy of Europe regarding the Russia-Ukraine War?
I evaluate negatively because the Ukraine War could have been the opportunity for it to act as a single game-changing entity, while it has reconfirmed to the world that there’s no EU, but only its members and their agendas. On one side, France and Germany have been trying to prevent Ukraine from becoming the theater of a proxy war between NATO and Russia, with their ventriloquists – from the Netherlands to Austria – committed to slowing down or boycotting the expansion of the sanctions regime. On the other side, Poland and the Baltics – externally backed by the UK and the US – have been working from the beginning in one direction: weapons instead of diplomacy. As a result of this discordance of views, the EU failed to produce diplomatic initiatives.
- European states strenghten their relations with the Caucasus and Central Asia both on the perspective of European Union and on a national basis. What are the main causes and dynamics of this process?
The post-Soviet space is melting fast. Russia is no longer in control of what it has historically been its backyard, that is the Russian-speaking equivalent of the US’ Latin America, and this epoque-making event is opening up opportunities for everyone. The EU interest in the South Caucasus and Central Asia is firstly driven by energy reasons – oil, gas, uranium, and so on – and secondly is wanted by the US.
Contrarily to the US, the EU has no hegemonic ambitions in this area, primarily because we’re speaking of a fragmented and post-historical entity. Again, there is no EU, but only its members and their agendas. We’ve Germany and its willingness to conquer the emerging green energy markets of Central Asia. We’ve Italy and its energy alliances with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. And then there’s France’s attempt to be a kind of king-maker in the South Caucasus.
Does economic power mean diplomatic influence? It could, but EU members either lack the means to achieve their political ends – let’s think about France and its continuing failures in having a say in the Armeni-Azerbaijani peace process – or have no intention to act politically – let’s think about Italy, which is Azerbaijan’s major trade and energy partner and has shown no interest in interfering in the Karabakh issue.
- How does the Russia-Ukraine War affect European-Chinese relations? How can Beijing visit of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz be evaluated?
The US wants the EU, and NATO to a greater extent, to join the competition against China. NATO is currently working on a China plan and some of its members already view China as a systemic challenge – the UK, Australia. On the contrary, the EU is divided on the China question.
Apart from some timid adhesions to the boycott of Huawei, EU members tend not see China as an existential threat and fear the economic repercussions of decouplings and hasty reshorings. In detail, Germany sees China as a fundamental partner in the pursuit of the ambitious goal of geopolitical and geoeconomic emancipation from the US.
After having been the helpless witness to the breaking of the symbiotic bond with Russia, emblematized by the eloquent destruction of the North Stream 2, Germany now does not want to lose China. Scholz’s trip to China, in my humble opinion, has to be framed in the wider context of Germany’s decades-long underground rivalry with the US, which resurfaced forcefully during the Ukraine war. It was a message: GeRussia is over – for now –, GerChina is in motion.
- How will Germany’s announcement to increase its military capacity affect the intra-European balances?
If Germany is ever going to become (again) a major military power, we could see the return of security dilemmas across Europe. The Franco-German alliance is more fragile than ever, and a militarily strong Germany could only worry France.
If Lithuania commits to invest 2% of its GDP to defence spending is one thing, if Germany – the world’s fourth-largest economy – does it, it’s a very, very different thing. What if Scholz’s Zeitenwende meant open support for the so-called multipolar transition? Would a (re)armed Germany be good or bad for the US? And for France? When it comes to Germany’s “return to history”, many are the questions and few are the answers.
In any case, Germany’s rearmament will be neither easy nor wick. The German army has a lot of structural problems. The German defence industry is neither innovative nor competitive. Last but not least, we also need to talk about recruitment – low rates – and public opinion – which, after two world wars, is among the most pacifist on the planet.
In the end, Germany’s rearmament is a historical necessity, because the great power competition is getting to its heart, and, depending on the form it takes, it will be able to profoundly change either the intra-EU balance or even the global one.
- With winter and cold weather, the pressure on European states is increasing. Will Europe maintain its position during the deepening of the energy crisis or will it reconsider its attitude towards Russia?
The EU cannot reconsider its attitude towards Russia unless orders to do so come from the US. Some EU countries are actually lobbying the US for some sanctions to be lifted, but these efforts have so far led nowhere. The US cannot turn around for at least three reasons: Russia – which must be punished for the invasion –, the EU – which is a military partner but an economic competitor – China – bogging Russia down in Ukraine is tantamount to sending a warning related to Taiwan. In the end, the EU cannot act unilaterally because a number of US non-negotiable interests are at stake in Ukraine.
After completing his B.S. and Master’s degree at the University of Turin in Italy, Pietrobon has worked at institutions such as Opinio Juris, Vision and Global Trends, Osservatorio Globalizzazione, European Commission and The European House. Currently, he works as a geopolitical analyst and political journalist for the news website Inside Over. Pietrobon specialized in topics such as geopolitics and hybrid warfare, as well as Latin American and post-Soviet geography. Pietrobon, who has conducted research in many countries such as Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Russia, speaks many languages such as English, Spanish, Romanian and Portuguese as well as his native Italian language.