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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: January, 2022|
Behind a Painted Veil – the EU and the role of reality in politics
|There may be such a thing as an identifiable objective reality free of an observer’s prejudices, preconceptions or wishes. If such exists in Ukraine, it is not being reported in the mainstream media.
Every event and twist and turn is filtered through the formidable lenses of Ukrainian/NATO sources. Occasionally RTE calls on the Russian Ambassador, but not to interview him, only to harangue and denounce.
The narrative is that Putin invaded Ukraine as part of a deranged plan to restore the Russian Empire, and that the invasion itself has been characterised by brutality and incompetence, whereas the plucky little Ukrainians have outsmarted the Russians at every turn. The nightly news is a litany of Ukrainian victories and counter-offensives, while the reality on the ground is a slow, if relentless and grinding, Russian advance in the South-East.
The narrative does not allow for the eight-year war preceding the invasion, a war waged by Kyiv against what it defines as its own people in Donetz and Luhansk.
That war has involved conscript and volunteer armies of West Ukrainians and East Ukrainians pitted against each other in a brutal conflict that, even before Putin’s operation, had claimed over 16,000 lives, at least a third of them Donbas civilians.
In Putin’s move, as this civil war threatened to escalate, a swathe of territory across the south, from Mykolayiv and Kherson in the West to Mariupol and Donetzk in the East, was fought over until secured and occupied. A considerable element of the Russian forces involved was composed of units of the armies of the Donbas Republics, i.e. nominal Ukrainians, fighting West Ukrainian forces that included volunteer battalions with little love of their eastern compatriots. Can there ever be a way back from that?
There is never any mention by RTE, or the sources from which it derives its narrative, of the increasingly strident demands of the Kyiv Government for NATO membership, Western armaments, nor of its rejection of negotiations until all “Ukrainian territory” as defined in 1991—including the Donbas and the Crimea, with its massive naval base at Sevastopol—has been “fully liberated” and the invader ejected.
And a discreet veil is drawn over the Kyiv Government’s endorsement of the Nazi ideology of its most impressive fighting formations, which is an affront to Russia and to the memory of its 30 million citizens who died in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45.
The narrative of the West on the causes and course of the War may contain truths, but how people perceive reality is what effects behaviour. Germany, whose economic golden era since re-unification in 1991 was based on producing highly tooled productive manufactures reliant on cheap energy from Russia and exports to China and elsewhere, has been forced in a tsunami of moral indignation to abandon its ties with Russia. It also faces the certainty of mounting restraints on its Chinese trade.
It is increasingly apparent that the sacrifice of Germany and the rest of the EU will be even greater than the damage done to the intended target.
More significantly, Germany, and the EU in general, have subordinated themselves to the foreign and military policy of the United States.
Germany and the EU have thrown themselves on the mercy of the US to make good with alternative sources of materials and markets the massive damage which abandoning their economic integration with the East entails. The narrative of “our shared values” veils the reality of EU-US relations up to just four months ago, which involved severe tensions over transatlantic trade terms, tariffs, food quality, industrial standards, and relations with Iran and China. Now it is as if these problems never existed! The European media avoids mentioning these matters, sharing in a pretence that they are secondary. In reality, they issues will all now, per force, be resolved to US advantage.
The ideological subordination of Europe has been thoroughgoing and complete, extending from the government level through to the media and the general populace, as illustrated by Ukraine’s recent Eurovision win and how it has been portrayed.
For a brief period Germany under Merkel, and hence the EU, began taking some tentative steps towards independence. But the prodigal has now returned!
The massive European sacrifice might, of course, be justified if the narrative on which it is based had a firm foundation. But, as the conflict unfolds, cracks are appearing in that narrative’s carefully constructed edifice.
The gains that the Russians and their allies have achieved in the east have not been reversed. There was little evidence in those areas of Zelensky’s vaunted army of volunteer civilian soldiers emerging to fight the “occupiers”, and none at all of a substantial opposition emerging in those areas since they were occupied. Ukraine’s military campaign has been sustained by a massive propaganda effort, and an influx of arms from the West to the tune of a multiple of the combined annual military budgets West European states.
The EU’s Covid recovery savings bank has been emptied to fund the War.
If there was any doubt before, it is now very clear that Ukraine since 2014 has been ever more a de facto NATO member, and that the present conflict is a proxy war between Russia and NATO (which is the USA), with all the appearances of it being a war of choice on the American side.
At no time since his inauguration in January 2021 did Joe Biden take a single step to deflate rising tensions with Russia, not only in Ukraine, or to stop the drift to an increasingly likely war. His interventions before February 2022, and those of his military personnel, were designed to assist a Ukrainian re-capture of lost eastern territories and, since February 2021, to expand the conflict and encourage ever more radical war aims on the part of Kyiv.
Reeling from the economic and foreign policy consequences of the NATO agenda for the War, the EU’s leading officials, Ursula von der Leyen and Josep Borrell, in a frantic bid to keep pace with NATO, have sought to impose an ever more radical war agenda on member states: Nothing short of full restoration of Ukraine’s mythical “territorial integrity” (including Sevastopol!) can be accepted, declared von der Leyen. Negotiations for a resolution were pointless and the War must be “decided on the battlefield”, said Borrell.
Germany's and France’s leaders are peronae non grata in Kyiv, and indeed throughout the length and breath of the EU’s recently enrolled eastern member states. Boris Johnson, the leader of Brexit Britain, has emerged not only as Zelensky’s hero, but as leader of the most radical European position on the War. He is Chairman of a defence co-operation alliance, incorporating much of the Eastern EU; “coordinates” the arms shipments of all Western states into Ukraine, and has latterly issued 1939-type “guarantees” to come to the aid of Finland and Sweden, if attacked pending their NATO integration. He is the real King of Europe, and even nearly beat the Ukrainians to first place at the Eurovision!
The EU response to its marginalisation has been pathetic, with Draghi proposing further EU integration by abolishing national vetoes, Scholz wanting to prioritise incorporating the western Balkans in the EU before Ukraine; and, most astonishing of all, Macron, who just two years ago pronounced NATO “brain dead” and held that an independent EU security and geopolitical position was essential, canvassing the subsuming the EU into a broader European political union, which would incorporate states such as Ukraine along with, and primarily, Boris’s exited Great Britain!
Europe, it seems, must again be led by Britain!
It is a certainty that Britain, which can now rely on the firm support of the Eastern and Nordic EU, will have its way on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The EU, if it is to survive, needs to disentangle itself from the shrill but brittle moral politics of denunciation and deal with the harsh realities of international power politics.
Only then is there any hope that it can begin consolidating as a coherent political entity.