The European Union (EU) is changing completely with Merkel’s exit. With Angela Merkel enjoying a stronghold over the EU during her stint as the German Chancellor, the EU had to put up an anti-Russia face. However, it does not need to pretend to play the role of a Russian enemy despite Biden’s insistence on vilifying Putin.
Ukraine already seems to be complaining about how the EU is completely abandoning Ukraine to placate Moscow.
Ukrainian Defence Minister accuses Germany of ‘blocking’ NATO weapons supply:
In a major development, Financial Times has reported that Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has accused Berlin of blocking the supply of NATO weaponry to Kyiv, even though the United States had warned of a possible imminent invasion by the Russian military.
Reznikov told the Financial Times that in the past month, the German government vetoed Ukrainian purchases of anti-drone rifles and anti-sniper systems via the NATO Support and Procurement Agency. Germany however relented on the anti-drone rifles, after deeming them non-lethal.
Ukraine has been looking to bolster its military capabilities by acquiring anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems, electronic warfare kits and cyber defence equipment. Being Russia’s enemy, Ukraine has only NATO to look up to for securing the supply of such military equipment, which is why Kyiv keeps demanding more support from its EU and NATO allies.
However, EU allies led by Germany have been wary of supplying arms to Ukraine. They argue that if military equipment is supplied to Kyiv, then it might be deemed a provocation by the Kremlin, or even serve as an excuse for escalation by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Reznikov’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline barb:
A clear disagreement is visible between Ukraine and the EU. In a veiled jibe at the former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Reznikov said, “They are still building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and at the same time blocking our defensive weapons. It is very unfair.”
Towards the fag end of her Chancellery, Merkel undermined Kyiv’s position. She first nudged Biden to waive sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that starts from Russia, runs through the Baltic Sea and reaches Germany, by-passing existing supply routes via Ukraine. The gas pipeline kicks Ukraine out of the European gas supply economy and enhances Russia’s role in the European gas sector.
And now, Reznikov has dropped a bombshell by disclosing how Merkel vetoed NATO arms supplies to Ukraine. A desperate Ukraine is now looking to acquire arms through bilateral deals with other allies such as the UK, the US, France and Lithuania.
EU to shed pretence in its relations with Russia:
Ukraine is nudging its allies to arm itself against Russia. Yet, it is unlikely that any one of them will help Ukraine build military strength. With Merkel in power, the EU had a policy of issuing strong statements against Russia but not doing anything to provoke Moscow. Germany and other EU countries are dependent on the Russian gas supply and have not made any real efforts to diversify their supply sources.
Merkel herself did nothing to reduce Germany’s close business ties with Russia. A large share of EU exports to Russia came from Germany, and several German exporters got a substantial chunk of their business from the Russian Federation. German Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Russia increased after 2015, the year in which sanctions were imposed on the Russian economy and German-Russian business ties remained tight even after the Pandemic.
Make no mistake, the EU was never in a mood to disturb its relations with Russia for Kyiv’s sake. Even with the Merkel administration’s public statements against Russia, the EU-Russia business ties were not compromised. However, with Merkel’s presence, the EU always had to be subtle and subdued in its relationship with the Kremlin. And now, the Olaf Scholz administration in Germany doesn’t even carry the baggage of issuing token statements against Moscow.
The German economy ministry, which is responsible for approving or vetoing weapons exports, and the German Chancellery have simply declined to comment on Reznikov’s remarks.
The Ukrainian Defence Minister himself seems to understand that the EU is going to work more smoothly with Putin. He did say that he was in a “very optimistic mood” on the question of obtaining missiles and other military equipment from the US and other Western powers, but could not confirm whether such supplies will arrive in time to deter a Russian invasion.
EU has new priorities like tackling a trade war with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Do not be surprised, if it spends more time weaponising Chinese human rights violations and punishing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), instead of staying fixated on anachronistic issues surrounding Russia and Ukraine.
Going ahead, the EU might continue making anti-Russia remarks on the Ukraine issue, but will never go as far as arming Ukraine and instigating a conflict that could leave millions of Ukrainians turning into refugees and fleeing to EU countries. With Merkel out of power, the EU could therefore find it a lot easier to work with Putin.
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