By Yuri Prasad
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2795

European Union leaders use war to extend military influence in region

There’s an arms race going on across Europe, and ordinary people will pay the price
Issue 2795
The European Union flag flies alongside flags of other countries

Heads of states are muscling for control in the European Union (Pic: European Parliament/Flickr)

The leaders of the European Union (EU) are determined not to allow the crisis in Ukraine to go to waste. As fear of Russian influence spread among state leaders in eastern Europe, the talk in France and Germany has been of enlargement—and an EU military force.

Georgia, which sits on the Black Sea to the south of Russia, and Moldova, which is west of Ukraine, last week submitted applications to join the bloc. They joined Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s plea for rapid entry at the European parliament last week.

Even Switzerland, once famed for its “neutrality”, is in the union’s sights. The country has adopted some EU sanctions against Russia, and there are growing signs that it will join up fully. The prospect of greater access to raw materials and markets in the east excites the leaders of the big industrial powers of central Europe in particular.

But protecting those assets, if they become part of the union, is also a serious priority. Until now, most EU states in eastern Europe looked to the US and Nato for their military security, and were against plans for a European military force. But the war in Ukraine has pushed them into a closer alignment with the EU’s major powers. French president Emmanuel Macron, who has for many years been dreaming of a “true European army”, now finds an echo in Poland, for example.

In return, Europe’s most powerful leaders in Paris and Berlin have indicated they are prepared to paper over disputes with Poland and Hungary over their reactionary policies that have a habit of embarrassing European liberalism.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote recently, “In the week since Russia’s invasion, we have also witnessed the belated birth of a geopolitical Europe. For years, Europeans have been debating how the EU can be made more robust and security-conscious. We have now arguably gone further down that path in the past week than we did in the previous decade.

“We need the capacity to coerce and defend ourselves. Yes, this includes military means and we need to develop them more.”

For the first time last week, the EU announced it would purchase and deliver weapons in its own right. And, without much fanfare, the bloc previously announced that it would almost double the number of Eufor troops in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are there as part of a United Nation mission. Tensions are rising in the Balkans because the EU describes Serbia as a Russian ally to be contained.

Officially, Eufor says, “there is currently no threat to the safe and secure environment” in Bosnia. But it also claims that the “deterioration of the security situation internationally has the potential to spread instability to Bosnia and Herzegovina.” As Ukraine burns, we are already seeing the new shape of the European Union. Expansionist empire building, rising budgets for new military forces and more emboldened “interventionist” politicians will help ensure the cycle of conflict has many more years to run.

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