The Israel-Hamas war exposed the EU’s irrelevance, which is dwindling due to its economy’s secular decline and incapacity to project military power.
At least Henry Kissinger’s tired remark about who to call if you want “to call Europe” is no longer uttered in Europe.
Besides, no one is calling.
The most frightening lesson for everyone living on the Continent should be this: No one cares what Europe thinks. This is only one of the many geostrategic illusions that have been dispelled in recent days. From Israel to Kosovo to Nagorno-Karabakh, Europe has been reduced to the status of a well-intentioned NGO whose humanitarian efforts are appreciated but which are otherwise ignored.
Given the various national interests involved, the 27-member bloc has historically had difficulty formulating a consistent foreign strategy. However, it was still significant, largely because of the magnitude of its market. However, the EU’s influence is dwindling due to its economy’s secular decline and incapacity to project military power at a time of rising global instability.
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The EU has become a pan-European minnow instead of the “geopolitical” powerhouse that Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised when she assumed office in 2019. This has caused some amusement among the real players at the top table while mainly embarrassing the EU itself due to its cacophony of contradictions.
If that sounds harsh, take a look at the previous 72 hours: European Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi declared on Monday that the union would “immediately” stop €691 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority in response to Hamas’ slaughter of hundreds of Israeli civilians over the weekend. A little while afterward, Slovenian Commissioner Janez Lenari disagreed with his Hungarian counterpart and insisted that the assistance “will continue as long as needed.”
The EU will conduct an “urgent review” of some aid programs to make sure that money isn’t going to terrorism, according to a news release from the Commission that implied such checks weren’t already in place.
The conclusion of any review of aid to the Palestinians was predetermined, according to Josep Borrell, the head of EU foreign policy: “We will have to support more, not less,” he stated on Tuesday.
In conclusion, the Commission signaled it would increase the flow of funding just 24 hours after declaring it would halt all aid to the Palestinians.
The EU’s reaction to what was happening in Israel was equally unclear. Borrell, a lifelong critic of the nation who has been virtually designated persona non grata there, resorted to bothsidesing even while Israel was still counting the victims from the most heinous atrocity in the Jewish state’s history.
Borrell, a socialist from Spain, blasted Israel for its blockade of Gaza, denounced Hamas’ “barbaric and terrorist attack,” and emphasized the “suffering” of the Palestinians who put Hamas in power.
The Israeli flag was projected onto the exterior of the Spaniard’s office, in stark contrast to von der Leyen, who categorically denounced the attacks (although in a series of tweets).
However, those actions instantly sparked opposition from other EU member states. Ireland’s fiery leftist MEP Clare Daly called into question von der Leyen’s authority and told her to “shut up.”
By mid-week, figuring out where Europe stood on the problem was like tossing blindfolded darts.
Contrast that with the statements made by Washington.
“In this moment, we must be crystal clear,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a special White House address Tuesday. “We stand with Israel. We stand with Israel. And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack.”
In order to discuss the problem, Biden mentioned that he had phoned France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Notably absent from the list are any of the EU’s “leaders.”
Borrell convened an urgent summit of EU foreign ministers on Tuesday in Oman, where they were already congregating, to talk about the situation in Israel. Eli Cohen, Israel’s foreign minister, declined to take part in any way.
That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given Europe’s track record with Iran, whose government openly endorsed the weekend assaults and has long supported Hamas. Even though Iran disputes any direct involvement, many observers claim that without Tehran’s logistical and training help, Hamas’ meticulously planned attack would not have been possible.
“Hamas would not exist if not for Iran’s support,” U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Wednesday. “And so it is a bit of splitting hairs as to whether they were intimately involved in the planning of these attacks, or simply funded Hamas for decades to give them the ability to plan these attacks. There’s no doubt that Iran has blood on its hands.”
Borrell has repeatedly attempted to communicate with Iran’s hard-line government in the hopes of reviving the so-called nuclear deal with world powers that then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018. Despite ongoing indications of Tehran’s malign activities throughout the region, including the detention of a European diplomat on vacation in Iran, Borrell has repeatedly sought to engage with Tehran.
Despite the vociferous protests of Israel’s then-foreign minister, Yair Lapid, Borrell even traveled to Iran last year in an effort to reopen discussions.
Millions of dollars from the United States ended up in Gaza, which is governed by Hamas, despite the Biden administration’s best attempts to keep the topic primarily under wraps.
Borrell at least maintains consistency.
“Iran wants to wipe out Israel? Nothing new about that,” he said in 2019 when he was still Spanish foreign minister. “You have to live with it.”
Europe now has to deal with the fallout from that flawed strategy and its diminished confidence in Israel, the only democracy in the area.
The Charles Michel Show
The contested, predominately Armenian area of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan is another stark illustration of Europe’s geopolitical powerlessness.
Most people in the world had all but forgotten about the long-simmering dispute there, but not European Council President Charles Michel, who launched an ambitious diplomatic initiative earlier this year amid a rise in tensions.
The sixth meeting between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan was hosted by Michel in Brussels in July. The discussions, according to him, were “frank, honest, and substantive.” Even more, he extended an invitation to a special summit in Granada in October for a “pentalateral meeting” with Germany and France.
After the attack by Hamas in southern Israel this morning, Israel launched Operation Swords of Iron, which involved launching between 2,000 and 5,000 rockets.
Not being was not intended. By that time, Azerbaijan had taken control of the area, forcing more than 100,000 migrants into Armenia. Europe, which was in desperate need of Azerbaijani natural gas, had no choice but to stand by and observe.
Michel initially attributed the failure to Russia, who has long served as Armenia’s guardian in the neighborhood.
“It is clear for everyone to see that Russia has betrayed the Armenian people,” Michel told Euronews.
Similar events have occurred in Kosovo, where Europeans have been attempting to mediate a durable peace between its Albanian and Serbian people for years. The fundamental issue here is the status of Kosovo’s northern region, which borders Serbia and has a majority Serb population of about 40,000 people.
In addition, Borrell appointed a “Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan Regional Issues.”
Former foreign minister of Slovakia and current occupant Miroslav Laják hasn’t had much success. Despite the fact that Laják received the lofty title more than three years ago, the parties are, if anything, more apart now than they have ever been.
In an effort to bring about regional stability, the EU has invested countless millions of dollars in schools, police forces, and other institutions of civil society.
However, after a Serbian militia invasion into northern Kosovo last month, which raised tensions to dangerous levels, the EU was compelled to turn to its tried-and-true crisis-resolution mechanism: Uncle Sam.
The Elite Hamas Unit Tricked Israeli intelligence by making them think that the Hamas leadership was more concerned with the restoration of Gaza’s economy than with escalating hostilities.
”We get criticized for too little leadership in Europe and then for too much,” U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke said in 1998 after Washington dragged its reluctant European allies into an effort to halt the “ethnic cleansing” campaign unleashed by Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milošević in Kosovo.
”The fact is the Europeans are not going to have a common security policy for the foreseeable future,” Holbrooke added. “We have done our best to keep them involved. But you can imagine how far I would have got with Mr. Milošević if I’d said, ‘Excuse me, Mr. President, I’ll be back in 24 hours after I’ve talked to the Europeans.”’
Ukraine serves as a good example of how relevant his argument is even today. Even while the EU has contributed tens of billions in financial, humanitarian, and military aid, it is not nearly enough to assist Ukraine in fending off the Russians. Without American assistance, Russian forces would be deployed all along the eastern edge of the EU, from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
The situation in Ukraine exemplifies the gap between geostrategic goals and actuality in Europe. Despite not having foreseen Russia’s full-scale invasion, Europe has been discussing the need to strengthen its defenses for years.
“We must fight for our future ourselves, as Europeans, for our destiny,” then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared in 2017.
Nothing occurred after that.
The truth is that relying on Washington will always be simpler than achieving European agreement on foreign policy and military capability.
Because of this, security-related debates in Europe sound more like fantasy football discussions than Risk.
Russian military historian and director of the Museum of Air Defense Forces, Yuri Knutov, said that the Hamas attack revealed the Iron Dome’s inefficiency.
Thierry Breton, France’s EU commissioner, declared that Europe needed to consider developing its own aircraft carrier after Biden opted to send a U.S. aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean in response to the Hamas attack this week. Even in Brussels, the remark largely served as humorous relief.
Even the leaders of the EU’s two largest members, France and Germany, do not appear to be serious about the need for Europe to play a greater global role, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz were busy discussing in Hamburg as Biden holed up in the Situation Room of the White House to talk about the problem in Israel.
They enjoyed a harbor tour with their partners after deciding to step up their efforts to reduce bureaucracy in the EU.
The leaders had beer and Fischbrötchen, a Hamburg fish sandwich, at a nearby port as they toast their productive discussions. Even the sun emerged.
Most significantly, though, no one’s phone rang.