One movement of Putin and here: the unity of the West grows stronger overnight

BRUSSELS – In a few days, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved what has remained out of the EU’s attention for decades – to jointly purchase and send weapons to the war zone – and has restored what has been violated over the years – transatlantic unity.

For years, Putin could sit back and enjoy the obscene scenes of Western disunity – from Britain’s exit from Brexit to the EU in 2016, Hungary’s long-standing antipathy to its EU headquarters and, equally, the split created former President Donald Trump. which is far from completely healed under Joe Biden.

For Putin, the time seemed ideal for his invasion of Ukraine, as it could have further opened the cracks of division as the war on the continent forced everyone to go beyond the diplomatic comfort zone.

“And as Vladimir Putin thought he would destroy European unity, the opposite has happened,” European Council President Charles Michel said in an interview with a small group of journalists on Monday.

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“Cooperation is solid as stone,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. It is demanded by circumstances that none of us could have imagined, ”Michel added.

On Monday, Biden held another video conference with EU, UK and other Western leaders to consolidate a common package of sanctions unprecedented in scale and unity. Last weekend, Brussels and Washington announced financial sanctions within minutes of each other, all aimed at the central bank and excluding Russia from much of SWIFT’s international financial transaction system.

Together, they closed the airspace for Russian planes, agreed on lists of Russian oligarchs to strike. Seeing the West converge instead of parting ways, Putin on Monday switched to the old jargon the West used to use during the Cold War of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

Focusing his anger on Washington, he described the Western allies as “companions of the United States who are submissive to him, bow to him, copy his behavior and gladly accept the rules he proposes to follow.”

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“Therefore, it is fair to say that the entire Western bloc, formed by the United States to its liking, is an empire of lies,” Putin said.

Western nations will take such unity these days as a compliment, and it was unheard of before Putin began gathering troops on Ukraine’s border.

In particular, the position within the 27 EU countries is a major change that has been achieved in several tides.

“This is a turning point,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after Sunday’s EU decision to “finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to the country under attack.”

This is the same European Union based on a post-World War II peace project that only turned swords into plowshares to recreate a continent of prosperity with unprecedented wealth. It was the same European Union that won the Nobel Peace Prize 10 years ago for what it could have achieved without the use of weapons.

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It was also the same bloc that for years praised the value of what he called a soft power – diplomacy, aid, cultural exchanges – instead of the raw power that comes through the barrel of a weapon.

All that changed in just a week. Now Michelle says, “Weakness has no place, and we need to show firmness.”

Nowhere has the change been as pronounced as in Germany, the EU’s leading economic power, but also as a country unwilling to invest heavily in military power, largely because of its militaristic past that led to the horrors of World War II.

In recent years, Germany has faced strong criticism for failing to meet NATO’s target of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense. However, on Sunday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany would allocate 100 billion euros ($ 113 billion) to a special fund for its armed forces and increase defense spending above 2% “from now on from year to year.”

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Scholz also voiced Germany’s refusal to export weapons to conflict zones, promising to send anti-tank weapons and surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine.

“If our world is different, then our policy should be different,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Burbock. The turn in politics was made by a government led by center-left Social Democrats, sometimes criticized as soft on Russia, and the Green Party, which has pacifist origins.

This world has also changed for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is often seen in the EU as the version of an autocrat leader similar to Putin. For years, he spoke out against the EU as interference, befriended Putin and was seen as a man who could break the bloc from within.

Especially since the EU sanctions against Russia require the unanimity of all 27, the moment is enticing. However, Hungary stood in line no less than the others when it came to sanctions – in a few days.

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“I immediately spoke to Victor Orban when we faced this new situation, and I can tell you that supporting Hungary was less difficult than expected,” Michel said.

Perhaps these are the first days of the war, and more difficult moments can be expected with even bigger decisions, especially since Putin and his entourage had time to prepare for any situation.

“They have the opportunity to keep going for a while, despite the pain,” said Amanda Paul of the Center for European Policy’s think tank. “So that means the West will need to be very committed and determined to keep pursuing and pursuing.”

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Geir Moulson in Berlin, as well as Lorne Cook and Mark Carlson in Brussels contributed to this report.

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