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Rachel Marsden: The Ukraine conflict will destroy Europe long before Russia

Tribune Content Agency logoTribune Content Agency 10/18/2022 Rachel Marsden, Tribune Content Agency
The Swedish Coast Guard released a photo of gas emanating from a leak on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea on Sept. 27, 2022, in At Sea. © (Swedish Coast Guard/Getty Image The Swedish Coast Guard released a photo of gas emanating from a leak on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea on Sept. 27, 2022, in At Sea.

VANCOUVER — Back when U.S. intelligence assessments suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin would ultimately order a military intervention in Ukraine in response to years-long attacks on the Ukrainian Russophone population along the Russian border by NATO-backed Kyiv forces, basic common sense suggested that any generalization of that confrontation would blow apart the Transatlantic Alliance. There’s just no way that the European Union would sacrifice its economy and industry, whose reliance on cheap Russian gas enabled the bloc to fulfill its ambitions of competing on the global playing field with the likes of the U.S. and China, some of us figured.

The truth is that we underestimated the degree to which European leaders are hopelessly, ideologically blinded beyond any and all reason. There’s no evidence that the current strategy of Europe cutting itself off from Russian energy and resources is having the desired impact in either provoking the destruction of Russia or peace in Ukraine. As the ruble climbs in value and Moscow orients its resource sales elsewhere while raking in massive profits as the conflict spikes sale prices, it’s Europeans who are being legally ordered by their governments to limit indoor heating to defined temperatures under threat of fines while energy bills and inflation skyrocket and European industry starts struggling under the weight of fuel-related costs.

Rachel Marsden wearing a dress shirt and tie © Provided by Tribune Content Agency Rachel Marsden

For its eight rounds of anti-Russian sanctions, the Ukrainian people aren’t any closer to a favorable resolution. But the most obvious hint of the arguably biggest winner in this conflict came recently when the German economy minister, Robert Habeck, chastised the U.S. for selling Europe natural gas at exorbitant prices. “Some countries, including friendly ones, sometimes achieve astronomical prices [for their gas]. Of course, that brings with it problems that we have to talk about," Habeck told German newspaper NOZ. “The United States contacted us when oil prices shot up, and the national oil reserves in Europe were tapped as a result. I think such solidarity would also be good for curbing gas prices.”

Just a few days ago, the French economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, also asked the Biden administration to lower the prices of American liquefied natural gas sold to the EU, the sale of which has exploded from 28 percent last year to a current 45 percent.

Uh, checkmate? What exactly was Europe expecting? They were egged on by Washington to do their part “for Ukraine” by cutting off their own cheap energy supply, and rapidly found themselves adrift at sea, having torched their sail. Now, the U.S. has effectively gained control of a global economic competitor through energy sales — which is, ironically, exactly what Washington had been telling the EU to be careful of doing with Russian gas.

Europe has just traded one form of dependence — with which it really had no problem, previously — for another. And already cracks are showing between the U.S. and its European allies. The big question is exactly how long the EU will maintain its unproductive, self-destructive current posture for purely useless ideological reasons.

One has to hand it to Washington for finally finding the right pretext to get Europe to voluntarily jump without a parachute. It’s been years since Washington has tried to get the EU to cut itself off from Russian gas through U.S. sanctions, while the bloc had continued to resist U.S. efforts to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline (now partly, mysteriously sabotaged) from Russia to Germany. But the words “for Ukraine” were clearly all that was required.

And the pain risks aggravating for Europe, if legislation debated in the U.S. Senate last week is any indication. The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act foresees a rapid sale of weapons and increased military cooperation with Taiwan, right around the time that Taipei is reportedly considering mandatory military service of one year starting in 2024.

The EU, which relies on China as its largest trading partner, isn’t keen on what’s shaping up to be a potential showdown with China via Taipei in the same way that Ukraine has been used to provoke Russia.

“The access to China is becoming more and more difficult. The adjustment will be tough, and this will create political problems,” said EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell, ostensibly in reference to ever-increasing US sanctions against China that effectively block EU trade. EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis was less fatalistic and more insistent on resisting the Washington posture. “The EU should continue engaging with China with pragmatism and without naivety,” said Dombrovskis, while emphasizing that decoupling from China wasn’t an option for the EU.

The conflict in Ukraine may not have spontaneously fractured the Transatlantic Alliance at its onset, but it still may do so yet if Europe ever grows a pair and stands up for the interests of its own citizens rather than for the ruinous ideological fantasies of its bureaucratic elites.

(Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of independently produced talk shows in French and English. Her website can be found at http://www.rachelmarsden.com.)

©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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