Europe is Fearful and Desperate

What is spooking the West more immediately is the cascading defeats inflicted on Ukrainian forces, after the Avdeevka rout.

    A leading Establishment newspaper in Europe says that “what is driving European politics at present – is fear”.  The headlines ring out with apprehension: “Germany’s élites run scared, as Putin rains down death on Ukraine”. The British Prime Minister calls an emergency press conference to warns of ‘democracy at risk’ from ‘extremism’ on the eve of a by-election win by George Galloway, an articulate, if somewhat unruly, ‘thorn’ in the side of conventional politics (but hardly any ‘extremist’).

    In the US too the liberal sphere is in meltdown over the publication of a just-released book: White Rural Rage: The Threat To American Democracy, in which “rural whites are [described as] the most racist; xenophobic; anti-immigrant; anti-gay; and conspiracy-minded, anti-democratic” demography in America.  They “don’t believe in an independent press or free speech”, and are “most likely to accept or excuse violence”.

    Of course, the fear is being — in the first instance — diverted outwards towards the claim that this is somehow Russia’s ‘doing’ — a looming ‘menace’ further stoked by claims of President Putin’s ‘imperial aspirations’, way beyond Ukraine.  There is however (to invert the usual MSM meme), absolutely no evidence for these claims (from anything Putin has said over the years).  

    What is spooking the West more immediately is the cascading defeats inflicted on Ukrainian forces, after the Avdeevka rout. The new Ukrainian commander, General Syrski, in the wake of the flight, announced a retreat to new defence lines, but as some had predicted, it turned out that the ‘more favourable lines’ Syrski promoted did not exist.

    Ukrainian photographers Konstantin and Vlada Liberov who document the war from the ground demanded from Syrski: “So what is the next “fortetsia” – Pokrovsk? Or just Konstantinovka?” 

    Where is this second line of defence?” Yuri Butusov, editor-in-chief of Censor—  following his trip to this area – asks: “There are no words. Gap: here in Kiev – the supreme commander-in-chief says one thing, but at the front something completely different is happening. I want to say that no field lines of fortifications have been built beyond Avdeevka so far. I saw Russian drones attacking our soldiers in their burrows – in the middle of a field”.

    There are no constructed defence lines – only hurried improvisations – whilst Ukraine resorts to simply throwing its reserves at the deficiency – so to prop up the incremental retreat.  Did NATO leaders not spot this defence-line lacuna?  Apparently not … 

    And so one leg to the current panic is just this: The EU has heavily over-invested in its Ukraine project, and now sees it fast crumbling. Hence President Macron’s hasty summons of EU states (at 24 hours’ notice) to the Elysée Palace to hear him warn that the situation on the ground in Ukraine was so critical, and the stakes for Europe so high, that: “We’re at a critical point in the conflict where we need to take the initiative: We’re determined to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes”.

    What Macron in fact proposed however, shocked the gathered leaders. He advocated committing detachments of European special forces to Ukraine, not so much directly to fight the Russian forces, but to act as vulnerable strategic ‘tripwire’ deterrents to Russia – which, were they attacked, would ‘trip’ a full-throated NATO retaliation down onto the head of Russia.  

    These tripwire forces, Macron claimed, would form strategic deterrents to Moscow’s military room for manoeuvre  — oases of ‘untouchable’ NATO, scattered through Ukraine. His colleagues, horrified, demurred; they saw the emplaced tripwires as the conveyor belt leading to WWIII: ‘Madness’, and ‘no thank you’.

    The ‘other leg’ to European desperation was given away by PM Sunak’s rush to the microphone in the wake of the Rochdale by-election outcome to warn that democracy is in peril from extremism.  

    One commentator opined: ‘Rishi Sunak was right’: “This is not politics, not even of the radical kind … It is inchoate, incoherent rage which is ready to make common cause with anyone else, who is enraged even on contradictory grounds”.

    If this reaction sounds a bit over the top – just because George Galloway overwhelmingly won in Rochdale – let us ‘join up the dots’ for you:

    The same commentator (Janet Daley in the Telegraph) avers: “To bring this right up to date, we now have an entity called the Workers Party – a name that summons up traditional Left-wing dedication to the interests of working class people – winning a by-election in Rochdale by somehow conflating the Palestinian cause in Gaza with local working class needs”.

    Ouch!  That is what hurts. Echoes here from the Michigan primary in the US, where a coalition of pro-Palestinian groups who had set a modest target of 10,000 ‘uncommitted’ votes — Trump’s margin of victory in Michigan in 2016 — to send a message to President Biden that voter frustration over the Gaza war could cost him dearly in the November election. In the event, however, the pro-Palestinian support blew past the 10,000 target and clocked in at nearly 101,400 votes.

    Message sent — and as the electoral desperation in Democratic circles, indicates, ‘message received’.

    Just to be plain: Events in Gaza and in Ukraine are unravelling long-standing political power control structures in the EU, in Europe and in the US.  This is why there is panic and double-down.

    The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.