For months Europe had thought that mere verbal (and hollow) threats, populist posturing and propaganda would be enough to force Russia's Putin to back off and withdraw from the endless Ukraine escalation, into a Kremlin cocoon with his tail between his legs. What they didn't anticipate was that Putin would in no way back down (as that would be seen as defeat and weakness by his numerous internal foes), nor would have have to: with Russia providing a third of European gas and with winter approaching, Russia had all the trumps cards from day one. Furthermore, as a result of escalating trade wars it is not Russia's economy that is hurting but Europe, which is on the verge of a historic triple-dip recession, only unlike 2010 and 2012, this time it is Europe's growth dynamo, Germany, itself which is leading the lemmings into the abyss.
Now, finally, Europe has realized that its "strategy" (if it ever had one, red: Obama's 'strategy' on dealing with ISIS) was flawed. It is with this mindset that European Union leaders met in Brussels earlier today and while, as usual, the the threat of new and improved sanctions to Russia was present, suddenly Europe's leaders seem far more "fearful of a new Cold War and self-inflicted harm to their own economies" and instead decided to give Moscow another chance to make peace according to Reuters.
Confirming Europe's realization just how serious events are, and how far down the rabbit hole Europe's bureaucrats have gone, French President Francois Hollande, while stressing that a failure by Russia to reverse a flow of weapons and troops into eastern Ukraine would force the bloc to impose new economic measures i.e., nothing new, it is what he said just after that indicated a dramatic change in rhetoric: "Are we going to let the situation worsen, until it leads to war?" Hollande said at a news conference. "Because that's the risk today. There is no time to waste."
Because when Europe, the cradle of both World War I and II talks war, it is a good idea to listen.
Of course, the problem of hypocrisy promptly emerges, because it is France whose mistral amphibious assault ship is being delivered to Russia over the objections of both Germany (whose own military export complex has quite a few pending RFPs to the Kremlin) and of course Washington. That, and the fact that it is Europe's actions that have led the situation to the bring of another world war. Actions such as the expansion of NATO to Russia's borders which the Kremlin, justifiably, sees as yet another offensive intrusion by the west into purely regional matters, because last time anyone checked, Ukraine was neither a member of NATO nor the European Union.
The paradoxical hypocrisy continued when none other than British PM, who has been teasing with pulling the UK out of Europe for months over the election of Jean-Claude "You have to lie pretty much all the time in Europe" Juncker, also spoke on behalf of a united Europe. From Reuters:
British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We have to address the completely unacceptable situation of having Russian troops on Ukrainian soil. Countries in Europe shouldn't need to think long before realising just how unacceptable that is. We know that from our history.
"So consequences must follow if that situation continues."
Consequences such as pushing Germany into outright depression, which in turn would lead to a global economic contraction? Sure, go ahead, but keep in mind that once again Putin has done his homework. Unless, of course, the entire premise is to launch another round of global coordinated QEasing, and this time blame the Kremlin as the "scapegoat" for thrusting the world into at least one more year of unprecedented Reverse Robin Hood wealth redistribution by way of central banks.
Meanwhile, Europe's hawkish warmongers had free reign today to tell the world how they really feel:
The president of formerly Soviet Lithuania, an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin and of EU hesitation to challenge him, called for urgent military supplies to Kiev and a tougher arms embargo on Russia. Dalia Grybauskaite said Moscow, by attacking Ukraine, was effectively "in a state of war against Europe".
But large Western countries are wary of damaging their own economies through sanctions. Those include Germany, Britain and France, as well as Italy, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas and expects to secure the post of EU foreign affairs chief. Poroshenko gave short shrift to Moscow's denials by denouncing the past week's incursion of thousands of troops with hundreds of armoured vehicles and said he expected the summit to order the European Commission to prepare a new set of sanctions.
But, like Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, he used their joint news conference to stress a will to find a political solution to a crisis that President Putin blames on Kiev's drive to turn the ex-Soviet state away from its former master Moscow and toward a Western alliance with the EU and NATO.
He said he was not looking for foreign military intervention and expected progress toward peace as early as Monday - because failure could push the conflict to a point of no return: "Let's not try to spark the new flame of war in Europe," he said.
Barroso also warned of the risk of a "point of no return" in stressing that EU leaders wanted to defuse the confrontation with their nuclear-armed neighbour.
"It makes no sense to have ... a new Cold War," Barroso said. Further conflict would hurt all of Europe, he said, adding that sanctions were meant to push Moscow to talk. His Commission already had prepared a number of options for further measures.
Europe may be shocked to learn that the Cold War never went away, but simply was on hiatus until the Russian bear and the Chinese dragon felt strong enough they can finally ascend to global superpower status, in the process sweeping away the insolvent west, and its reserve currency status.
All that said, no pun intended, there was nothing actually decided today in Brussels, nor was any action taken, as is generically the case in Europe. In fact, the only thing that did happen is that as was known in advance, moments ago Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk replaced Haiku-spewing, unelected Gollum lookalike Herman Van Rompuy, a well-known figurehead from the days when Europe was actively fighting for its survival.
With Tusk, a conservative easterner, replacing the Belgian Van Rompuy, Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini from the centre left would take over as the bloc's foreign policy chief, replacing Briton Catherine Ashton.
In overall charge of the executive Commission, in succession to Barroso, will be conservative former Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker, appointed at a stormy summit two months ago.
Eastern leaders, alarmed by a resurgent Moscow, had resisted the appointment of Mogherini at that time. At 41 and in government only since February, they saw her as lacking the political experience and weight to stand up to the Kremlin and also handicapped by Italy's dependence on Russian energy.
In fact, while Europe's powerlessness to do anything to halt Putin's advance is well-known, the most interesting aspect of today's meeting that left Belgian caterers that much richer, was the horsetrading of hollow, bureaucratic figureheads at the top: something Europe also excels at.
Britain, France, Germany and other countries are competing to see their nominees secure important portfolios in Juncker's team, such as in economic affairs, trade and energy supply.
The horse-trading over jobs underlines the power of rival national governments over the supranational institutions of the EU. Proponents of a strong political leadership in Brussels that can inspire and rally an increasingly sceptical European public behind the common project may again be left disappointed.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Friday he would propose a meeting to discuss tackling the "really worrying" economic situation across Europe, with growth and jobs elusive and fears of a new crisis for the euro currency.
The leaders agreed to schedule that summit for Oct. 7, according to the draft statement.
And so on.
To summarize: more worthless power moves, more hollow rhetoric and threats, more verbal escalation; nothing else.
In fact, the most notable comment all day today came from Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban who said that EU sanctions on Russia haven’t worked and it’s "self-delusion" to think they’ll help resolve the crisis in Ukraine.
Well, if there is anything Europe, and its allegedly unlimited but certainly very limited amount of political capital spent to preserve an unsustainable, artificial union, excels in it is "self-delusion."