Europe's future: don't repeat past mistakes

With the war in Ukraine, relations between Russia and the rest of Europe have reached their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. All EU countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia have been put on a list of "hostile countries" by Putin. The European press looks to the past and reflects on how Europe should prepare for the future.

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Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Western Europe has unlearned confrontational thinking

Rzeczpospolita looks for explanations for Western Europe's long-standing restraint vis-à-vis an increasingly aggressive Russia:

“The differences between the countries of the 'old' and 'new' Europe become apparent in their stance towards Russia. These are based on different experiences. ... Since the middle of the 20th century, the European community of values and interests, pragmatism and pacifism have been at the centre of Western Europe's international relations. These states built their prosperity over many years based on a network of economic and political ties. ... The mutually beneficial relations between the West and Russia were conducted under the motto 'change through trade'.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

Learn from the past

Columnist Xenia Tourki describes in Phileleftheros what should happen after the war:

“There is no doubt that Russia must pay a heavy price for its behaviour in Ukraine. But there is a big difference between such payment and humiliation. ... It is worth taking a look at history. Germany's capitulation and the humiliating conditions imposed on Germany after the First World War led to the dissolution of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Hitler. By contrast, the aid offered to Germany after the Second World War and that offered to Japan, which was also defeated, led to the two countries adopting a peaceful course.”

Expresso (PT) /

Beware of censorship

In an open letter published in Expresso, 20 Portuguese celebrities including sociologist Boaventura Sousa Santos warn against the persecution of dissenters:

“Everywhere in Europe we are experiencing a 'necessary censorship' in which, in disregard of all supposed Western values, athletes are being excluded, exhibitions closed, theatre performances cancelled, directors, teachers and conductors dismissed, concerts and ballet performances, literary courses and film cycles suspended. The signatories of this letter refuse to join those who have quarantined thought and are persecuting all those who reject the logic of confrontation, the increase in tensions and the pathological desire for war to spread worldwide.”

La Stampa (IT) /

A rude awakening

Philosopher Massimo Cacciari laments in La Stampa:

“For all European politicians worthy of the name, for the European intelligentsia, for the conscience of the great majority of our nations, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Gorbachev's perestroika meant the prospect of what had hitherto been inconceivable becoming a real possibility. Europe could finally be what its culture had promised but never achieved: a great space where differences in language, tradition and religion were transformed from eternal enmities into mutual recognition, into the ability to listen and conduct dialogue. ... A great space in which the great Russia could not be absent.”

Eco - Economia Online (PT) /

A new division of Europe

Commenting in Eco, political scientist Carlos Marques de Almeida fears that Europe is facing a new divide:

“The democratic illusion [of a peaceful world order] has been followed by a great democratic disillusion and a return to an understanding of politics defined by the existence of a political enemy. ... The Russian invasion of Ukraine is perhaps the first step towards a new division of Europe - a formal division between a Western Europe and an Eastern Europe under the leadership of Russia, which is presented politically and culturally as one civilisation.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

Chance for peace has been missed

Europe proved itself incapable of preventing the Ukraine crisis, writes academic and author Stephanos Konstandinidis in Phileleftheros:

“It is very likely that Ukraine would have avoided a Russian invasion and the world a new cold war and the threat of a nuclear holocaust if Europe had pursued its own policy instead of serving American hegemony. Europe had the opportunity to integrate Russia into a European security system, which would have also promoted the development of democratic institutions in that country, but it failed to do so. ... Europe opted for a solution that is already proving disastrous for its own interests.”

Kommersant (RU) /

Russians used to isolation because of Covid

Isolated internationally and exposed to reprisals in their own country, many Russians are going into a state of "internal emigration" for which, however, Covid-19 had mentally prepared them, says Commersant:

“Flights abroad are cancelled? So what, we hadn't yet got used to the fact that they were available once more. Covid has taught us that any kind of contact can be abruptly interrupted and familiar travel routes blocked. ... The epidemic measures forced many to settle into the comfort of their homes, their private lives and the internet. ... This, too, was perceived as sanctions imposed from outside: the world is dangerously ill and this illness must be sat out at home. ... This thought has become a habit in recent years and now only needs to be adapted to new initiating factors.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

A new balance of power

The West will have to rearm, Corriere della Sera believes:

“Putin will not stop until he succeeds in installing a puppet government in Kyiv. Or until China ups the pressure and forces him to stop. ... In any case, when the guns finally fall silent after so much death and destruction, European governments must be able to explain to the public that the balance of power in Europe has changed forever. ... Governments must make it clear to their electorates that we must have strong and credible deterrent forces if we do not want other wars to break out sooner or later.”

Jornal de Notícias (PT) /

Eurobonds for reconstruction

Europe needs the courage to not only think of short-term solutions but to develop a full recovery plan, says Jornal de Notícias:

“We can gladly cut energy taxes, increase military budgets, restore the lost centres of food production. But we should also immediately devise an ambitious plan to contain as much as possible the social and economic bloodletting that could be far more devastating than the crisis caused by the coronavirus. The idea of a post-pandemic issuing of eurobonds must therefore be seriously discussed by the European partners. Even by those (the usual suspects) who do not want to open their wallets.”

Libertatea (RO) /

Things will get even more complicated

The EU's relationship with Ukraine will be rife with conflict, Libertatea predicts:

“The radicalised society will demand European funds while at the same time rejecting all EU demands that don't fit in with its own nationalist visions which galvanised the opposition to Russia. ... Regardless of the outcome of the war, regardless of who wins or loses, life in Ukraine will become much more complicated than it was before the war. If up to now Hungary, Poland or Romania have been the 'problem children' of the EU for various reasons, what will happen with Ukraine, which is much further behind in terms of its democratic understanding and institutions?”

Les Echos (FR) /

Ankara's clear commitment to Nato

Putin has injected new life into Turkey-Nato relations, writes political scientist Dominique Moïsi in Les Echos:

“Putin has not only made states traditionally reluctant to any form of military alliance, such as Sweden and Finland, rethink their position, he has also given one of Nato's most recalcitrant members, Turkey, the opportunity to clearly choose sides. ... Ankara, for geographical and historical reasons, does not want Moscow to regain control of Odessa and the Black Sea. It takes so little to resurrect the age-old rivalries between the Ottoman and Russian Empires.”