What have six months of war done to Europe?

In the sixth month of its war of aggression against Ukraine, Russia has not abandoned any of its objectives. After the initial shock and the subsequent sanctions and promises of solidarity, the EU seems to be battening down for a protracted war. Commentators look at the impact of the war on Europe's societies.

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Wprost (PL) /

War makes monsters of us all

Fantasy writer Łukasz Orbitowski questions his own emotions in Wprost:

“I have developed a hatred for Russians, and sometimes I no longer think of them as human beings, but as Orcs of Mordor. I have no pity for them when they die. Gimli would have no pity with them either. I rejoice at news of ships being sunk, planes being shot down and lives being lost. Many of my friends think the same way. They cracked open a bottle of champagne when the car carrying Darya blew up. It tore the young girl apart. What has happened to us, that all of a sudden we take pleasure in political assassinations? Aren't we becoming monsters ourselves? ... The war has also stripped us, the citizens of a safe country, of something - which is of course the least tragic consequence of war.”

Večer (SI) /

Not taking things for granted anymore

Those who condemn wars run into a contradiciton, Večer explains:

“Many people are annoyed that we in the EU apply double standards to wars. That is probably true, because if it took its proclaimed democratic and peaceful values seriously the EU would have long since stopped allowing American, Israeli or Saudi tourists to enter the bloc, as it plans to do now with the Russians. ... Why? It's not just a question of proximity. It's that the Europeans are increasingly questioning whether their values, their relatively democratic system and their prosperity, which is now threatened by import bans on Russian energy supplies, can still be taken for granted.”

LRT (LT) /

Do not go astray

Political scientist Deividas Šlekys examines the impact of the war in Ukraine on Lithuanian society in LRT:

“There is a section of society that is very interested in defence, but amid all the enthusiasm I also see signs of negative and pathetic nationalism: arm everyone, anyone who is not with us is an enemy and a traitor, etc. ... I agree that it is difficult to maintain a balance between everyday democratic life and preparation for war in a border state. But let us not ignore the complex relationship between democracy and war. We could go astray. First with our words, later with our deeds.”

Právo (CZ) /

It's touch and go

The EU's unity is on rather shaky ground, Právo writes worriedly:

“We had better not try to paint too rosy a picture. The energy crisis in particular could lead to many tensions between the EU member states - and within the EU as a whole. Despite the optimistic statements coming out of Brussels, a number of governments are completely at a loss in this crisis. There are too many imponderables. As a result, the very cohesion of the Union is at stake. And the Americans? So far they've been very committed on this front. Without them not enough arms would be delivered. Even more important for them, however, is the 'Chinese front'. And Washington does not have the strength to fight on two fronts.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

A day-to-day struggle

Within the EU, the will to resist the Russian regime has sharply diminished, laments The Daily Telegraph:

“For the last two months no EU member has pledged new material support to Ukraine. The EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, admitted this week that keeping the bloc together is a 'day-to-day struggle'. ... Continued support from the UK and Eastern Europe, however stiff, will not be enough. Unless unified Western backing can be propped up, Putin’s central calculation will be proved right - that his will to win is greater than the West's will to resist.”

Deutsche Welle (RO) /

Time to turn things around

Ukraine must be helped so it can win a definitive victory, writes Deutsche Welle's Romanian Service:

“Looking at the situation rationally, we must conclude that the West, which has adjusted its positions too slowly, hesitantly and gradually over the past six months, must now make a final about-turn, resolutely rearm Ukraine, and thus help it to drive out the invaders. ... Such a victory would greatly discourage the global neo-totalitarian alliance. In the face of a clear Russian defeat, decisive parts of the armed forces and intelligence services could invoke 'patriotism' to put an end to Putin's rule.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Peaceful coexistence no longer possible

The West must be ready to stand by Kyiv for a long time to come, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung stresses:

“This is not just a moral obligation towards a democracy under attack (however imperfect it was before the war). The unwillingness to compromise displayed by the Ukrainian president in his speech is also in the West's interest. Indeed, what applies to Ukraine also applies to the rest of Europe: peaceful coexistence with Russia's current rulers is no longer possible, because that's the last thing they're interested in.”

Expresso (PT) /

The fall of the "European home"

Political scientist Sandra Fernandes looks back to more optimistic times in Expresso:

“The clean break in relations between the European Union and Russia, the continent's two largest communities, is destroying the idea of a 'common European home'. The construction of this 'home' conceived by Gorbachev proved to be a somewhat naive ideal in the context of the 1990s, when common conditions were effectively imposed on Moscow because of its weakened position. In its early days, post-Soviet Russia still claimed to belong to Europe and play an important role in a shared continent. Now it presents itself as ultra-nationalist and isolationist.”

Club Z (BG) /

Longing to return to the comfort zone

Club Z fears:

“The prosperous world is gradually accepting the war as one of many conflicts outside its comfort zone, even if that means narrowing that zone. Yes, Ukraine is neither Somalia nor Yemen, and the war there is the biggest in Europe since World War II, but it is not the only one. The bloody disintegration of the former Yugoslavia was not so long ago. The feeling that something extraordinary is happening, demanding effort and sacrifice from us, is gradually giving way to our desire for a return to normality.”

Polityka (PL) /

A new brotherhood

Polish-Ukrainian relations are entering a new phase, Polityka believes:

“What was meant to be Putin's blitzkrieg has turned out to be Russia's biggest geopolitical disaster since the collapse of the Soviet Union. ... Today, the vast majority of Ukrainians regard Poles as friends and even brothers, even though Russia has drilled into them that their true brothers are Russians. This radical improvement in the image of Poles among Ukrainians holds out significant political potential: it could form the foundation for a whole new partnership between our peoples and states.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Catastrophic impact for all sides

El Periódico de Catalunya calls for immediate peace negotiations:

“The outcome is devastating. ... For Ukraine, the victim of dreadful destruction, but also for Russia, which is suffering unprecedented sanctions and severe international isolation. The countries of the EU are bracing themselves for one of the most difficult winters since the Second World War and the 1973 oil crisis. ... The impact of the conflict is also hitting many developing countries. ... In the face of such a catastrophe, there can be no other policy than to redouble efforts and diplomacy to put an end to the aggression. ... All must act in the general interest and agree on a mutually acceptable ceasefire as soon as possible.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Peace is receding into the distance

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, however, writes that Russia has gambled away any trust it ever enjoyed over the last six months:

“The overriding sense of mistrust makes a peaceable solution almost unthinkable. Here, too, the blame lies with Russia, which as recently as 1994 guaranteed the borders of sovereign Ukraine in return for its giving up nuclear weapons. ... It will therefore be difficult to convince Ukraine to trust any new international guarantees of its territorial integrity in the framework of a future agreement - for instance on a neutral status. It has learned that only military strength offers protection against its unpredictable neighbour. Since neither side faces an imminent defeat on the battlefield, peace in Ukraine is receding into the distance.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Now comes the war of attrition

The West will still have to make considerable sacrifices if it wants Russia to lose the war, Berlingske comments:

“Putin has lost the blitzkrieg, now comes the war of attrition. Both sides have suffered great losses. From now on, the war will be decided by who can stay on their feet the longest. ... This war has changed the world, and it has changed us too. It has tarnished our image of Russia as a great military power - in this respect Putin has already lost. But if Ukraine is to win the next six months of war, this will demand even more from the world - and from us.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Dictatorships are the first to buckle

In the geostrategic wrangling between Western-style democracies and autocratic regimes like Russia and China, the former have more staying power, the Financial Times believes:

“The historical record suggests the authoritarian world will fracture first: if not over this, then something else. While liberal countries tend to be liberal in much the same way, there are flavours of autocracy, and they pair badly. The ethnic chauvinist hates the universal Marxist. ... Two theocracies of different denominations hate each other. 'Axis' was a kind word for a group of second world war belligerents - Germany, Italy and Japan - that rarely viewed each other as racial or civilisational equals.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Both sides have their finger on the button

Večernji list fears the worst:

“Every war is dangerous. But the war in Ukraine is more dangerous than others, because it could turn into a world war in which the most devastating weapons are used. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant drama shows that both sides have their finger on the button. ... The potential for an escalation of the war has not yet been exhausted: the Ukrainians are fighting for survival, the right to their own state. The Russians have failed to learn from their own example what it's like when a country is threatened with occupation. They have now become the occupiers.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Moscow on the defensive

The war is definitely not going according to plan for Putin, Rzeczpospolita writes:

“The Ukrainians have begun to strike back. And they're aiming at Putin's most sensitive area: Crimea. And yet again, Russian corruption and inferior weapons are proving less effective than the technologies Kyiv receives from the West. ... On Saturday morning the Russian government reported that a drone had been shot down directly over the Black Sea Fleet headquarters. ... It's hard to imagine what Putin would do if the Ukrainians destroyed the Crimean Bridge he built. Launch a general mobilisation? Declare another Patriotic War? He's on the defensive now.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Putin wants to claim victory soon

Although Moscow may have failed to achieve its original war objectives it doesn't make much difference from a propaganda perspective, writes columnist Philip Short in The Guardian:

“Moscow does not have to achieve a great deal for Putin to be able to claim victory. It would be enough for Russia to control all of the Donbass and the land bridge to Crimea. He would certainly like more. If Russian troops take Odesa and the contiguous Black Sea coast, it would reduce Ukraine to vassalage. But even more modest gains would show the limits of US power. It is possible that Ukraine, with solid western backing, will be able to prevent that. But it is far from certain.”

Birgün (TR) /

No one talking about a ceasefire anymore

After six months of war one thing is clear, says Birgün:

“Although the war is being fought on Ukrainian territory, the decision to end it or announce a ceasefire will not be made in Kyiv but in Washington and Moscow, because this is a confrontation between the West and Russia. It's obvious that the US, Nato and the Western alliance are planning to prolong the war for years in order to weaken Russia's resistance. Nobody is talking about a ceasefire or peace anymore, even though both sides have suffered heavy human, military and material losses. Both Kyiv and Moscow believe they can end the war in their favour.”

El País (ES) /

Energy is crucial

El País stresses that Europe's role is extremely important for Ukraine right now:

“Ukraine has slowed down the invaders' advance to the point where since mid-August it has seized the initiative on the battlefield. ... A definitive victory would be the complete recovery of the territories occupied by Russia since 2014, including Crimea, and that is something that Putin will hardly accept. ... This is where the countries supporting Kyiv play an extremely important role. ... And this explains [Putin's] current decision to use his energy weapon with the clear aim of provoking widespread social unrest and forcing Zelensky into some kind of agreement with Moscow. ... Even more than in the military sphere, this is where the key to victory or defeat lies.”