In Ukraine, two wars intersect. One is for the revival of a dead union, the other for the creation of a new kind of peaceful coexistence among peoples. This is Vladimir Putin’s war, as he attempts to bring former territories of the Soviet Union back under Russian rule and to lead Orthodox Christianity. The war is also a warning to the people of Europe, that they will either strengthen their Union or surrender to the forces of its destruction.
The European Union, as it has proved in the past few years, evolves through crisis. The Greek debt crisis and the pandemic found it unprepared, at the mercy of a lazy mentality in which narrow national interests trumped the collective good. The member-states were suddenly forced to adopt policies and mechanisms that strengthened the Union and, consequently, each one of them. Taboos had to be broken, especially Germany’s rejection of any thought of common borrowing. Angela Merkel realized that if the Union was not strengthened, it was doomed. Along with several common policies, more recently she accepted the establishment of a fund to deal with the pandemic. Funded by joint borrowing, this was to be a one-off. But now, the war and the ever-rising cost of energy will force the member-states to establish another, similar fund. In addition, the war has prompted a radical reversal in Germany’s defense policy. This, and the unprecedented unanimity among member-states in their stand against Russia, opens the way for a common defense and foreign policy. Only a few weeks ago, this seemed impossible.
The United States developed into a powerful federation through civil war. The Soviet Union was established on territory subjugated by the Russian Empire and dominated lands it occupied after World War II. The European Union rose from the ashes of that most bloody of wars. Recently, though, the vision of an ever-closer Union was losing ground, with the rise of extremist voices that obstructed closer cooperation.
The war in Ukraine shows how dangerous such ideas are. It reinforces the need for a Union of free nations, a union that they will fight to defend. Fighting for their freedom, the Ukrainians may strengthen Europe’s resolve, sparing it worse bloodshed in the future.