The EU gets even more bellicose

IssueJune - July 2024
EU flag ceremony outside the European parliament, 30 June 2014. PHOTO: © European Union 2014 – European Parliament via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Feature by Rob Fairmichael

‘Bellicosity’ is perhaps an old-fashioned word, and comes from the Latin word for war or warlike, ‘bellum’, and perhaps ‘warlike’ is more prosaic English. But, whatever word you prefer, the European Union (EU) is gearing up for a fight with Russia, and unspecified others, along with supporting Ukraine in its war with Russia.

The mind boggles.

The EU, along with its NATO allies, the US and UK, and Russia are all nuclear-armed. It is crazy to continue to push forward with confrontation and a new cold war arms race which no one can win.

Current Polish prime minister and former president of the European Council Donald Tusk talks about a ‘pre-war era’. [The European Council is made up of the heads of state or government of the EU states; some people call it the ‘collective presidency’ of the EU – ed]

A senior NATO official recently told EU ambassadors in Dublin that it was a matter of ‘when’ Russia would invade the EU, not ‘if’.

Rapprochement and conflict resolution or even conflict transformation are difficult but are not even being thought about. And Russia under Vladimir Putin is not easy to deal with.

Those favouring armament and a military approach talk about ‘Munich’ and British prime minister Neville Chamberlain’s mistaken deal with Hitler in 1938. But this is not 1938 or 1939 and Putin may be a murdering quasi-dictator but he is not Hitler and has a more rational approach to what he feels he can get away with.

Putting more money in the armaments basket simply leads to the other side doing more of the same.

‘The West’, EU and NATO ignored Russian security concerns when they decided to take NATO membership up to Russia’s boundaries.

Let’s not tango

It takes two sides to have an arms race. Those who lose are initially the poor when money is diverted to pay the arms merchants and armies. And if the weapons and armies are used in anger then everyone loses big time.

How can we engage nonviolently with a somewhat belligerent ‘other side’ without either giving in to unreasonable demands or seeming weak and vulnerable? And what about ‘our’ side’s warmaking (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya)?

Why are Europeans not thinking in ‘win/win’ terms, difficult as that may be? What common goals could be decided on that would convince all sides that win/win solutions are possible? The EU, which began partly as a ‘peace project’, is looking more and more like a ‘war project’ outside its boundaries.*

What are Russia’s legitimate security concerns? How can Russia be turned from an ‘enemy’ into a friend, as it seemed it might become after the fall of communism? And what went wrong there?

Putin may be in power for more than a decade from now but how do we assist a less nationalist and more open Russia to emerge during and after his rule?

“How can we engage nonviolently with a belligerent ‘other side’ without either giving in to unreasonable demands or seeming weak?”

These are some of the questions which need to be asked but are blatantly not being aired.

Of course it may feel different if you are sitting beside Russia’s borders than if you are falling off the western edge of Europe like Ireland. But it is precisely the ongoing NATO expansion to Russia’s borders which was the occasion for Putin’s full invasion of Ukraine.

It may be counter-intuitive to those with a militarist mindset but building up your armed capacity does not necessarily make you safer, it may simply make your perceived enemy more anxious and trigger-happy, and you more likely to use the weapons you do have.

Think of what led up to the First World War and where that ended up….and what we have in Ukraine is basically the war of attrition from then transposed to more than a hundred years later.

Neutrality has been disparaged by the NATO powers that be and their fellow travellers in Ireland. So it is good to see a congress that happened in Colombia** on neutrality as a way to aid international stability.

There are so many possibilities for neutrality which those in control of the Irish state seem not to see; the sky (plus the earth and the sea) is the limit.

We need to build up the visibility and perceived viability of neutrality as a rational and effective means to work towards international and global peace.

Wisdom from Italy

In ending this piece it is worth quoting the entirety of a recent statement from MIR in Italy on developments in the EU:

‘The Movimento Internazionale della Riconciliazione – a historic Italian pacifist organisation affiliated to the IFOR*** – expresses its dismay and concern at the attempt to transform the European Council into a “war council”, with the expansion of the EU’s military commitment, not only in terms of war production but also by ventilating a worrying “readiness strategy”, which envisages an emergency plan to “prepare citizens for conflict”.

‘“The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, did not hesitate to dust off the old Roman motto ‘If you want peace prepare for war’, hoping that Europe would produce more ammunition and weapons and increase its defence spending,” said Ermete Ferraro, president of the MIR, “Moreover, pandering to the invitation coming from the very summit of the EU executive, Ursula von der Leyen, Michel clearly hypothesised the transition to a ‘war economy’, preparing citizens for a defence perspective in a blatantly warmongering key.”

‘MIR Italy considers these statements to be very severe, as they do nothing but exacerbate the current armed conflicts, sidelining the European Union on a ground that betrays its own founding principles. Indeed, Article 3 of the Lisbon Treaty (2012) states that “The Union shall aim to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples”, and Article 5 states that: “(The EU) contributes to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights […] and to the strict observance and development of international law, in particular respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter”.

‘“These principles cannot be reconciled with openly bellicose policies, in which solidarity is understood as sending arms to a country at war,” commented Ferraro. “Therefore, together with the other pacifist organisations, we strongly denounce these dangerous positions and reaffirm the ethical but also constitutional principle of repudiation of war as a mean of resolving international disputes, reaffirming instead the need to develop an unarmed, civil and non-violent defence method.”’

Topics: Europe, Militarism, NATO