by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In less than a week, European foreign policy has been turned on its head.
Before Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine last Thursday, the European Union had never agreed to ban a nation from the SWIFT banking messaging system, Germany had not sent weapons to a conflict zone since World War II, and Switzerland had remained neutral since 1815.
That all changed last Thursday after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky joined a video call with EU leaders about to debate a new round of sanctions against Russia. If Europe “doesn’t help us today,” Zelensky said on the call, “if you do not strongly help Ukraine, then tomorrow, war will knock on your doors.”
“This might be the last time you see me alive,” Zelensky closed.
Within hours, the EU had banned Russian banks from SWIFT and Russian flights from EU airspace, blocked transactions from Russia’s central bank, and frozen the assets of Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Germany went even further, not only sending anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine but also committing to doubling its defense spending and fast-tracking the construction of two new liquefied natural gas facilities. A leader of Germany’s green political party even said they would agree to keep Germany’s existing nuclear power plants open if it meant the nation would be less dependent on Russian energy imports. This is a 180-degree defense policy turn for Germany, which had been closing its nuclear plants and had strongly resisted former President Donald Trump’s demands that it spend more on defense to live up to its NATO obligations.
In short, Europe is finally awakening from a fatuous complacency with a new understanding of just how monstrous Putin’s Russia really is.