Vladimir Putin launched an attack on Ukraine with many wrong assumptions, and as time passes, it turns out that there were many more than at the beginning. One of the biggest is, however, that the European Union and NATO would be in disagreement when the invasion started, and that each new day of the expected Russian progress would only deepen the divisions in the two western axes.
That, in fact, was not Putin’s assumption, it was his investment, from which he expected a dividend on February 24. He dedicated his entire two-decade rule to that goal, even those first years in the Kremlin, when, to the West, he seemed as someone with whom they would be able to live in peace and cooperation. Even in 2007, they did not understand him correctly, when he condemned America and the West at a security forum in Munich, because they broke the alleged promise that NATO would not expand after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The following year, he carried out an aggression against Georgia, but even that was not enough for the West to really understand who they were dealing with. There was always understanding for him and his actions in some important western center. That was enough time for him to invest years of effort and billions of dollars in order for the disagreements and divisions in the West regarding Russia, to be as extensive as possible.
From this wrong assumption of his, or a failed investment, another one emerges, much more dangerous for him and will probably turn out to be fatal. It concerns the point at which the West is uniting and from which it is creating a new political, economic and security image of Europe and the world. That point is Russia and the attitude towards it. The construction of a new European architecture is underway, in which the attitude towards Russia is the main criterion of unity and a measure of alliance. To what extent you are ready to stand in front of the values of Western civilization and defend them from Russian attack.
Not everyone was ready for such a fight from the first day, some are not even ready today. There have been many attempts to compromise and examine the borders, and there are still some today, almost three months after Russia started the invasion of Ukraine. The case of Admiral Schönbach, the commander of the German Navy, who said on the eve of the Russian aggression that Putin was only seeking respect and that he “probably deserves it”, has already been forgotten. Even his chancellor, Olaf Scholz, did not “manage” in that position, as a newcomer, so the wandering of the new German government at the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis over the fate of Nord Stream 2 threatened to seriously shake Western unity. Maybe even torpedo it. And in the continuation of the crisis, the German government is zigzagging towards Russia, more precisely towards its gas.
Another European giant, France, is not behind in fabricating dilemmas – is its support for Ukraine and resistance to Russia really complete and uncompromising? According to Volodymyr Zelensky, President Macron recently asked Ukraine to provide Russia with “concessions regarding its sovereignty” in order to help Putin “save face”. Maybe in some other circumstances, this rather shameful offer would come true. In circumstances in which the most powerful Europeans, such as Germany and France, have the last word. But the war in Ukraine changed that as well. The question is whether they are aware of these changes in Paris and Berlin, for example.
New European leaders are on the scene, their countries are not in the first circle of powerful and influential, but their sense of recognizing the direction in which the reversal is going, makes them today the leaders of the “new European order”. They understood without error that the new architecture is being built around the point of relations with Russia, and especially around the readiness that the defense of Western values must be uncompromising.
It is not surprising that this new European wave could not have been predicted by Putin, an autocrat with 22 years of unlimited rule, but it is somewhat surprising that this huge change is being ignored by the old European leaders, France and Germany, for example.
One of the new European leaders, for example, is the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas. In simple, and therefore true words, she asks Europeans to stop talking to Putin. “Why are you talking to him? He is a war criminal. As long as you call him, he doesn’t realize he’s isolated. Don’t call him.” Can Macron and Scholz get a clearer message than the one sent to them by the Estonian Prime Minister? It’s not just strong words. Kaja Kallas’s Estonia is the first EU country after neighboring Lithuania to say it will stop importing Russian gas, not only because it is angry about the aggression against Ukraine, but also because it has been preparing for this for ten years and securing supplies from other countries.
The new European leaders are also the Prime Ministers of Finland and Sweden, Sanna Marin and Magdalena Andersson. Both come from the famous Scandinavian social democracy, but both are firmly in the 21st century. Undoubtedly, they are the most deserving for the fact that these two giants of European and global neutrality officially join NATO in few weeks. All the discussions, in which those who do not want to join NATO were in the majority for years, ended on February 24, when Russia attacked Ukraine. Sweden and Finland do not want to be alone next to a neighbor who is once again showing aggressive and destructive nature. It is the decision of two highly developed economies and two champions in respect for human rights, as well as two traditionally neutral diplomacies for which, both warring camps, East and West, had great respect throughout history, using their good peacekeeping services.
New European leaders are also sitting in the new government in Sofia, led by Harvard student Kiril Petkov. And they have very well recognized the foundations on which relations are already being built in Europe and the West, and that is why they are uncompromising towards Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Prime Minister Petkov and his ministers repeat that Bulgaria is also closing its doors to Russian gas and rightly point out that if they, as the poorest European economy, can do it, then everyone can. And that is the message addressed to Paris and Berlin and their feeling that their greatness and influence give them the right to compromise with Putin and his isolated state.
This new leadership team, and there are few more in the team, is right now reshaping Europe and the West into a new form, the one we will observe and live in for decades to come. If they had lived in the 1930s and 1940s, there is no doubt that they would have treated Hitler as Churchill did, without compromise and without mercy. At the time of the fall of communism, they were in primary school, but if they were the same age as they are today, there is no doubt that they would lead their countries towards Europe, the West and NATO. They would have no dilemma.
On their “shift”, as leaders of their countries, they were caught in a historical turning point and they are coping perfectly with it. The image of the future they have is crystal clear and they have the ability to share it with their fellow citizens and they are gaining trust for what they are doing. With their attitude towards Putin’s Russia and its aggression against Ukraine, they opened a new era, ending a decade of the famous “lack of leadership” in Europe, as one of the main factors in its decline. They do not come from large and influential centers of European decision-making, but they have enough authority to return Europe to the beginning, to its peaceful and liberal foundations. And they have already shown enough muscles to be able to defend what they believe in.