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EU Troops in Ukraine

The EU can't wait until November to Act

EU Troops Ukraine

Springtime in Ukraine, if you’ve ever had the pleasure, means mud. And mud is pretty much the last line of defense between Ukraine’s battered forces and the summer push Russia for which appears to be gearing up. In addition to a new wave of conscription in Russia, Siberian prisons have been rounded up to man Moscow’s war-effort.  These aren’t so much trained soldiers as hard-labor convicts carrying out their sentence in a war zone. The purpose is to build defenses behind every inch of the Russian advance. It needs to hold onto whatever it can grab before November, not the Ukrainian winter, but the US election.

For Kyiv, it’s been slow to fortify because it fears those positions will harder to actual borders when negotiations are forced onto the stalemate. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is also terrified of what next winter will bring from the US. So is, for that matter, NATO.

On 3 April, NATO foreign ministers met to discuss ways of the maintaining long-term support for Ukraine. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg proposed a 5-year fund of more than $100bn for Kyiv to shield support for Ukraine “against the winds of political change” or more bluntly, to “Trump-proof” it.

Throughout the Cold War, Europe was always a little like a twenty-something living with their parents: Griping incessantly while someone else paid the mortgage. If nothing else, the Russian invasion has triggered a scramble in Europe to fill the security gaps as the US retreats from its traditional roles. That Europe must achieve military self-reliance in a no-brainer: the EU plans to increase arms production and develop a more kid cohesive European security structure, that will theoretically allow Brussels to step in as Kyiv’s security guarantor if Washington steps back.

Almost immediately after European leaders collectively told French President Emmanuel Macron to shut his mouth about putting EU troops on the ground in Ukraine, they’ve collectively begun to reconsider. The idea of sending boots to thwart Russia aggression is no longer a “so very French”, but is finding supporters in Canada, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania and the Netherlands. British troops are already in country for non-combat, training purposes and are leading an initiative called the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) of mostly Nordic and Baltic countries launched in 2014, around the time of Russia’s “grey” invasion when the idea of Finland and Sweden joining NATO seemed far-fetched.

Take a quick look at European Cold War politics, though, and you’ll see that they’ve been trying to do this for years. War and crisis require leaders willing to act beyond consensus. Ironically, it was probably the fact that the United States wasn’t European (and picking up the tab) that enabled it to call the shots for the alliance. A stand-alone Europe lacks a clear leader: France thinks that it should step into the role that it has been pining for since the Brits sent Napoleon into exile, but no one else is inclined to see it that way. Certainly not places like Hungary or Turkey.

Still, war has a way of focusing people and while you hate to say it, a way of stimulating the economy. Whether the US sites out the first few rounds, it’s up to them to stand up to both Russian military aggression as well as Chinese commercial aggression. Common sense would dictate that if the US wanted to maintain any influence on the Eurasian land mass it would support the security efforts of its European allies – if not with boots, at least with aid and material – and its markets.



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