The ongoing war in Ukraine is the third asymmetric shock within the last two decades, which the European Union (EU) has failed to prevent and, most importantly, contain. The war creates economic, social, and political conditions that affect certain EU states far worse than others. Just like the 2008 financial crisis and the more recent COVID-19 pandemic. So, the war in Ukraine is another striking reminder that the EU continues to fail in creating a true coalition between its member states at a state and social level.
The social level divide has become more evident in the recent poll by The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), covering over ten member states. Unsurprisingly, it demonstrates solid pan-European support for Ukraine and condemnation of Russia by supplying Ukraine with both military and economic aid. In addition, the EU member states back Ukraine’s bid to become a part of the European Union. However, the ECFR poll also brings to light a growing split between what the European population believes should be the EU’s collective end goal in the Ukraine war.
On the one hand, we have the “Peace” camp, which is 35% of the populace. Then we have those that wish to see the war end immediately even if it means Ukraine has to make concessions. While its counterpart, the “Justice” camp, accounts for 25%.
I feel that the EU should not only directly assist Ukraine in regaining its sovereignty. Yet, more importantly, it must punish Russia for its invasion even if it means a more significant loss of life and prolonging the European Union’s current economic hardship.
The remaining 43% are broken up into two camps. The first one is the “Swing voters” camp, who attribute not all, blame Russia for most of it. Yet they bounce between each center from time to time. They were followed by the fourth and final camp labeled “The Rest” camp who has a less binary understanding of how the war should be concluded. The conservative party generally leaned towards the “Justice” camp, and left-wing parties in large were part of the “Peace” camp. This is true except for German politics, its right-wing parties prefer the EU and their government to adopt the “Peace” camp policy.
Such is the divide regarding what should be the EU’s long-term goals.
As the war rapidly approaches its fifth month, it presses both the individual EU states and the EU itself to find a new narrative that would bridge the break between the two differing camps.
Ukraine-Russia War Could Cause Economic Exhaustion
Despite the overwhelming solidarity that Ukraine saw throughout the western world, the immediate economic effect of the war, such as the rise in fuel and cost of living prices, will continue to do so as long as it persists. Europeans have to question how much of their own money they are willing to spend for Ukraine’s freedom.
With economic pressures boiling amongst EU states, people might be more inclined to seek out a faster approach to reaching a peace policy. Ultimately, both camps understand that the EU will be left worse after the war ends.
The battle will also be determined by willpower to withstand the damages of lengthened Ukraine-Russia war. The ECFR’s polling research shows a growing population within the EU that wishes to see the conflict end as soon as possible. However, this doesn’t translate to an abandonment of Ukraine by the EU. Instead, it entails possibly adopting a foreign policy from the EU to prioritize peace.
So, will the European Union be able to sustain public support for policies that will advantage and disadvantage certain nations over others and different social groups over others? Thus, the ongoing war in Ukraine’s significant and most enduring effect on the European Union is the challenge it possesses for the EU to remain united, not in solidarity with Ukraine, for this will always remain true. Yet in how they wish to address the prolonged ware fare. Suppose the EU cannot create an accurate collation that addresses the growing divide between both camps. Such a divide can emphasize the preexisting division and differences within the European Union, ultimately proving more costly. Hence, an immediate decision is needed on whether they would join arms with Ukraine or even Russian victory. For it would continue the fragmentation of the European Union.
Editor’s Notes: This is a SOFREP reader-submitted piece by Antonio Espirito Santos. Antonio Espirito Santos is a recent graduate from the Queen Mary University of London, receiving a bachelor with honors in History. His professional goal is to become a Foreign Service officer for the State Department to best serve the United States.