The greatest geopolitical realignment since the fall of the Berlin Wall

Jacob Akey, Crier Staff

Many a tinpot has dreamt of a European continent united against some common threat. This task has hitherto proven Sisyphean; the Old World is famously tempestuous. Stunningly, Vladimir Putin succeeded in a week. The problem for the Lilliputian Russian standing in Stalin’s cavernous boots is that he has not united the West under him but rather against him. When Putin’s conscript army blundered into Ukraine, they turned a continent of sniveling bureaucrats, perennial losers, and wannabee autocrats into a united front.

Most shockingly, the Swiss shed their Nazi-era reputation as double-dealing Quislings to join their neighbors in sanctioning the Russian aggression. The nation, once best known for sheltering Holocaust loot,adopted policies similar to EU sanctions. Switzerland also voted to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the United Nations. Every European country supported the (symbolic) U.N. resolution except for Belarus. This show of unity was shocking, especially given certain leaders’ habit of openly flirting with Russia whenever they are dissatisfied with the newest overreach from Brussels.

Italy, Hungary, and Cyprus all have an annoying tendency to stamp their feet and threaten to run to Russia whenever they don’t get their way. The Italians see Putin-style chauvinism, cloaked in sufficiently Latin fascismo, as a panacea for all their instability, martial weakness, and unfashionability. The Hungarians have elected an avowed “anti-globalist.” Cyprus’s issue is more monetary than spiritual. They have a plum business selling passports to wealthy Russians. Given the bloody-mindedness of these states, it is astonishing that they all agreed to EU sanctions against Russia and supported restrictions to Russian usage of the SWIFT system. Their Russophilia is, apparently, dead.

Even more pivotal is Germany’s abrupt shift on the Russia problem. For twenty years, Germany has refused to provide for its own defense and has failed to meet the required military spending for NATO nations. The Bundeswehr is a joke without meaningful air capabilities, and the Germans actively blocked arms shipments to Ukraine on the eve of the Russian invasion. Merkel and co. were the biggest liability to European security since Flavius Valens. 

Fortunately for NATO and the EU, Merkel is out and Olaf is in, and this snowman doesn’t melt. The new German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has ended Merkel’s long policy of impotence by halting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and announcing a significant increase in military funding. He has also unveiled plans to wean his nation off Russian energy. Merkel spent most of her tenure seeking to worsen that vulnerability.

Nearly as surprising as the Deutsche-about-face is that of Sweden and Finland. The Nordic peoples have traditionally lived with the threat of invasion from the hulk to their East. Their foreign policy through the Cold War consisted of curling up in a ball, hoping the Soviets didn’t notice them. It is heartening to see the Swedish and Finnish governments so openly discussing NATO membership. Those closest to Russia have always been the most realistic about the threat it posed. The Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians have never minced words about the need for collective security. Neither have the French. Since de Gaulle, France has been a proponent for European defense that was not reliant on the current American mood. Unfortunately for the French, their electorate never seemed sold on the idea. Except for current President Emmanuel Macron, every French presidential candidate has expressed hostility towards NATO.

The world is a very different place today than it was a month ago. Russia is a pariah whose standing would take a decade to rehabilitate, and NATO has been given a new lease on life. The West has collectively found that some things are worth fighting for. Putin will discover this new world is far less hospitable than the old.