EU summit threatens Russia – World Socialist Web Site
The escalation of the coronavirus pandemic and threats to Russia were at the center of the EU summit which met in Brussels on Thursday. The two problems are closely linked. The more palpable the criminal recklessness with which European governments sabotage any serious protection of the population against the potentially deadly virus, the harder they hit the war drum to deflect social tensions outward.
The assembled leaders agreed that with the Omicron variant a fifth wave was now developing that would eclipse all previous ones. In Britain, which is no longer part of the EU, infection rates are doubling every two days. By mid-January, Omicron will also be dominant in the EU, reports the Standard of pastries, quoting EU Council circles: “No one has questioned this diagnosis.”
Nonetheless, summit participants did nothing to stop the impending disaster. Even Italy’s decision to require people entering the country to provide a negative PCR test has been heavily criticized. This has undermined the freedom of movement in the Schengen area, deplored the European Commission. Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel also criticized that travel restrictions were not a solution.
The two sides finally agreed on a Platonic call for “coordinated efforts” based on scientific findings. One wanted to proceed in a “coordinated” and “joint” fashion, both in increasing immunization rates and in drug supply, and to advance the booster vaccines. Above all, it was important to ensure that the restrictions did not undermine the functioning of the internal market and did not “disproportionately” hamper free movement within the EU, says the draft final declaration.
In other words, despite the threat of an Omicron tsunami, the summit continued the current policy of subordinating the protection of life and health to the profit interests of big business.
Several participants stressed that vaccination was the best weapon against the pandemic anyway. But aside from the fact that vaccination rates vary widely across the EU – ranging from 80 percent in Portugal to 30 percent in Bulgaria – and even a double vaccination offers insufficient protection against Omicron, vaccination alone cannot. not contain the pandemic. It can only do so in conjunction with blockades, contact tracing and other measures, which the summit has flatly rejected.
There was only a brief debate on the pandemic on Thursday morning. The summit devoted much more time to the conflict with Russia. A meeting of Eastern Partnership participants (Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova) and talks between President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had already taken place on Wednesday. On Thursday, the confrontation with Russia was again the main topic of the summit, which lasted until late at night.
EU leaders had already threatened Russia with punitive measures as the summit approached. “Any further military aggression against Ukraine will entail massive consequences and high costs,” Council President Charles Michel wrote in the invitation letter. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened that the EU would “take unprecedented additional measures with serious consequences for Russia” in the event of a further escalation of the Ukrainian conflict.
Chancellor Scholz said: “Any violation of territorial integrity will come at a high price. In the final statement, the leaders warned Russia of “the massive consequences and the high costs” of a new military aggression against Ukraine.
The accusation that Russia is planning a military incursion into Ukraine has been carried by governments and media in NATO countries for weeks. It has no factual basis. Nonetheless, it is spread in such aggressive ways as the lie about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that served as a pretext for the Iraq war in 2003. The accusation is based on hard-to-verify US intelligence reports that the Russia mass of troops near eastern Ukrainian border; with interviews of 100,000 to 175,000 soldiers.
Emissaries from the Biden administration have systematically pushed this line towards European allies, as the weekly Der Spiegel reported in its last issue.
“For weeks the United States pushed Europeans behind the scenes to take a tougher line against Moscow,” writes the news magazine. In November, Avril Haines, director of national intelligence for Biden, appeared with a phalanx of assistants in a bug-proof meeting room in Brussels and showed NATO ambassadors “intelligence photos of the deployment. Russian, without major preamble “. The diplomats would have been surprised.
Similar briefings were held for individual allies in the days that followed. “In Germany, as well as intelligence agencies, the United States has also briefed the Foreign Office in detail, as rarely before.” Two weeks later, at the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Riga, Secretary of State Antony Blinken then joined his British counterpart in calling for tougher sanctions against Russia.
“The ministers were surprised by the vehemence of the Americans”, Der Spiegel reports. “Many Europeans, for their part, react with hesitation. They see no evidence that Russia is actually considering an invasion of Ukraine. This did not prevent them from supporting American threats.
Even if the reports of troop deployment were true, they do not indicate that Russia intends to invade. Troop movements take place on Russian territory, which it has the right to do as a sovereign country.
Moscow has every reason to feel threatened. President Zelensky, who is under domestic political pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic and the dire economic situation, has been threatening for months to reclaim Crimea by force. In August, he told representatives of 40 countries in Kyiv, including then-German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, that from now on, the “countdown to desoccupation” of Crimea was In progress.
At the time, NATO was carrying out its largest military maneuvers in the Black Sea region, involving 32 countries, including Ukraine, with 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 planes and 18 special forces units. During this maneuver and others, there were repeated near misses with Russian troops.
At the instigation of President George W. Bush, NATO had raised the prospect of Ukraine’s accession as early as 2008, but did not tie it to a precise timetable, at the insistence of Germany and from France. After the 2014 coup, which brought a pro-Western regime to power in Kiev with the support of the United States and Germany, Ukraine was subsequently systematically rearmed and increasingly integrated into NATO.
The United States alone has since provided more than $ 2.5 billion in military aid. The US military budget approved on Wednesday provides an additional $ 300 million for this purpose.
President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have repeatedly said in recent days that Ukraine’s membership in NATO is a “red line” that they cannot accept. They demand a formal guarantee that NATO and its military infrastructure will not expand further east.
President Biden and other NATO leaders indignantly rejected the request, citing Ukrainian sovereignty. In fact, such a request is not far-fetched. When the Soviet Union deployed intermediate-range missiles to Cuba in 1962, President John F. Kennedy risked nuclear war to force the Soviet Union to withdraw the missiles, even though Cuba is also a sovereign state.
Accepting Ukraine into NATO would render Russia virtually defenseless. The two states share a 2,300-kilometer border that stretches just 500 kilometers from Moscow.
When Moscow gave the green light to dissolve the Warsaw Pact in 1990, NATO pledged not to expand eastward. In the meantime, almost all of the former Eastern Bloc states and the three former Soviet Baltic republics are members of NATO, which militarily encircles Russia increasingly tightly. It regularly conducts maneuvers on the Russian border, along which it flies strategic bombers, and has built up a rapid reaction force that can be deployed to the Russian border at any time.
The Putin regime has no response to this threat. It oscillates between threatening military gestures and the complacency of one imperialist camp or another, trying to pit them against each other. It is totally incapable of appealing to the international working class, the only social force that can stop the threat of war, for itself represents the interests of a reactionary capitalist oligarchic caste.