Common Grounds

Our Friday Edition | Who are They Fooling? Us or Them or None? Do the Russians Know Their Game?

July 01, 2022

By Abraham A. van Kempen


What is the Side of the Story that is Not Yet Decisive?

Our Friday Edition | Who are They Fooling? Us or Them or None? Do the Russians Know Their Game?

The Hague, 01 July 2022 | If you know of any story that is decisive, tell the world. We're still searching.


I could just as well entitle this Friday Edition as 'Do the Clowns in Brussels and their Stooges in Washington Wear No Clothes?' With their honorific titles, they call themselves leaders, world leaders no less. They’re cackling like chickens with their heads cut off. Such fools! Haven't they noticed? Their loose talk and reprehensible rhetoric do more to help galvanize the Russian people against the European Union (EU) and the United States than all the propaganda perpetrated by the Kremlin. Doesn’t the EU leadership realize they’re playing Russian Roulette with our lives?


Do they believe Russia will cave in and give up with a mere EU 200 million investment in more firepower? Even if the EU-US Coalition invests five times that much (and they will), Russia stays on course despite being confronted with thirty NATO countries pointing their entire nuclear arsenal at Russia. After negotiating for more than fourteen years about 'what to do with Russia's demand to have open access to the Black Sea and to stop Ukrainian atrocities against the Russian majority in Eastern Ukraine,' the EU-US Coalition now resorts to strengthening its defense posture against Russia. Shouldn't the EU-US Coalition anticipate a nuclear retaliation if Russia is genuinely so evil as purported in the West? Does the EU want nuclear craters all over Europe? Who wants to wake up to the stench of radioactive fumes?


Nonetheless, these suckers in Brussels and Washington mislead their taxpayers to believe Russia is about to storm into their backyard. With enough fearmongering, the masses will take the route of least resistance. Their fears will supersede reason. They will believe anything. Soon, the EU-US Coalition will have convinced the ignorant to shell out hundreds of billions of Euros to equip each NATO country with the latest weapons of mass destruction. It's a narrative that can't hold water because even with a $2 trillion defense fund or more, a country with 4,200 atomic weapons is lethal. The Europeans and the American people are not stupid. None wants to liberate another country if it triggers World War III, a nuclear war with Russia because none wants a nuclear crater in their backyard and live to talk about it. What can you eat after the nuclear event? Where can you go?


Despite all the talk of weaponizing the West, the Russian Federation will continue to liberate the Russians living in Eastern Ukraine and secure its access to the Black Sea. I hope and pray that Russia will leave Odesa alone. Unless the EU changes its posture and acts rationally, Russia might go all the way and tame Kyiv. Can the EU save the day? Yes! But I doubt that Russia will now give up what it has regained. The EU could stop Russia now in its tracks. But it must guarantee Russia's access to the Black Sea, and the EU must ensure the safety of all Ukrainians of Russian descent, many of whom have lived and worked in Ukraine for centuries. Had the EU done just that, Russia would not have invaded Ukraine.


It would be wishful to expect Russia to consider giving up what it has militarily regained. Russians will never again rely on an untrustworthy EU and a politically unstable and devious Ukraine that says one thing and does something else. In good faith, Russia has leased the Sevastopol seaport through 2042 from Ukraine. Still, the lease extension from 2017 to 2042, signed in 2010, aroused much controversy in Ukraine, especially when the nation of Ukraine was enflamed with civil war: the radical ‘Nationalists’ in the West versus the Russian ‘Separatists’ in the East.


So, what matters most to Russia? Stability, based on an authentic and unadulterated balance of power! Russia wants to sell its oil, gas, wheat, and other natural resources coveted by the EU. What should the EU do? Facilitate that process by securing the pathways to keep the oil and gas flowing to the EU through the pipelines and the shipping lanes. What's so difficult about that? Why war? In the meantime, Ukrainians continue to serve as cannon fodder and human shields. Ukrainians and Russians die for nothing. This war and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 could have been prevented had there been diplomatic will on all sides.


To repeat what I've stated in our Friday Edition: Who’s Wise (Part 8: The Coalition of the WISE Versus the Coalition of the WILLING)


"Russians view their military action in eastern Ukraine as a campaign to restore the balance of power. From the Russian perspective, the European Union threatens the existence of Mother Russia. Most Russians, including those in the opposition, support the present Russian administration fighting for their survival and sovereignty. Most Russians view the Free World's support of Zelensky's Ukraine as treacherous, if not high treason. In Dutch, we say, 'Stank for Dank,' which literally means 'Stench for Thanks' for the 27 million Russian lives sacrificed to save Europe from NAZI tyranny."


Russia intends to have open access to the Black Sea with neither help nor hindrance from any other country. From their perspective, the Russians have given the European Union every opportunity to negotiate a settlement with Ukraine to guarantee Russia's access to the Black Sea and ensure the safety of the Ukrainians of Russian descent.”



Judy Dempsey of Carnegie Europe asks a panel of experts: “Is Europe Serious About Defense?”

Read their reactions below:


Julian Lindley-French, Chairman of The Alphen Group


No. Europeans are defense DIMBYs—defend me but not in my back yard—that is, they are earnest about being protected, just not by themselves. Of course, the nearer one is to danger; the more one is prepared to invest in defense. And for all the nonsense about modest defense increases since 2014, the €200 billion ($214 billion) or so Europeans spend on defense is mainly misspent by Britain, France, and Germany and is being eaten up by inflation.


As for leadership? The“Big Three”—France, Germany, and Italy—really do not like each other very much, and none of them feel threatened. Despite the war in Ukraine, indebted Europeans routinely confuse politics with strategy and defense value with defense cost.

European politicians still prefer to invest in health and social security rather than national security, particularly in the post-COVID economic abyss. It is still what gets politicians elected.


Proof of seriousness? Every European government agrees to spend 3 percent GDP minimum per annum on defense, 40 percent on new equipment, and collaborative defense research and development is increased so that each project serves agreed NATO and EU force goals. And European armed forces have enough ammunition to get them beyond the following day in a fight.



Raluca Csernatoni, Visiting Scholar At Carnegie Europe


The return of war in Europe has certainly been a wake-up call for many EU member states regarding their defense budgets, capability development, joint procurement, and the re-prioritization of NATO’s collective defense posture.


The EU has taken significant steps, such as delivering lethal equipment via the European Peace Facility. At the Versailles summit, EU leaders agreed not only to “invest more” in defense but also to invest “better” and more effectively. The European Commission, building on existing EU tools such as the European Defence Fund, has proposed concrete measures to reduce industrial fragmentation and support defense innovation via a new €2 billion ($2.1 billion) EU Defence Innovation Scheme. An extra €500 million ($533 million) of the EU budget has been tabled to boost collaborative defense procurement and address urgent capability gaps.


But is this new defense momentum a paradigmatic shift for European defense or just a temporary reshuffling of priorities in response to the sense of urgency brought about by Russia’s war in Ukraine?


The swift implementation of recent measures and pledges is vital. But most importantly, European political alignment on the war in Ukraine is direly needed to achieve the quantum leap toward greater unity on European defense in the future. This involves an agreement, especially between France and Germany on the one hand and the Nordic and Eastern European flanks on the other. This will be essential in mitigating growing disagreements, frustration, and distrust among EU member states in the long run.



Daniel Fiott, Security and Defence Editor at the Eu Institute for Security Studies (Euiss)


Let me take the easy way out—yes and no. Yes, in the sense that the European Council is driving forward ambitious steps in EU defense. Look, for example, at how EU leaders have tasked the European Commission to develop policy solutions for civil-military innovation, critical technologies, and, more recently, joint defense procurement and investment gaps after the Versailles summit.


These leaders recently endorsed an ambitious Strategic Compass for defense, too, and the union is even helping to deliver weapons to the Ukrainian armed forces. European leaders clearly understand—however long overdue—that more defense spending and capabilities are required if Europe is truly serious about its defense.


However, ambitious steps forward in EU defense are hampered by disagreement between states on how best to invest in it. Some see a future of large-scale collective investments in security on a par with the union’s game-changing COVID-19 recovery plans. In contrast, others insist that defense spending should be a national affair only. The truth is that the EU and European NATO desperately need to ramp up production of capabilities, and no single government can cope with this alone. It is time to think big.



Calle Håkansson, Associate Fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs


We may see the start of it. However, there is still a long way to go. The European Commission recently presented a gloomy but frank assessment of the lack of European defense capabilities and investments. Hence, Europe must focus on more collaborative actions in defense and joint procurement to overcome past problems. Russia’s war in Ukraine implies, as stated by the leaders in the European Council, a “tectonic shift in European history,” and Europe now needs to take a quantum leap (for real this time) in defense. To invest and procure together is the way forward for European countries.


Adopting the German military investment fund could likewise be another milestone in pushing forward the work on European defense. Moreover, with Sweden and Finland in the process of joining NATO and Denmark likely to abolish its defense opt-out from the EU, we hopefully can see closer alignment and collaboration between the two center pillars of European security and defense. Likewise, NATO’s new Strategic Concept and the June summit in Madrid could also create an impetus for strengthening EU-NATO relations.



Sten Rynning, Professor at the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences at the University of Southern Denmark


Having spent the better three decades thinking about a world beyond defense, Europe is in a bad situation today. It has neither the military muscle nor political leadership to confront Russia’s aggression. Had it not been for the United States, Ukraine would have been at the mercy of Russia's war.


Europe once signed up to a doctrine whereby the road to détente started with effective defense—NATO’s 1967 Harmel Report. This tried-and-tested doctrine is at risk of being short-circuited as several European de facto countries are ready to amputate Ukraine to accommodate Russian sensibilities.


Their wager is that the war on Ukraine that Russia started in 2014 and rebooted in 2022 can now be stopped by dialogue. It is a strategy reflective of limited means, political timidity, and self-deterrence. If Europe were serious about defense, it would seek to impose military costs on Russia so severely that the punishment of aggression is evident for everyone to see. Future debates about Europe’s strategic relevance must begin here and with the Harmel Doctrine that has served Europe and the transatlantic community well.



Ben Tonra, Professor of International Relations at the University College Dublin 


There is a Europe that is serious about defense, but lots of Europe aren’t yet. The assumptions that have guided European security for the last thirty years have been shattered. Many European states face new existential threats, and several have overturned or reversed decades—even centuries—of established defense policies. For others, while the public narratives may have shifted, the substance of their defense posture remains stuck. The legacy of decades of inertia, self-deception, and willing dependence weigh heavily.

There persists, too, genuine differences over strategic doctrine, security culture, and geostrategic threat perception.


With the crisis, however, comes opportunity. NATO and the EU—separately and in tandem—have a chance to build a defense community that can deliver security at home and broadly contributes more to regional and global security. Neither organization has a monopoly of wisdom or capacity; each has its strengths. With reinforced and increasingly overlapping membership and each working to its maximum strength, they can together deliver upon a shared security and defense plan. Europe must reinforce the North Atlantic Alliance by strengthening the EU’s contribution to collective defense and creating a stronger transatlantic partnership.


Read more: ‘A Lemming Leading the Lemmings: Slavoj Zizek and the Terminal Collapse of the Anti-War Left,’ by Jonathan Cook.



Related articles by Abraham A. van Kempen:


Friday Edition: Why Should Ukrainians Die for Europe, aka the Eu-US Coalition of the Willing?

Friday Edition: Who’s Wise (Part 8: The Coalition of the WISE Versus the Coalition of the WILLING)


Friday Edition: Let's Talk About Oil and Gas (Not part of the 8-part series)


Friday Edition: Who's Wise (Part 7: Let's All Meet in Yalta)


Friday Edition: Who's Wise (Part 6: The Birth of Death Star)


Friday Edition: Who's Wise (Part 5: Trust but Verify)


Friday Edition: Who's Wise (Part 4: Let's All Gang Up on Putin)


Friday Edition: Who's Wise (Part 3: Why Biden Versus Putin?)


Friday Edition: Who's Wise (Part 2: A Declaration of War)


Friday Edition: Who's Wise (Part 1: What is the Side of the Story That is Not Yet Decisive? )


Editorial | Did Somebody Say 'Oil,' 'Petro-Dictator,' 'America's Addiction to Oil?'


Friday Edition 8 April 2022 | Who's on First?


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