Wednesday’s election result is, as has often been said, an expression of deep dissatisfaction with the establishment. With the government’s climate policy, with the nitrogen plans and also with the Dutch administrative culture. But in another area, BBB’s gains and the implosion of the FVD lead to more consensus: the war in Ukraine.
Thierry Baudet called the United States “the greatest threat to world peace” and President Putin “the best leader we have in the European world.” But Caroline van der Plas supports precisely the government’s policy, within the EU and NATO, to ensure that Ukraine does not lose the war. In her eyes, this policy is ‘correct’ and in the interest of Dutch security. “Should Ukraine fall,” she recently said in the Chamber, “Russia will be at the gate of our Polish and Baltic allies and therefore ours.”
The growing consensus on this in the Netherlands is in line with a broader European trend. This was already apparent from the giant turn of Italian Prime Minister Meloni, who swallowed previous criticism of NATO and suddenly became an advocate for the Ukrainian cause.
In various EU countries, the controversy between ‘cosmopolitans’ and ‘nationalists’ about open or closed borders is also starting to melt away: with unpredictable neighbors like Turkey and dangerous neighbors like Russia, even cosmopolitans see the benefit of better surveillance of European external borders.
See also one bearing, this week, from the think tank ECFR in ten European countries (not including the Netherlands): 66 percent of Europeans now see Russia as an ‘opponent’ or ‘rival’. “Cracks in the Western coalition are closing rather than widening,” the authors write. Many Europeans see the EU as ‘stronger than expected’, not ‘weaker than expected’.
In May 2022, most (except the Poles) still believed that the war should end as soon as possible. Fewer and fewer people now believe this and the view is gaining ground that the war should not end until Ukraine has liberated the occupied territories. One reason for such shifts is that in various countries you see a “fusion” of political views of nationalists and liberals, the pollsters think.
Citizens are thus well aware of the enormous shift in European geopolitics: Ukraine, which for many years was a buffer between Russia and the West – not neutral but independent, and with complicated ties to major powers on both sides – has since the Russian invasion part of the Western security structure.
The political, economic and military support of the EU and US for Ukraine illustrates it, as does the emotional uproar in which we offered Kyiv the EU membership candidate. From a buffer state, Ukraine has become a frontline state – our frontline state. The question now is: how far will Europe go to guarantee the survival of this candidate country?
Europe urgently needs to map out a strategy, writes Sven Biscop of the Belgian Egmont Institute for international relations, and formulate rational, strategic goals based on the European interest. The first goal is to ensure that the war does not escalate into a direct confrontation between the West and Russia.
“It is therefore vital not to fight.” The second goal is “to ensure that an independent Ukraine continues to exist on the largest possible territory, so that it remains a strong frontline state and that Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania do not have borders with Russia.”
Clear language. But the war could go on for years and no one knows what the US will do. European countries must massively increase their military support to Ukraine to prevent more loss of territory. No longer a few tanks here and some anti-aircraft guns there, but weapons production on an industrial, European scale – European Commissioner Thierry Breton (Internal Market) had just in Bulgaria to align manufacturers. It is going in that direction – as a result of our own choices. We are lucky that dissatisfaction with the established order hardly manifests itself in this area.
Caroline deGruyter writes about politics and replaces Floor Rusman in this position.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of March 18, 2023