Dr. Eoin Drea is senior research officer at the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies.
Judging by the number of European Union leaders visiting Ukraine in recent weeks, it would be easy to assume it is Brussels that’s solely responsible for equipping the brave resistance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his people.
But while European Council President Charles Michel talks of the EU’s “unprecedented” response to Russian aggression, saying the EU is “determined to do everything we can to support Ukraine,” the sad reality is that beneath all the rhetoric, the photo ops and recycled pledges, the EU continues to prevaricate while it is the Anglosphere that’s busy helping Ukraine save itself.
In fact, if Ukrainians were relying on the EU alone, the war might already be over. And we’d be looking at a weak, dismembered and Russia-controlled Ukraine.
Monologues on Ukraine’s “European future” from EU leaders are not stopping Russian tanks or crippling Russian artillery. It is not the EU that’s preventing the subjugation of Ukraine. Rather, it is the arms, materiel and intelligence sharing provided promptly, and without conditions, by the Anglosphere — the United States and Britain in particular — that’s been crucial in giving Kyiv’s soldiers a fighting chance at freedom.
In the first month of the conflict, the military support proffered by the U.S. — nearly $4.4 billion — was more than double that offered by EU member countries and European institutions combined. And that was before U.S. President Joe Biden’s request to Congress for a further $20 billion in direct military support, with an additional $12 billion for economic and humanitarian assistance.
Even Britain — yes, unreliable, detached, infuriating Britain — provided Ukraine with more military aid in that pivotal period than any EU member country. And that support was recently expanded after Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the Ukrainian parliament.
Such has been the speed of Britain’s response, even President Zelenskyy acknowledged that other Western countries should “follow the example of the United Kingdom.”
So much for Washington and London not caring about Europe.
Remarkably, while the U.S. and U.K. are busy helping to arm Ukraine and protect European democracy, the EU’s only nuclear force — France — remains largely unforthcoming on military aid. And support from Europe’s largest economy continues to be dragged out of Berlin like one of those half empty Bundeswehr supply depots, while Italy, as always, remains visible but hopelessly irrelevant.
Even the EU countries providing meaningful materiel to Ukraine — Estonia, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic chief among them — are facilitated by the U.S. replenishing (and modernizing) their military stocks. This approach has allowed Czech tanks, Slovak air defense systems and much more to make a difference on the ground in Ukraine — an approach eventually adopted by Germany as part of the wider U.S.-led international coalition.
But the real lesson to be drawn from all this is that rhetoric about European “strategic autonomy” is a Parisian fantasy given oxygen by Brussels.
Brexit has left the EU bereft of a member with world-leading military and intelligence gathering capabilities. However, the ongoing conflict ensures that British armed forces — and equipment — will have to remain an important element of the EU’s collective security strategy regardless of the prevailing political climate.
And most importantly, this war has shown that NATO — underpinned by the U.S. and Britain, and with Eastern European members as its bedrock — is the future of European security. A Scandinavian-Baltic arc, possibly including Finland and Sweden, stretching from the Baltic to the Adriatic — these combined forces will be overwhelmingly supplied with U.S. equipment, British intelligence and NATO logistical support.
The future leadership of Europe’s defense must lie in its East, but for Brussels, the challenge now is to match its grandiose self-image with the realities of an Anglosphere dominated defense of Ukrainian freedom — and of European values.
For this to occur, a little humility is required. The EU won’t be capable of defending itself anytime soon. It cannot project power in its immediate neighborhood, nor act as a significant military partner for the U.S. or Britain.
Brussels should be wooing Washington, London, Canberra and Ottawa — not scorning them.
Announcing the delivery of armored vehicles to Ukraine, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he believed “this fight is important because not only are Ukrainian lives and their lands at stake, but so are the principles of freedom and the rule of law.”
And the only way the EU will survive is if the Anglosphere keeps supporting these principles that inspired its establishment.