A year after Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Zeitenwende speech, progress has been made in remaking Germany’s defense strategy on multiple fronts. But the lingering concern is whether Scholz has the political capital—and courage—to break away from the structural incentives that have guided Germany’s security posture since reunification.
Western Europe Archive
Over the past year, the implications of the war in Ukraine have been the subject of much analysis and debate. It has been a war between two armed forces, but also between two diametrically opposed systems of values. It has been an economic war and a war of competing narratives. But above all, it has been a war of contradictions.
Capitals in Europe are observing a grim anniversary this week. Tomorrow marks one year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed the continent overnight into a new reality. With no end to the war in sight, the big discussion in European capitals now is how to sustain Ukraine’s war effort over the long haul.
Strategic debates in the EU are currently focused on sustaining the trans-Atlantic alliance to contain Russian aggression, while searching for an approach to China that balances deterrence and engagement. Yet in its preoccupation with Russia and China, the EU is not paying enough attention to India’s emergence as a global power.
For the past month, France has been in the grip of protests against pension reforms proposed by the government of President Emmanuel Macron, with close to a million people demonstrating across the country on Feb. 11. The protests have so far been entirely orderly. But with the government sticking to its guns, tension is mounting.
The European Union got a welcome bit of good news this week with a surprise revision to the European Commission’s economic outlook, which now predicts the union will narrowly avoid a recession and has already passed peak inflation. The forecast, though, stands in stark contrast to recent predictions for the United Kingdom.
EU leaders gathered in Brussels today, hoping to devise a response to protectionist subsidies included in the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, a topic that is becoming increasingly important to trans-Atlantic relations. Instead, they found themselves occupied with a surprise guest: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The problem with debates over the effectiveness of sanctions on Russia is that commentators often refer to other countries targeted by Western sanctions, as if these cases hold universal lessons that might be applicable to Russia. But Russia is an entirely different beast, and it presents a unique test case for Western sanctions.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. has made alliance-management its top priority in Europe, and the extent of Western cohesion over the past year has underscored the degree to which those efforts have paid off. Yet after one year of war, U.S. leadership has encountered a paradox: It is too successful for its own good.
Over the past year, numerous countries, led by the U.S. and EU, have leveled an unprecedented package of economic sanctions on Russia. These sanctions are both comprehensive, targeting the Russian economy in general, and specific, aimed at key Russian oligarchs who support Putin. Now, a natural question arises: Are they working?
Many in Ukraine watched the Czech presidential election closely as a bellwether for whether European public opinion would continue to support the delivery of military aid to Kyiv. The success of Petr Pavel over far-right populist Andrej Babis signaled the country’s desire to stick by its NATO allies.
The Labour Party is likely to win the U.K.’s next election, which must be held no later than December 2024. It might take years before efforts to tackle the party’s policy priorities yield visible outcomes. But Brexit is a major area where swift action might be matched by results in Starmer’s first 100 days in power.