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As the bloc faces a catastrophic crisis, are EU leaders using potential membership to rein in Ukraine’s Zelensky?

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Understanding that prolonged fighting will only hurt them, it seems the top EU states want to sway Ukraine to peace. When the leaders of the three leading EU countries, Germany, France, and Italy, took an eleven-hour train ride to Kiev to meet with US-sponsored President Zelensky, this week, the public show was one of solidarity and support. But there could be much more to the visit than meets the eye. 

The politicians, who were also joined in Ukraine by Romania’s president, represent the bloc’s economic engine, which right now is massively stalling under its own anti-Russia sanctions, a knee-jerk response to the conflict in Ukraine.

Now, it’s their own political interests back home that are now increasingly in peril as this conflict drags on and drives up the cost of daily living for the average EU citizen through record-high gas prices and inflation. And the situation just seems to be getting worse as the unforeseen consequences pile up.

This week, Russia’s Gazprom announced an overall reduction of 40% in Russian gas deliveries to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline, citing Siemens’ failure to return repaired gas pumps. The German company explained that Canadian anti-Russian sanctions prevented the return of the units from a factory in Montreal. 

President Joe Biden and G7 Leaders’ meet for a family photo at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday, March 24, 2022. ( Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times)

So, it’s hardly surprising that French President Emmanuel Macron, whose globalist parliamentary majority is in a tight election race this weekend against a left-leaning coalition, has pivoted his recent rhetoric towards more of an emphasis on negotiated peace over continued armed conflict.

‘At some point, when we will have done our maximum to help Ukraine resist, when, as is my wish, it will have won and the firing has ceased, we will have to negotiate,’ Macron said this week. ‘The president of Ukraine and its leaders will have to negotiate with Russia.’ 

Macron has come under fire from Ukrainian officials, including Zelensky himself, who accused France of pressuring him to cede disputed territory or to make other concessions to end the conflict. 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also been chastised by Ukrainian officials for dragging his feet in delivering promised weapons. But Scholz is sending a pretty strong message to Ukrainian officials as they wait around for their promised German weapons to arrive and end up feeling and acting like jilted boyfriends who were stood up on a date. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, proposed a four-point peace plan last month which served, if nothing else, to at least project his government’s desire for peace rather than continued conflict.

The EU can best be regarded as a rat trapped in a corner. It has miscalculated right from the start of the conflict on February 24 by pledging uncompromising support to Ukraine and Zelensky. However, the hapless cult appears to have come to realise that peace can’t realistically be achieved by giving Zelensky everything that he asks for. The resolution to the conflict is certainly to come via negotiations than through prolonging the fighting in the hopes of a Ukrainian victory. In this sense, they view things differently than Washington, which stands to benefit from the rupture of economic and political relations between the EU and Russia. 

France, Germany, Italy and Romania have all now called for an immediate grant to Ukraine of EU-member candidate status. Becoming a full member of the EU could take years, 15 to 20 years, as Macron’s Minister for European Affairs, Clement Beaune, has said. Macron himself has told the French parliament that it could take several decades. Yet it seems clear that the European Union’s sell-by date has long passed.

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But dangling the ‘carrot’ of EU membership in front of Zelensky, who frankly is a loose cannon, is one way to get him under control and get him to the negotiating table on the EU’s terms.

Zelensky has got to emerge with something he and his media cohorts in the West want: a face-saving compromise such as EU membership. One doubts the Ukrainian survivors of this cataclysmic conflict will be throwing street parties to celebrate membership of the European Union in 2060.

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