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Europe: war looms ever closer

[This editorial is also available in Ukrainian.]

Georgia 2008, Syria 2011, Donbass-Crimea 2014, Ukraine 2022, Armenia 2022-2023, Israel 2023... what next?

Violations of hitherto accepted rules of international law by a permanent member of the UN Security Council have unleashed warmongering forces everywhere. Accumulated resentment has turned into violent aggression all around us. War, the ultimate expression of the law of force at the service of the fait accompli, is back.

It is edging closer to Europe, already under challenge because its dimensions go beyond simple geography. It is no longer just a question of territorial disputes; it is now one of a global rejection of democracies and the West.

The European Union finds itself on the frontline. It is neither a state nor an empire and has never wanted to arm itself collectively because it was built for peace. Will it be able to cross the threshold that requires it to have sufficient strength to lend credibility to its diplomacy?

If not, it will continue to make declarations of outrage every time it is affected by a new military challenge, even one close to home, as in the case of Armenia. It cannot even offer its neighbours the guarantees of security that membership of its treaties should confer. So, what will become of the forthcoming enlargement that we are told is inevitable?

It must now learn to use its strength. In other words, it has to invent a mechanism between its members that will ensure the integrity of its political model, its interests and its allies, if necessary, by coercion. Many doubt that this is possible.

To gain the respect of increasingly unbridled actors, Europeans cannot ignore the military question. This does not mean going to war, as our history has so often shown us, but simply of equipping ourselves with credible and dissuasive capacities for action so as not to be humiliated, by terrorists, as in Iran, or by dictators, as in Russia, Azerbaijan or Turkey, or like in the Sahel or, closer to home, by the Tunisian president spitting on European aid intended to help him stem illegal immigration.

Europe's citizens see the threats looming ever closer. The indecision of their governments, which have until now been mired in their own national responses, incapable of reaching agreement as 27, is compounding the population’s anxiety. Courage and creativity is required that will lead to solutions so that the European Union can be present on the ground when it is needed, and not just provide funds and disinterested aid. Could we not imagine, as the Treaties allow, some Member States acting militarily on behalf of all?

At its own pace the European Union is discovering the need to think of itself as more independent, but is being surpassed the chain of events. It wants to be more autonomous, more responsive, have more laws to protect its know-how, its economy and its standard of living, but this is still not enough.

Because in our haste we are rearming in the hope that it is not too late; we seek reassurance in grand old alliances; we keep "calling for restraint" on the part of international players who are effectively breaking free of restraint; we prevaricate and, of course, we do everything possible to avoid the use of armed force. Different national traditions clash, and this ultimately leads to collective inaction.

The best guarantee of peace, of our interests and of our alliances, however, is to be prepared to use military force, even though we wish we didn't have to.

Others, increasingly on our doorstep, have no choice but to take up arms to defend their peoples, but also the values we share.

By waking up too late, Europe runs the risk of one day being surprised and attacked by this axis of evil that is taking shape before our very eyes, from Moscow to Gaza, from Tehran to Baku, from Beijing to the Sahel.