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OpinionEurope, tougher than it looks

Europe, tougher than it looks

Putin may have made the biggest mistake of his life by invading Ukraine and underestimating Europe's response to the conflict. The perspective of a hopeful European.

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João Ruy Faustino
João Ruy Faustino
João Ruy is a Portuguese freelancer who writes about European political actuality for The European Times. He is also a contributor for Revista BANG! and a former writer for Central Comics and Bandas Desenhadas.

Putin may have made the biggest mistake of his life by invading Ukraine and underestimating Europe's response to the conflict. The perspective of a hopeful European.

As we have seen before our eyes, Putin makes his strategic decisions through a distorted view of history and people. He thought that the Ukranians with ties to Russia would welcome an invasion, but he forgot (or ignored) that these people would not put their friends and their families before an affiliation with a country, or with what it represents.

Putin has a stereotype of russophiles and russophones. He thinks that these people, by choosing Russia over the west (EU and NATO), will necessarily subscribe to Putin’s deranged imperialism. Putin sees the present as history, as big waves of people and political movements moving in various directions… But the present is not, as yet, history. Right now the present is composed of people. 

These russophiles inside Ukraine, for example, may even align politically with Putin’s regime. The people that they see every day do not all agree with their political view, they have a different view of the world from them, they just want a different project for their country. The question in Ukraine in 2013, in the Russo-Maidan Revolution, was not “do we join Russia or not?”, it was “do we join the west or not?”. Of course, to be part of this so-called “west”, Ukraine needed to leave Russia and its influence, but it seems to me that the alternative to this was not to join Russia, but to more or less continue to be neutral.

And so Putin made this strange association, that if people do not like the west they necessarily like him, this doesn’t say very much about what people think and more what Putin thinks of himself. Apparently this self-image doesn’t correspond to reality.

However, the most strange stereotype/assumption that Putin used to make one of his spectacular predictions (until now they have all failed spectacularly) is that Europeans would be too scared of the “Big Russian bear”, and would try to appease the situation with everything they could possibly can, running from any conflict, that only “tough Russians can take”.

Europeans are proud, they are not only proud of their nationalities but proud of what Europe represents: democracy, liberty and self-determination. Putin is an antithesis to these values. In Russia, all liberties are squeezed with an iron fist, and so, democracy is an empty word, if not a dirty one, and about self-determination… Putin sees entire nations as mere puppets; Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and so on, only pawns on a chess board to the Russian autocrat.

I would say that it is true that people are not as attached with their nationalities in Europe, at least compared with past times. But if there is a thing that Europeans value is democracy and the freedom that comes with it, Europe will not be a puppet of anyone. Never again will Europeans obey or comply with a dictator’s wishes. Europe will fight back, for what it represents, whatever the cost.

In the XXth century the enemies of European democracy were fascism and communism. In the XXIst century the enemies are autocracy and authoritarian/totalitarian capitalism.

Also, Putin severely overestimated his position in relation to Europe. For starters, Russia is a drop in the ocean compared to Europe. Russia has a GDP comparable to Spain, the 4th biggest economy in the EU, but more importantly, Putin forgets that his precious natural gas will have no value for Europe in 10-20 years.

Yes, if the progress in renewable energy (wind, solar, etc.) maintains its current pace, it will not be long until the main source of energy in Europe will be renewable energy. This will happen as a consequence of a big investment in this type of technology in the last decades.  

Therefore, why would Europeans be scared of losing a thing that in 10 years will have half its current value? Why would we surrender our fundamental values and beliefs for a thing that we, together, would eventually surpass?

And just to show how small Putin is in reality, and how Europe and the Europeans are not afraid, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that the military budget will be increased to 2% of the country’s economic output. 100 billion euros for Germany’s defense budget. I will remind you that this is comparable to Russia’s defense budget, and there are 26 other countries in the EU ready to show Putin his place…

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