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Ukraine crisis has paved the way for political downfall of Scholz and Macron

On February 24, 2022, when Russia advanced towards Ukraine with over a hundred thousand soldiers, a geopolitical earthquake shook the world. Two years have passed since then, and the war in Ukraine continues. This is the largest and most prolonged conflict on the continent since World War II. Since World War II, there has been no war in Europe with such high casualties and destruction as the current conflict. What Russia is doing now is a classic example of 19th-century imperialist and colonial aggression. The immense suffering Ukraine is enduring today has been experienced by many countries in the past.

From Russia’s perspective, the war has never been based on Ukraine's neutrality, NATO expansion, the protection of Russian-speaking populations, or any other fabricated pretext. President Vladimir Putin has consistently argued that there was never such a thing as a separate country called Ukraine and that the Ukrainian identity is entirely artificial. He believes that the Ukrainian identity was a creation of the West. The purpose of this war is to eradicate an independent country, seize their land, and re-establish dominance over a nation that has decided to be the master of its own destiny. For many nations that have suffered from colonial rule and oppression in the past, Russia's imperial ambitions are undoubtedly clear. The impact of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is being felt far beyond Europe. This war is affecting food security and fuel prices, while also spreading widespread confusion and political instability across the globe. The ripple effects of this conflict have truly become a global phenomenon.

Putin is increasingly expanding his influence across various regions of the world. He has deployed his mercenary group, Wagner, in Africa and is spreading instability through coups in different countries. At the same time, he has created an artificial threat of famine in Ukraine by burning fields, destroying grain stocks, and blocking Ukrainian export routes. Through these actions, he is engaging in economic coercion. Let’s look at Europe’s growing unrest through the penetrating eyes of Russia’s President Putin. This authoritarian ruler of Russia is experiencing a remarkable spring. Two central European powers, France and Germany, have reached the very last stage of political decay. A deep economic crisis has exacerbated this decay even further.

In France, pro-Russian far-right extremists have achieved a major victory in the European Parliament elections. In Germany, pro-Russian far-right extremists have received more votes than Chancellor Olaf Scholz's party. European elections are essentially a public referendum on the governments in power, and the results of the European Parliament elections suggest that the political downfall of Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron may be on the horizon. In the recent elections, neither Scholz nor Macron’s parties received even 15% of the vote, reflecting their inability to provide credible leadership. Although both have portrayed this as an existential issue, it is clear that the Kremlin's man is smiling wider. Last week, Macron tried to rally European allies to form a coalition for sending military trainers to Ukraine. His goal was to increase NATO’s direct presence in Ukraine for the first time since Putin’s full-scale aggression began.

However, Macron is attempting to build a coalition with centrists to maintain his political position, though this effort has yet to achieve success. He has dissolved the National Assembly and announced early elections for next month. This sudden decision has put his government, his political legacy, and France’s role in Europe and the world at risk. Additionally, there were rumors circulating that Macron was planning to resign. Meanwhile, investors in the French stock market are growing fearful that Marine Le Pen's victory in the European Parliament signifies that her nationalist far-right party will form the government in France this summer—a prospect that was previously considered unthinkable. It can be said that Putin's joy knows no bounds. Scholz is an incompetent politician who has failed as a head of government. He has been unable to manage a coalition government formed by three ineffective parties, and his authority in Berlin has reached rock bottom.

The Financial Times reports that Germany's stock market chief has stated that foreign investors perceive the government in Berlin as incompetent. He warned that Scholz's coalition government, embroiled in internal conflicts, risks dragging Germany down from being the world's third-largest economy to the level of a developing country. This warning reflects a significant failure: Europe’s economy is struggling to remain competitive. Due to the war in Ukraine, there has been a sudden increase in energy prices, and additional regulatory measures have been imposed by the EU, causing European countries to fail to keep pace with the growth rates of the U.S. and China. Above all, Putin aspires to be a hero on the world stage, and he is far from idly sitting by.

Putin’s cyber-troll division continues to unleash a carpet bomb of disinformation, rumors, and deception among Europeans, but Moscow’s attack doesn’t stop there. According to the Pentagon, Moscow is now steadily increasing direct attacks on the U.S.’s European allies. Western officials believe that Russia’s military intelligence unit (GRU) has been planning bombings and sabotage operations. The most recent incident occurred in Paris. Reports indicate that a 26-year-old Russian soldier has been arrested after being found injured in a hotel room in Paris. He was apprehended with explosive devices. French authorities have stated that he had checked into the hotel with the intention of committing acts of violence using the explosives. He is currently in the custody of French intelligence for interrogation.

The incident occurred just one day before President Joe Biden’s visit to Paris to mark the 80th anniversary of the Allied forces' first attack on the Axis powers on European soil during World War II. Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, aims to intimidate and confuse politically divided countries at home and Western nations that have failed to achieve political consensus abroad. One-third of the governments in the European Union are now led by or allied with far-right extremists. While not all of them are friendly to the Kremlin, some are certainly sympathetic. Whether the West abandons Ukraine or Ukraine is broken into pieces, while not all of these far-right figures will be pleased, some will certainly be happy. Meanwhile, the temporary advance of Russian forces on the battlefield has stalled. The U.S. House of Representatives has belatedly approved a significant weapons aid package for Kyiv, for which they deserve considerable credit, but this is a secondary concern for Putin.

For Putin, the main concerns now are maintaining the violence sustainably, keeping Russia’s overheated economy, which is heavily dependent on military expenditures, running smoothly, and holding on to power until Trump’s potential second term. Sooner or later, there is a risk that U.S. military aid packages could be cut off. When that happens, Kyiv will lose the ability to stand up to Moscow. As the war moves into its third year, the message that has reached the aggressors and terrorists is clear: such aggression cannot be rewarded or condoned in the 21st century. Instead, it is crucial to build public opinion against it.

In this situation, effective global support is essential. The focus must be on quickly ending the war and restoring peace across the continent. To achieve this peace, Ukraine has already proposed a 10-point peace formula, which has received full support from the European Union. This proposal not only addresses the end of hostilities but also includes measures for food security, nuclear safety, environmental protection, energy security, international justice, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter. Experts claim that Ukraine’s 10-point peace formula is the only significant peace proposal available. A fervent call has been made for all countries around the world to join in establishing peace and to help turn the formula into action. Ukraine is currently hosting a global peace conference in Switzerland and is effectively supporting this process. Leaders from various corners of the world will work together to establish peace in Ukraine based on the principles of the United Nations Charter.

When that proposal, representing the global majority, is presented to Russia, it will leave Russia with no choice but to agree to it. The situation between Russia and Ukraine has become even more complicated. Last week, a Russian warplane carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war was shot down, resulting in the deaths of three Russian officials and six crew members. The aircraft was downed by gunfire at the Russia-Ukraine border. Meanwhile, Turkey has agreed to Sweden’s accession to NATO. Last week, the Turkish Parliament approved the move. In return, the U.S. State Department informed Congress that a $23 billion deal for the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey has been finalized. If the West does not provide substantial military aid to Kyiv, there is no path to resolving the Ukraine crisis.

The West will not allow Ukraine to be brought under Russian control either, which means this war will persist for a long time. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated last week, Western taxpayers’ money will continue to flow to Ukraine.

Raihan Ahmed Tapadar: Researcher and Columnist.

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