One year later

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 February, 2023 at 12:59 pm by Andre Camilleri

Honestly, I had no clue where to start composing this opinion piece. The past two weeks were quite busy for international politics, multilateralism, security as well as defence.  Indeed, we started with President Volodymyr Zelensky who was quite busy touring Europe, then the security conference in Munich as well as the surprise visit of President Biden in Kyiv. Obviously, both surprise visits were not publicised in advance for security reasons. President Zelensky commenced his official visits starting with The United Kingdom to meet with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, followed by an official visit in France with President Emmanuel Macron. The visit in France ensued with another visit to the capital city of Belgium, Brussels. President Zelensky was invited to address the European Council, as well as the European Parliament. Essentially, the visit was similar to the visit in Washington, to address Congress.

When addressing the European Council, President Zelensky appealed for additional military support and revealed a plan about Moldova’s breaking of democracy allegedly planned by Russia. After President’s Zelensky’s address, on Friday, the Prime Minister of Moldova resigned, amid tensions in the country. The resignation came as a surprise after eighteen months at the helm. The reasons cited were related to the stifling of her efforts to initiate reforms aimed at joining the European Union blaming the fault on Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

After addressing the European Council, President Zelensky crossed Rue Belliard to reach the European Parliament’s building to deliver his address. In her opening speech, the President of the European Parliament delivered a strong message and appealed for the provision of additional military aid to Ukraine, including, if possible, fighter jets. Frankly, I had to rewind the speech to listen to that part once again. Indeed, the President of the European Parliament did mention fighter jets. Perhaps, we need to revisit the Schuman declaration. Appealing for the supply of fighter jets is tantamount to calling for an escalation. In diplomacy, that is the reading!

When fighter jets are provided as military aid – besides that it takes a minimum of three years to train Ukrainian fighter jet pilots, unless they are manned by trained pilots – in terms of air capabilities the war would be taken to another level. The European Union is already entrenched in this war to the point of a being designated as a formal ally. Providing additional military capabilities, especially fighter jets, would risk a further escalation. Clearly, the pledged tankers, especially the Leopard 2 and the Challenger 2 are already a game changer in terms of land military capabilities. Providing additional air capabilities would risk a chaotic escalation. This is the reason why, hitherto, the military capabilities were provided incrementally to primarily avoid risking a harsher escalation.

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary since Russia invaded Ukraine. Sincerely, I do not see an end to this war, anytime soon, and we must adjust to this reality. Having the President of the United States officially visiting a country at war is quite telling in diplomacy. Hitherto, the United States of America, is not at war with Russia, or at least that was my impression when the war erupted, last year. My impression is that Ukraine is at war with Russia with the former receiving military and financial assistance from Western Allies. However, we must understand the indirect cryptic message of this official visit. To me, the message was directed also to China; don’t’ involve yourselves in these matters, as we are here watching your moves. Any military assistance to Russia will find the USA and its allies countering it. Indeed, the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken explained, in a recent interview, that the USA is privy to information that China might be supplying Russia with military assistance, an assertion strongly rejected by Beijing.

Last week, the European Commission issued the winter economic projections. The primary assumption taken in the economic projections is that the war in Ukraine would remain constant and there is no additional escalation, ergo applying the ceteris paribus principle. Clearly, this is not going to be the case, especially after March. The escalation is inevitable, and the European Union knows this quite well. Hence, the assumption in the economic projections might not hold. The economic projections state that inflation is still high and food inflation was still rising in January.

With this rate, those who are not receiving an inflation adjustment in their wages are sincerely feeling the economic pain. Personally, I believe that those at the highest echelons of the EU institutions, that are taking the decisions and pushing all member states to a defence union path, must seriously consider a pay cut. Solidarity is not a cliché. They need to walk the talk. It does not make sense to ask EU citizens to do sacrifices for their own security, while the few at the top are earning astronomical pays. Clearly, they must be held accountable for their decisions, and the proposals that they present to member states. Certainly, we are not living in normal times.

In my preceding opinion piece, I referred to the top concerns of the Maltese, which are shared by many member states. Mostly, they relate to the worries of the war in Ukraine spreading outside the Ukrainian territory, as well as a nuclear incident. Calling for the provision of fighter jets, it is not going to deescalate the war, and here we need an honest broker to negotiate a peace agreement that is in Ukraine’s favour. Under international law a sovereign country was invaded with arms aggression. Certainly, it is not a special military operation. Those who are cognisant of how special military operations are designed and executed, the way Ukraine was invaded, and the continuous bombing on its critical infrastructure, clearly shows that this was a planned full-scale invasion by President Vladimir Putin.

Last year I was appealing for diplomacy and to keep a channel of dialogue. Clearly, diplomacy failed for many reasons that I will not reiterate once again. Now, we must think of how to untangle this complex situation. Nonetheless, President Putin is playing for time. We need to see if the current military stock is depleted in time for its replenishment with the current sluggish production. The rate of burning ammunition is much faster than reproducing and replenishing stocks. Meanwhile, the European Commission presented the tenth package of sanctions. By the time of the publishing of this opinion piece, the tenth package of sanctions would have been agreed, as I assume that RELEX are currently preparing the legislative acts to be adopted in time for tomorrow’s anniversary.

Lastly, the visit of President Biden demonstrates the indivisibility principles of Europe’s security and that of the transatlantic, which text is clearly outlined in the Istanbul document of 1999. And to make matters worse, President Putin just announced Russia’s intentions to pull out of its participation in New Start, which is the the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with the US.

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