Martin Jay: EU admits Russian sanctions have backfired


Former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt threw the cat among the pigeons when he said that the 27-member bloc might have rewarded Russia by increasing imports despite the economic curbs over the Ukraine war

It’s a widely held belief by many Eurosceptic commentators that the EU doesn’t do ‘mea culpa’. But in fact, this is not the case at all. It is rare that the 27-member bloc publicly admits its mistakes. So what is behind the recent astonishing admission that the EU got it wrong over Russian sanctions?

The EU’s sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict have been a complete failure, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt said recently. He added that the EU was only “rewarding” Russia by increasing imports from the country.

His extraordinary admission on Twitter is a bombshell for the EU, as Verhofstadt – who served as the Belgian prime minister from 1999 to 2008 and has been an MEP since 2009 – claimed that the effect of the EU’s nine sanctions packages on Moscow “is less than 0”.

In fact, it’s much worse than merely zero.

The former PM said that the bloc’s attempts to punish Russia had achieved the opposite result. “We are rewarding Russia for its war against us!”

Verhofstadt also pointed out that most EU member states, including Germany, France, Italy, and Poland, had actually increased imports from Russia. In total, only seven EU members have bought less from the country.

The admission from such a senior EU apparatchik is remarkable on many levels and will not go unmarked by the European Parliament and also the powerful European Commission. It will be seen as an alarm bell among hardcore eurofederalists that something needs to be done for the EU to pull itself out of the hole that it dug itself entirely.

Much can, of course, be blamed on senior EU figures, indulging themselves in their own echo chamber narrative. There is also much to be said about the marginalising media, which doesn’t report the news, conveniently to suit the EU line, which only intensifies the blinded dogma of EU figures who brought so much poverty and misery to Europeans.

But the admission needs to be put into context as this will give observers an understanding of what to expect from EU leaders in the coming months. A clash is almost inevitable between the EU and the US as European countries’ economies plummet further due to Biden’s new tax breaks on businesses there which have a knock-on effect on European firms struggling to stay in the marketplace.

The timing of Verhofstadt’s tweets is important. For EU federalists like him, the EU elections are only a matter of months away and he is afraid that there will be a massive vote of no confidence at the polls for the mainstream parties, met only by an even bigger vote for far-right groups in the European parliament. The Belgian knows that if the EU is going to avert this, it needs to move now on a new strategy.

The problem is that too many western leaders believe that Putin is on the back foot and his military supplies are running low. This narrative fits neatly into what many Western elites believe, which is that the war of attrition is, in fact, on their side.

In fact, the killing fields of Ukraine are less and less relevant to the bigger picture of the war, which is what Russia is doing with EU countries and around the world. BRICS’s new members are lining up to join the bloc, which is said to be a Russian-led organisation. More and more ‘global south countries’ are aligning themselves with Russia each week and there doesn’t seem to be any strong initiative for Russia to undo all these spoils of war.

What European leaders should be asking themselves is how to realign themselves with Moscow and get a deal in Ukraine which boosts the economies of EU countries immediately and focus less on a win-or-lose scenario in Ukraine. What is required is a ceasefire. Only then can talks begin.

But is the West and its corrupt, partisan media capable of compromise? In many ways, the blame should be attributed to the poor reporting of western media and how it has boxed western elites into a corner they can’t get out of.

Remarkably, for days on the UK’s Daily Mail website, there remained a story of Putin wanting to end the war in Ukraine, reaching out to the West for talks. It also keeps pumping out stories of Putin’s ill health, suggesting that time is not on Russia’s side.

Any objective reporting of the situation, which non-western media could offer – probably led by the Russian TV channel RT – has been banned, so media (as well as the masses) have no alternative perspective.

Unfortunately, the 400 million citizens who make up the EU and who will vote in the summer of 2024 cannot see that the main reason why the EU and its governments banned RT was not because of some high moral principle of Russia attacking Ukraine but rather due to a shocking lack of confidence in its own policies.

So, obliterating any opposing narrative was more of a self-preservation stunt which the EU had wanted to do for years but was afraid to due to the humiliation that would have followed.

MEPs like Verhofstadt are only obsessed with one thing: their own cosy lifestyles, which the EU affords them. Survival is the only issue now for the EU, and Verhofstadt knows that the cataclysmic error of Russian sanctions and backing the US-led war on whatever will come with a considerable price for the EU project. But is anyone listening to him?


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