Ukraine: Nato chief warns of conflict with Russian
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Robert Tombs, author of Sunday Times bestseller This Sovereign Isle, asserts that the EU will remain largely impotent for the foreseeable future in geopolitical terms. He insists that EU politicians rely on the European Court of Justice, Central Bank and “secretive” European Council to build an unaccountable technocracy, having given up on winning popular support.
He writes: “Such a shallow system is doomed to weakness… We have an interest in a stable, secure and confident EU. It would be a better neighbour, able to accept Brexit and build a positive future relationship.
“But its own uncertainties make it want to punish Britain ‘pour encourager les autres’. It seems unable to accept its limitations and try to function as an economic union of sovereign states. It pursues an illusory federalism without democratic consent.”
His comments in the Telegraph came as the EU was left out of talks between Russia and the United States over Ukraine which could decide the future of Europe’s security.
The White House said on Tuesday it was too early to tell if Russia was serious about a path to diplomacy in remarks coming a day after Russia and the US gave no sign of narrowing their differences on Ukraine and wider European security in talks in Geneva.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: “It’s too early to tell whether the Russians are serious about the path to diplomacy or not, or if they are prepared to negotiate seriously in good faith. We are [prepared to negotiate in good faith].”
Russia has moved almost 100,000 troops close to its border with Ukraine. It maintains it is not preparing for an invasion, but wants to see the West back away from supporting Ukraine’s government and has demanded guarantees Nato will not expand further eastwards.
Efforts by federalists such as Emmanuel Macron to win sovereign powers for the EU and its own armed forces are described as fantasy by Mr Tombs in comments on the bloc’s ability to be a major player on the world stage.
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He writes: “France is the only bloc member with considerable armed forces. Much of the EU has allowed itself to become dependent on Russia for energy. Several larger members are in a political and legal standoff with Brussels.
“If Vladimir Putin invades Ukraine, will that pull EU states together, or – as seems equally likely – drive them apart? Somehow I cannot see Ursula von der Leyen issuing a clarion call to resist the aggressor. It’s Nato or nothing and weakening Nato is Russia’s main object.”
Russia is due to lay down its demands for security guarantees in Europe to Nato’s 30 allies at allied headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday as part of a broader effort to defuse the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will chair the talks with the alliance’s ambassadors and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
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The allies are expected to voice concerns about what they say are covert and cyber attacks as well as electoral interference on the European Union and the United States. Russia denies any wrongdoing.
It comes after Russia staged live-fire exercises with troops and tanks near the Ukrainian border on Tuesday while sounding a downbeat note over prospects for more talks with the US.
As Nato’s leading member in Europe, Britain has been helping Ukraine to strengthen its defences while maintaining a military presence in the Baltic states, prompting Mr Tombs to ask: “In what sense have we lost ‘influence’ by leaving the EU?”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss issued a fresh call to Russia to end its “malign activity” towards Ukraine on January 7.
Ms Truss said: “We will defend democracy in eastern Europe and around the world. Our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering. We are clear that any Russian incursion would be a massive strategic mistake, for which there would be a severe cost.
“The Russian government needs to de-escalate, pursue diplomatic channels and abide by its commitments on the transparency of military activities.”
Meanwhile, the debate over the EU in Britain “drags on”, according to Mr Tombs who criticies Rejoiners for flourishing every anecdote to prove Brexit a failure.
He writes: “At no point do they discuss the EU’s direction and whether we would ever again want to be part of a faltering and increasingly post-democratic system.”
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