Saturday, October 22, 2022

Europe Tires of Ukraine

Two days ago I covered an article from a site called Not the Bee. The premise of the article was that fewer and fewer Europeans were willing to starve and freeze for Zelensky. The sanctions regimen that Europe had imposed on Russia was hurting too many people in Europe. It was producing inflation and economic hardship. More and more Europeans are fed  up.

One also understands that the pending American elections have now seemed to gotten off the abortion issue and gotten onto to the inflation issue. This, along with the implosion of Liz Truss and the British conservative party, has gotten the attention of the nation’s newspaper of record.

Now, the New York Times is reporting the same story. This means that the protests and demonstrations are becoming too important to ignore. Some of us believed that the Russians and the Ukrainians should negotiate a settlement of their differences. The American and British governments were against it; they wanted to show how tough they were. Besides, women were in charge of many European countries and you certainly do not believe that women signify weakness.

Writing in the New York Times Jason Horowitz takes us to a market in Rome, to offer the view of women on the street. They are less concerned about abortion rights than about inflation:

The retired women wheeled their canvas shopping carts to the fresh pasta counter of an outdoor market in Rome this week and commiserated about how the price of tagliatelle, oranges, napkins, utility bills — you name it — had gone through the roof.

“Prices have gone up on everything,” said Simonetta Belardi, 69, a self-described leftist who argued that while inflation whittled away her savings, it also wore down her support for Ukraine in the war that many across Europe blame for the astronomical costs. She was no fan of Russia, she said, but the time had long passed for an end to military support for Ukraine and a shift to diplomatic negotiations for peace. She said more and more people she knew, in need of economic relief, were losing their patience, too.

“All they want is arms, arms, arms,” she said of Ukraine. “I’m sick and tired of them.”

As it happens, some of us, including your not-so-humble blogger have been calling for negotiations from the beginning. We have been pointing to the fact that Russia, possessing a largely ineffective military, still retained the ability to destroy Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, the electric power grid, among others. As you know, this is currently taking place.

The annoyance is not limited to Rome. More and more Europeans are unwilling to pay the price:

It is a sentiment — impatience, even inchoate anger, at the inflation fueled by the war — that transcends the shoppers in Rome’s piazzas and can be found among the weekly protests in Germany or in the swelling ranks of French strikers. And it has leaders nervous.

The sanctions imposed on Russia have produced inflation on the continent, and even in Great Britain:

The situation is arguably even more dire on continental Europe. The annual inflation rate in the European Union is now at its highest in decades — 10.9 percent in September, up from 3.6 a year earlier.

That is worse even than in the United States or Britain, and it is being driven largely by the bloc’s unique and anguishing withdrawal pains as it tries to punish Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, for his invasion of Ukraine by quitting its long dependence on cheap Russian gas.

As winter approaches, Europe’s united turn away from Russian energy is beginning to bite in households everywhere, eroding living standards and in some countries threatening to chip away at the united front for sanctions against Russia.

Someone someday should evaluate the effectiveness of warfare conducted merely with sanctions, designed, not to conquer territory but to punish other countries, as though they were obstreperous children.

In any case, Europe is paying a serious price for its sanctions:

That moment, it seems, is arriving as strikes and protests over the rising cost of living proliferate, ushering in a period of social and labor unrest not seen since at least the 1970s.

“We have seen this after the First World War, Second World War and also in the ’70s,” said Kurt Vandaele, a senior researcher at the European Trade Union Institute. “There were strike waves associated with a real spike in inflation.”

Governments are scrambling, beginning with Italy. Most interesting is the fact that Italy is now being led by a right-wing government, led by one Giorgia Meloni. We will see whether or not she does better than Liz Truss:

In Italy, the pressure is everywhere. Trade unions want the government to spend more on energy subsidies to help companies like pottery makers, who need to power their furnaces, but also farmers, who are getting slammed on the cost of fertilizers, which are produced with gas or potassium from Russia.

This week, former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who has recast himself as a populist hero of the poor in Italy’s south, announced he would join a large demonstration on Nov. 5 demanding peace for Ukraine and an end to arms shipments. Critics say he is advocating Ukraine’s surrender.

As elsewhere, the new right-wing government of Giorgia Meloni will have to struggle with how to cushion inflation’s blow without inflating already bloated deficits. Mr. Draghi, a former president of the European Central Bank, has argued that running a higher deficit would spook international markets, raise interest rates and hurt Italians.

The word from Great Britain is similar:

For its part, Britain has strongly supported Ukraine, but as Ms. Truss’s government imploded under the weight of its own reckless economic policies, a debate emerged about whether to cut back on military spending even as Ukraine seeks more arms.

Germany is wealthier and is trying to spend its way out of the problem. But still, public sentiment, anticipating a cold winter with closed industries, is turning against Ukraine.

In Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, the leadership is trying to spend its way out of the crisis as only it can. But even there it’s not clear the relief will be felt in time, and whether it will further wobble the country’s already deeply divided stance on how to help Ukraine and whether to work with Russia or isolate it.

Today, 67 percent of Germans worry about rising costs of living — 16 percent higher than last year. It’s the country’s top anxiety despite government aid packages.

In the eastern states that are among the country’s poorest, and most conservative, tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets weekly, combining their critique of high prices with support for Ukraine in the war. The left has started organizing protests that mirror the complaints of the right. In Leipzig, where some 1,300 demonstrators gathered downtown, signs read, “Our country first.”

As for France, here is the update:

But in France, the strikes and demonstrations are gaining in intensity as a fear of eroding living standards dominates concerns, polls say.

Inflation, pushed by soaring energy prices, will shave $73 billion from the gross domestic product and shrink France’s purchasing power by 1.4 percent next year, with the effect felt largely in poorer households, a recent study predicted.

Inflation impacts your standard of living. We mention in passing, for those who thrill to the virtue of onshoring manufacturing, that producing more in America and less in China will also produce inflation and reduced living standards:

On Tuesday, France’s main unions led large demonstrations in Paris, with tens of thousands marching for wage increases, and a survey last week by the polling firm IFOP found that support for Ukraine was down about 5 percentage points since May.

In August, President Emmanuel Macron of France called on people to endure the economic hardship as a show of solidarity with Ukraine, and conservation efforts have reduced French energy consumption by 14 percent. It was France’s duty to “accept the price of our freedom and values,” Mr. Macron said.

Endure hardship for Ukraine. This also means that these leaders are terrified about the prospect of appearing to be weak. But then, does anyone in Western Europe really care about Ukraine or about gauzy ideals? Less and less by the day, it seems.


Freddo said...

On a related note it seems the American army is short on its recruitment goals. John Kerry should do another interview on why the army is a great career for people who didn't finish high school (or care a lot about Ukraine/Taiwan).

I guess for most people the war in Ukraine is like poverty in Africa: tut-tut it and put on your best sad face, but not to the extend of making any significant personal sacrifices.

David Foster said...

Most European nations conducted energy policies which were irrational and dangerous. If you create a fragile system, sooner or later something is going to break it. Needs to be more soul-searching on the part of European populations as to how they allowed themselves to be snookered by people like Merkel and the Greens.

IamDevo said...

The USA defeated the Nazi regime in Europe, which, ipso facto meant the defeat of the nation-state of Germany, which required the physical devastation of the rest of the continent, then it decided to help rebuild it. Not a bad idea, but not only did we rebuild it, along with most of the rest of the continent of Europe, but we continued to support it financially and militarily for the next seventy-five years, because of fears of Russian/Soviet aggression. Europe became rich because it did not need to defend itself. It was like a spoiled teenager who was able to spend all his money on preferred items like clothes and video games because his mommie and daddy provided a roof over his head and food on the table (not to mention a nice car, clothing and the internet connection). The parents exhausted themselves while their spoiled offspring prospered. We have reached a point where exhaustion and loss of income have made it impossible for this lopsided relationship to continue. Trump tried to kick the spoiled brat out of the house but was stymied by the forces of globalism (European nationals featuring prominently in that bunch, like Herr Schwab) and now, our own traitorous Washington cabal decided to adopt another spoiled brat named Zelensky. It appears that the Europeans do not like the new kid in the house.

Callmelennie said...

Why do you assume Russias military is ineffective? Because of the time period needed to achieve its goals. It struck me months ago that Russia was anticipating and banking on what is happening RIGHT NOW!

They are achieving both goals of protecting their Russian speaking expats in Ukraine and breaking NATO. People in Europe are seeing NATO as their enemy!! And the frigid season hasnt even started yet. Americans troops in WWII were feeling a tad miserable by late October. By mid January, many were dying of cold exposure

Steve Goodman said...

The article you cite assumes that Putin is rational, would want to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the crisis he created, and would live by his word. He's not, he doesn't and he won't. Putin stated some time ago that the greatest catastrophe was the fall of the Soviet Union. Apparently, he wants to put the "pieces" back together again in an effort, similar to Stalin's, of creating a buffer against foreign invasions, you know, like from the Nazis. But the pieces include Finland and the Baltic States (Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia), as well as parts of Rumania and, perhaps, Bulgaria. It also includes all the fall away states, including Belorussia and a bunch I can't spell. That is why Finland and Sweden jumped to join NATO as soon as Russia invaded Ukraine, after proclaiming neutrality for 75 years. You may not want to go to war but war may want to go to you. Putin conducted phony referenda in eastern Ukraine, annexed the four oblasts voting to join Russia, and will soon be drafting eastern Ukrainians to fight Ukrainians. Should he have succeeded he would have moved on and done the same with the Baltic States, Finland and the breakaway states.

Russia lost the war on day 4, when the Ukrainians did not panic and surrender. Russia will soon be a totally failed state, as it is running out of money and arms and men very quickly. (It's oil revenue will end early next year and China and India cannot and will not bail it out.) Every day of this special military operation Ukraine gets a little stronger and Russia gets a little weaker. Have you noticed a lack of military aged men in Russia. Even without this war its population is rapidly aging and will soon decrease rather rapidly as the older Russians die and Russian women continue not to have children. Those Russians that escaped to the West are not going to return. Russia continues to lose their best and brightest.

This is not a war we in the West started to replace a rotten regime. Rather it is one that was foisted on us. Whether NATO or the Biden administration are properly handling this war are questions for later debate. (Kissinger stated a few months ago that the Biden administration is meandering towards a nuclear war with Russia (and China?). This is very sobering stuff.) If Europe is tired of the war, then let Europe find a way to end it. It's in their back yard. But, they are not going to go "hat in hand" to Putin to cede Ukraine to Russia. All they have to do is wait for Russia's collapse, and its coming rather rapidly, even if they slow down their arming of Ukraine.

jmod46 said...

Spengler always thinks a little outside the box. He's not always right, but to dismiss his ideas out-of-hand is dangerous...

Peter MacFarlane said...

"Should he have succeeded he would have moved on and done the same with the Baltic States, Finland and the breakaway states."


I'm note quite sure about the use of the past conditional there: it's not too late for Putin to succeed, even now, especially if the European and American appeasers get their way.

Then let Estonia, Finland, Poland, etc look to their borders! The Baltics and the Eastern Europeans are well acquainted with what the Russians are capable of - many of their own parents and grandparents felt it on their own backs, and Ukraine has not forgotten the Holodomor.

We should not let history repeat itself just for the sake of a quiet life.