The Ukrainian crisis is first and foremost a European issue, and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is a conflict in Europe.
During the crisis, Ukraine not only received assistance and support from EU countries and organizations, but Ukraine’s accession to the EU was also brought to the agenda as an exception. Unsurprisingly, Ukraine’s entry into the European family is one of the most important effects of the conflict. Russia, on the other side of the conflict, is always regarded as a neighbor by European countries, but in fact Russia has always regarded itself as a member of Europe. In short, this is a crisis and conflict in Europe.
The Russian-Ukrainian conflict did not arise suddenly. Although the Cold War ended 30 years ago, the pace of Western expansion has never stopped in the past 30 years. NATO, a product of the Cold War, has not only not disbanded, but has continued to expand when its old rival, the Warsaw Pact, no longer exists. So far, it has expanded eastward for five rounds.
Russia wanted to coexist peacefully with NATO, and even proposed to join NATO, but NATO has always been afraid of Russia. Russia finally could no longer bear it, and with Putin’s speech at the Munich Security Conference in Germany in 2007 as a turning point, relations with NATO and the West began to tighten across the board. In 2008, the then US President George W. Bush intended to admit Georgia and Ukraine to NATO, but later gave up temporarily due to strong opposition from Russia and dissuasion from France and Germany. In the same year, the Russian-Georgian conflict, also known as the “Five-Day War”, occurred. The curtain of the strategic game between Russia and the United States and the West was officially opened.
In 2013, Ukrainian President Yanukovych stepped down in the “Plaza Revolution”, Ukraine ended its pro-Russian policy and embarked on a pro-Western road. In 2014, Russia “recaptured” Crimea, and the armed conflict in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine began to rage for eight years. Russia is determined to counter NATO’s intrusion, and its contradictions with the United States and Europe have finally reached the moment of total eruption after a long-term evolution after the Cold War. In a speech delivered by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December 2021, he emphasized that “Ukraine cannot join NATO” and declared that there can be no more bloodshed in eastern Ukraine. It is precisely because of this that it has been seen that the first step of Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine this time is to announce the recognition of the “independence” of the two regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in the eastern region of Ukraine.
Now, the war in Ukraine shows no sign of ending, and its impact is still expanding. Europe bears the brunt of the multiple pressures, including the influx of millions of refugees, soaring energy prices, and rising food prices. For Europe, however, the really big and far-reaching implications are on European security issues. Security issues were the top issue faced by European countries after World War II. Shortly after World War II, Europe was divided into eastern and western halves. In Western Europe, in order to prevent war, extraordinary measures such as Franco-German reconciliation and regional integration were taken on the one hand, and a transatlantic alliance was formed on the other hand. The United States is therefore deeply involved in European political, economic, and security affairs. After the end of the Cold War, the European security environment has greatly improved, but the United States has not taken Russia’s feelings seriously, and is still promoting the establishment of a NATO-led European security pattern as the so-called “winner of the Cold War”. This has planted the seeds for the conflict between Europe and the United States and Russia. Although NATO may now take advantage of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine to complete a new round of expansion and admit Sweden and Finland to join, the Ukraine crisis clearly shows people that European security issues are far from resolved, and how to handle relations with Russia will still be the number one security concern for European countries. problem.
The military conflict between Russia and Ukraine has led to three major changes in the European security landscape: first, the relationship between the EU and Russia, the two largest powers in Europe, has turned into a serious confrontation; , has been reactivated; third, European countries have to continue to accept the fact that they are inseparable from the United States and NATO in terms of security, but on the other hand, their will to develop EU defense is stronger.
It is difficult for the EU to intervene in such hard security issues as the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Before the conflict broke out, EU member states such as France and Germany had conducted diplomatic mediation between Russia and Ukraine, but they were all unsuccessful. However, after the conflict broke out, the cohesion of EU countries increased greatly, and they stood together in an unprecedented way in supporting Ukraine against Russia and imposing severe sanctions on Russia. It is worth noting that the EU summit on March 24 adopted the “Strategic Compass for Security and Defense”, and the member states reached a new consensus on strengthening the EU’s defense integration, including the establishment of a 5,000-strong rapid response force. In the foreword to the “Strategic Compass”, Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, wrote that in the face of “the most serious conflict in the European region since World War II”, Europe must develop its own “hard security force”.
This shows that Europe has not only not given up its pursuit of “strategic independence” due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, on the contrary, its sense of urgency and determination to develop autonomous defense has been further strengthened. However, Europe will never achieve true “strategic autonomy” overnight. Europe knows that it will be inseparable from the United States and NATO for a long time. Therefore, while promoting strategic autonomy, it constantly emphasizes that the EU’s defense construction is a “supplement” to NATO. Not “alternative”.
On March 25, 2022, after US President Biden visited the EU headquarters, he and European Commission President von der Leyen jointly met the press.
Since last year, China-EU cooperation has struggled due to changes in Europe’s perception of China, the influence of the U.S. Biden administration, and sanctions. The approval of the China-EU Comprehensive Investment Agreement has also stalled. Now, this relationship has been hit by the crisis in Ukraine, and some in Europe believe that China is on Russia’s side, and misunderstandings and negative sentiments towards China have continued unabated. Of course, the resilience of China-EU economic and trade cooperation is also very prominent. In 2021, the trade volume between the two sides will increase significantly, exceeding 800 billion US dollars. In the first two months of this year, the EU once again surpassed ASEAN to become China’s largest trading partner. At the same time, the two sides are dealing with climate change, energy transition and digital There is also great potential for cooperation in areas such as transformation.
China and the EU are taking active measures to eliminate misunderstandings and maintain cooperation. Since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, two high-profile summits have been held between China and the EU. The first was a video meeting between the leaders of China, France and Germany on March 8, and the second was a China-EU summit on April 1. . The two summits have attracted widespread attention firstly because of the Ukraine crisis, and people are generally concerned about how China and Europe will respond to this conflict, and secondly because, as the world’s two most important economies, no matter what China and the EU do Such decisions have global implications. The European Parliament held a special meeting to openly discuss the China-EU leaders’ meeting. It can be seen that there are both hard-liners against China and pragmatic voices who demand to listen to China’s opinions and cooperate with China. All in all, the two summits told people that although there are prominent differences between China and the EU, they still value dialogue and cooperation with each other.
At present, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is still ongoing, and its impact remains to be observed. For China-EU relations, dialogue is more important than usual at this critical time.