The West is concerned that Russia would grab Ukraine, but this worry is unfounded.

Ukraine’s annexation is already underway |EUROPEANS24
[Ukraine Annexation/Europeans24]

The EU and NATO are concerned about a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. They have every reason to be concerned, since Russia will escalate without hesitation, while the West continues to look for a better solution. Brussels and Washington are attempting to put out the fire, while Russia determines when and where a fresh fire will be lit.

Meanwhile, the annexation of the east has begun - not just by force, but also by civic and commercial relations. In this context, military mobilization appears to be a sideshow, a distraction from the creeping takeover of eastern Ukraine's quasi-independent states. In 2014, the pro-Russian republics of Donetsk and Luhansk proclaimed independence from Kiev, but Ukraine refused to recognize them.

Russian citizenship has already been granted to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians. Many of them voted in the Duma elections last year, either online or on planned bus excursions to Russian districts nearby. Some renowned Ukrainians have even been given Duma mandates.

Vladimir Putin issued a decree this week that allows commodities from these "republics" to be marketed freely in Russia, including government purchases. Officially, the edict is an exemption - humanitarian relief - and will stay in place until the political situation improves. And this is only the most recent in a series of initiatives. The right to use the ruble as a currency was granted in 2015, the passports of the "republics" were recognized in 2017, and the citizenship procedure began in 2019.

Meanwhile, the EU is divided once again on how to settle the problem on the Belarusian border. Angela Merkel's chat with Alyaksandr Lukashenka, even though she called him just as "Mr. Lukashenka," did not sit well with some who believe it legitimized his authority. Merkel, according to Omid Nuripur, the German Greens' foreign policy speaker, broke the EU's obvious agreement not to accept Lukashenko as Belarus' legitimate president.

At the same time, Nuripur encouraged Germany and the EU to welcome refugees stranded at the border, but his coalition partners, the Free Democratic Party of Germany (FDP), which is in trilateral talks with the Greens and the Social Democrats (SDP), are adamantly opposed. These two parts of the "traffic light" alliance are the furthest apart in foreign policy. Moscow will be ecstatic if the Greens depart from the bargaining table. Poland and Lithuania are the other two critical voices. They're curious as to what will happen next.

Emmanuel Macron has also gone above and beyond the scope of any EU mandate. During an almost two-hour phone discussion with Vladimir Putin on Monday, Macron made it clear that France is prepared to preserve Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty, even if it involves using military force. Jean-Luc Melenchon, the socialist leader, believes Macron would need a parliamentary mandate to do so.

Macron discussed a wide variety of issues in a difficult session, but Putin pulled off his typical allegation trick: he just flipped everything upside down. As a result, Putin protested to Macron about Polish border guards' aggressiveness toward refugees, provocative actions in Kiev, and US military posture in the Black Sea. Putin has the benefit of time on his side, and he understands how to fracture the EU. This is the greatest example of the divide and conquer strategy.

The author Wolfgang Münchau is a former co-editor of the German newspaper Financial Times Deutschland and director of the UK-registered website EuroIntelligence.
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