New strength to crumbling club Putins invasion backfiring as EU villains come good

Putin in a ‘must-win situation’ says James Nixey

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The many divisions within Europe – and inside the Brussels-led bloc in particular – are many and well known. But reports suggest the crisis in Ukraine has acted as a magnet for leaders who previously clashed on most topics to unite in their response to Putin.

Berlin correspondent Christian Grimm, writing in German newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine, pointed to three European politicians who best represented this recent shift.

He described Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński as, until recently, fulfilling the role of the “European Union’s villains”.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan was, he added, another “rogue with the prospect of joining this club of states”.

Now, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which today, on Thursday, entered its eight day, has changed – at least to an extent – the way these figures are viewed.

Mr Grimm said: “The fight over Ukraine puts all three politicians in a better, milder light in one fell swoop.

“Now Orbán wants to take in all Ukrainians who flee to him from Russian bombs.

“The same goes for Kaczynski, the grey eminence of Polish politics.

“And Erdogan is closing the straits to the Russian navy.”

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He added: “As NATO members, all three states are allies of the deterrence community against Putin.”

Their support of the wider European position has not gone unnoticed.

Christiane Hoffmann, First Deputy Spokesperson of the German Federal Government, said: “This commitment deserves great recognition.”

Mr Grimm described the situation as having “given new strength to the crumbling club of Europeans”.

The unity is likely to come as a blow to Putin.

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He last week described the “so-called Western community” as an “empire of lies” following the imposition of sanctions against Moscow.

But some have warned the new face of unity does have its limits.

German MEP Markus Ferber, also quoted in Augsburger Allgemeine, suggested previously held concerns within the EU about Hungary and Poland should not now be forgotten about because of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

He said: “The problems with the rule of law in Poland and Hungary are also fundamental conflicts that cannot be swept under the carpet in the long term.”

He stressed to reporters that while unity is important now, Brussels will at some stage “have to deal with the difficult day-to-day business of Europe again”.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.

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