Reviews | After the war in Ukraine, Europe owes the United States a commitment to democracy

Picture via AP

Children look through car windows as they and other refugees from Ukraine’s Kharkov region arrive at a temporary camp in Belgorod, Russia.

By Paul Beer, Staff Columnist

American money – whether real dollars or loans to Ukraine — is at the center of the Ukraine-Russia conflict that has been going on for February.

From January to August 2022, the United States has engaged more than $42.7 billion to Ukraine in the form of military, financial and humanitarian aid. This commitment is almost three times that of the European Union, the second largest contributor, whose territory is most at stake during this conflict. The extra help comes during a summer of record gas prices for American citizens, in part due to America’s commitment to punishments on Russian oil.

In recent weeks, American citizens have changed their minds about supporting the war, driven primarily by their pocketbooks. Recently, 58% of Americans say they have some or strongly oppose continue the current trend of aid to Ukraine if it means they will be hit at the pump or the grocery store. Even if the American people do not lose their income to support Ukraine, for example through taxes as in other European states, American aid should be accompanied by reciprocity.

This reciprocity does not necessarily have to be economic. It can also be political. Europe can affirm its support for the United States by investigating the democratic backsliding currently sweeping the continent.

Speaking in Poland in March, President Joe Biden called Russia’s war a strangle on democracy, calling Russia autocratic. In recent weeks, Biden has been disengage — the war in Ukraine is a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. If Biden’s rhetoric is to be trusted as the real reason for our overwhelming financial support for Ukraine, then he must pressure the EU to reciprocate by also affirming his commitment to democracy.

The American people are financially supporting this war in hopes of keeping democracy alive around the world, so Europe needs to better watch its own shrinking democracies.

The best place for the EU to start making meaningful progress is Hungary. From the outset, the last Hungarian elections appeared to be functionally democratic. But this picture collapses when you look further. The state government is allowed to use its own resources in the media to prevent the spread of opposition campaigns and strengthen its own campaign. A report of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights found in an investigation that the lines between party and government had become so blurred that the voting choice seemed unfair.

In the last election, Viktor Orbán’s party amendments to the constitution and gerrymandering of Hungary once again worked, giving his party far greater representation than it deserved. At the latest Conservative Political Action Coalition conference in the United States, Orbán was a guest speaker following his recent racist remarks and subscription to the white supremacist”great replacementtheory. This idea posits that an influx of immigrants from other nations is detrimental to the maintenance of a white majority in any nation and must be stopped.

Otherwise, Poland has also been criticized for weakening democratic values ​​in the EU, and Italy has been criticized for recently electing the far right Giorgia Meloni.

The EU has allowed the democratic backsliding of these nations to go too far. In an ideal world, Biden could withdraw his administration’s support for European security in Ukraine or other non-NATO countries on Europe’s doorstep by demanding that the EU remove regressing regimes from the bloc. economic. There is, however, a simple flaw in this way of thinking — the EU does not have a system in place to remove a member country, and now that Hungary, Poland and Italy are feeling the EU’s disapproval growing, they are unlikely to let an amendment like this pass.

Polls say that in Hungary EU support is still in the majority. It is a pity that the EU cannot leverage this support against Hungary by threatening to withdraw it.

The EU blocked funds for economic aid to Hungary, while creating a new set of sanctions. The EU should use these new sanctions to completely to block Hungary to receive access to the EU budget. Under pressure from the United States, the EU could speed up processes that normally take several months to complete, such as imposing more sanctions and blocking the transfer of funds to Hungary. The US could force the EU to act quickly on these issues, but only by using Ukraine as an ultimatum.

Moreover, Europe as a continent, and not only within the framework of the European Union, has much to offer the United States in terms of NATO. In short, Article Five of NATO states that individual member countries must be protected against offensive by all other member countries. Poland and Hungary are protected by this alliance, despite their lack of commitment to democracy. Biden and Europe are expected to threaten the formation of a new alliance without these nations if the pushback continues. The United States should signal to Hungary that its economic commitment to Russia also implies its commitment to it militarily.

These actions would not only benefit citizens living in countries facing serious democratic backsliding, but they could also provide an initiative to strengthen the United States in the face of the same problems. As Donald Trump’s potential second election looms, the United States also needs the commitment of other nations to police our future democracy.

Paul Beer writes about political affairs and reads too many album reviews. Write him back (or send him music recommendations) at [email protected].