Unsurprisingly, the debates leading up to the European elections were marked by geopolitical issues: the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, growing tensions between the West and the China-Russia bloc, which intends to increase its influence in the South and increase members of the BRICS+ group [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and Iran]. Some say the cause is clear: Europe’s future will be more defense-oriented. Faced with the Russian threat, the European Union (EU) has no choice but to flex its military muscles and massively increase the budget for its militaries, which some would like to see rise from the current 1.5-2% of national income to 3%, or even 4%.

However, there is nothing to suggest that such a prospect is realistic or even desirable. Firstly, because Western military budgets are already considerable and would benefit from being better mobilized. Secondly, because Europe would be better advised to put its wealth and power at the service of social, educational, scientific and climatic objectives. Finally, and above all, because Europe must try to influence other countries through economic and financial sanctions, the law and social justice, rather than military, means. Instead of falling into the temptations of defense-focused geopolitics, Europe must invent a social, economic and climate geopolitics.

Let’s start by recalling that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries are collectively far more powerful economically and militarily than Russia. Their combined gross domestic product is 10 times higher and their air capabilities five times greater. The problem is that NATO has decided to let Russia bomb Ukrainian territory as much as it likes, including massacring civilians and destroying homes and energy infrastructure.

No-fly zone

With the air capabilities at its disposal, NATO could decide to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. As long as the aim is to defend Ukrainian territory, and in no way to attack Russian territory, such a mobilization of both NATO’s human and material resources would be legitimate. Lending a few aircraft or anti-aircraft batteries to Ukraine won’t be enough, as it takes years to train qualified pilots and personnel. In any case, Ukraine will remain at a massive demographic disadvantage to Russia.

The strategic decision to intervene directly is admittedly a difficult one: It would mean nothing less than defending Ukraine, as NATO would have to do in the event of aggression by one of its members. But the fact is, it would be just as difficult if NATO had 10 times as many aircraft as Russia. Once this red line has been drawn, Western countries could also open the door to legitimate, democratic political processes in the disputed territories of Crimea and Donbas.

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