Europe Looks for Its Soul in the Ukraine-Russia Conflict


Standing by the Ukraine.
Feb 5, 2002
United States
Marital Status
German philosopher Jurgen Habermas sees the war as a moral crusade that can help the continent redeem itself; for America, it’s an opportunity to reclaim its power and deter China

In a public letter to the Süddeutsche Zeitung a few months after Vladimir Putin’s botched bid to sack Kyiv, noted German philosopher Jürgen Habermas declared that the goal of European policy was that “Ukraine ‘must not lose’ this war,” even as he defended German caution and suspicion of military power. In Habermas’ view, the crisis in Ukraine simply reinforced his belief that the EU needed its own independent militarily capabilities, separate and apart from the unreliable Americans. In a significant sign of Franco-German comity, the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy had also rhapsodically declared Volodymyr Zelenskyy “a new, young and magnificent founding father” of a “Europe of principles” and that the “free world” itself was at stake in Ukraine.

Determined Ukrainian resistance and a shambolic Russian military effort might seem to vindicate the optimism of these continental “philosophes,” despite all the various catastrophes of the past decade, climaxing in the disastrous American exit from Kabul last year. Has nemesis finally come for Putin, who has played spoiler to the liberal international order for decades and wreaked havoc in diverse climes ranging from the Central African Republic to Syria to Ukraine? Will this be the historic “Zeitenwende” (turning point), to use German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s term, that finally vindicates Lévy’s and Habermas’ vision? Or will it reinforce how despite high-minded philosophical talk of new international order, the new post-liberal order’s foundations rest on American military dominance in Europe and a rising tide of nationalist rearmament in Europe, constrained only by the chronic indecisiveness created by the proliferation of inexpensive precision munitions?

Continued below.
Europe Looks for Its Soul in the Ukraine-Russia Conflict