Europeans Aren’t Concerned About Russian Bear Invading Continent After Ukraine

The foreign policy blob in Washington, D.C., would have us believe that Vladimir Putin is Adolf Hitler 2.0 and must be stopped before he rolls over the rest of Europe. It is an intellectually lazy argument.

In the first place, Russia has struggled in its fight with Ukraine—a small nation with one-fourth Russia’s population and far fewer resources. How would Mother Russia fare against the combined firepower of NATO? Likely not so hot: Europe’s economy is six times larger than Russia’s. Likewise, the population advantage of Europe stands three-to-one over Russia.

Aside from Russia’s vast nuclear weapons stockpiles, it is no match for Europe.

Putin knows he would be crushed in a head-to-head with NATO and has repeatedly made clear that he has no interest in going to war with any NATO country, including Poland.

Secondly, if Europe was seriously under threat from the Russian bear, you might think that Europeans themselves would be more alarmed. They don’t seem to be. In fact, across nearly every threat measured by the Munich Security Council, trends show a downward ebb among Europeans. To most, Russia ranks as a threat below radical Islamic terrorism and mass migration. The Germans are more worried about cyber attacks than Putin; to the French, racism is more worrisome.

Aren’t these the very people America is spending $185 billion in Ukraine to protect from Russian expansionism?

Across the European continent, the United States maintains 100,000 troops on 185 major military bases and 78 minor sites (minor being defined as less than 10 acres or $10 million). Taken altogether, American forward operating bases in Europe sprawl over 265,000 acres with an estimated value of $95.5 billion. When one examines the Department of Defense’s annual budget, protecting Europe is America’s largest yearly expenditure—and that’s before Ukraine supplemental funding is added to the tally.

Yet the average resident of Berlin is likely more worried about his email getting hacked than he frets about the Kremlin rolling tanks through Deutschland.

Europe was the world’s center for combat power from roughly 1400 until 1945. No more. Even the larger armies of NATO are struggling to maintain effective combat power. The British Army cannot sustain a complete expeditionary armored brigade. At 23 years old, the Charles de Gaulle, France’s flagship and sole aircraft carrier, is reaching the end of its effective lifespan but sea trials are not expected to begin for its replacement until 2036.

The French have less than 90 heavy artillery pieces—Russia is losing more each month fighting Ukraine. Reporting in October 2022 found that Germany only had enough ammunition for two days of war, far below the NATO 30-day minimum. In 2022 NATO exercises, none of the Bundeswehr’s 18 new Puma infantry fighting vehicles were able to complete the drill.

Ukraine has revealed many of NATO’s weakness. These led a professor of war studies at the University of Warwick, Anthony King, to remark that Europe has “systematically demilitarized itself because it didn’t need to spend the money. They have basically gone to sleep.”

That ambivalence toward defense comes across in another recent survey of Europeans. Sixty percent of Italians, 47% of Germans and 40% of the French are in favor of cutting off arms shipments to Ukraine. Across Europe, 60% think that Ukraine will be an economic burden. Among the French, Spanish and Italians, more than 40% either don’t know or don’t care who wins the war in Ukraine.

Perhaps America’s security blanket for Europe has been too heavy and we have indeed lulled the continent into a stupor. Or maybe Europeans are correct in their assessment of Putin—that his invasion of Ukraine is not a precursor to the reassembly of the U.S.S.R.

In either case, more American taxpayers are questioning the D.C. logic that demands ever-increasing blank checks for a war with no end in sight.


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