EU leaders attempt to dodge Putin's divide and rule tactics – article for the BBC - 07.02.22

They say there's safety in numbers says Katya Adler Europe editor

Europe, Nato and the US find themselves looking nervously over both shoulders these days.

A) At China: the ever-present shadow over Shoulder Number One, with its economic might and expanding global influence.

And increasingly:

B) At Moscow, looming over Shoulder Number Two. Not "only" the threat to Ukraine's national sovereignty, but also concern about President Vladimir Putin trying hard to shift the balance of power in Europe.

Geopolitics is very much on the mind of Western leaders. They fear the Kremlin is using tensions over Ukraine to divide and rule.

It's a mark of just how seriously they view the situation, that oft-bickering allies are suddenly, and very publicly, in a determined "we're all in this together, singing-from-the-same-hymn-sheet" mode.

The fortunes of prominent EU leaders are also being affected, in the frenzied shuttle diplomacy we're witnessing across Europe, to Moscow and Washington, as Western powers try to calm the situation and avoid a military invasion into Ukraine. I'll get to that in a moment.

Firstly, there are plenty of well-known divisions between Western allies for President Putin to try to exploit, should he so wish.

President Macron infamously dismissed Nato as "brain dead" not that long ago. He's been the loudest EU advocate of what he calls Europe's "strategic autonomy".

Since President Donald Trump, EU-US relations have been tense over Nato defence funding and more. EU-UK relations have been strained since Brexit. And EU member states regularly quarrel amongst themselves over all sorts of things. Very much including foreign policy.

But in recent off-the-record briefings I've had with high level EU diplomats - usually good for gleaning the real low-down - I've noticed a conscious change in tone.

Co-operation with the US is "better than it has been in decades", I'm told. EU countries are working "extremely well with the UK within Nato" on how to deal with Moscow, and everyone is "100% on board" with a plan for tough economic sanctions on Moscow and Putin allies, should Russia take military action in Ukraine.

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EU leaders attempt to dodge Putin's divide and rule tactics – for the BBC 07.02.22
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