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The Ukraine War and European identity

By Mark Leonard

08 May 2023 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

The war in Ukraine has called into question the EU's basic tenets, argues Mark Leonard in PS; European liberals have become less resistant to nationalism and more attuned to the need for hard power.

BERLIN – The European Parliament elections are still a year away, but political parties across the European Union have already shifted to campaign mode. While the election will undoubtedly feature a wide range of views on climate change, immigration, and religion, there is one issue that seems to unite politicians of all stripes: the war in Ukraine.

More than a year after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, all mainstream European parties are still singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to supporting the Ukrainian cause. But the appearance of unity masks a brewing conflict over the soul of Europe: its conception of freedom. While it is widely acknowledged that Ukraine’s fight represents a fight for democracy and European values, it is also increasingly clear that victory would require Europe to abandon some of the key elements of its own freedom project. This is the paradox of freedom in Europe.

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