Ukraine fiasco marks end of the EU’s imperial dream
The EU, dedicated to eliminating national identity, has finally run up against the rock of a national interest that will not give way
22 Mar 2014
By Christopher Booker
Normally when a country’s people give a referendum vote that the EU doesn’t like, they are just told to vote again to put it right. In the case of Crimea, however, where 96 per cent of the people voted to return to Russia, the EU was in no position to ask them to think again. Even if they did, considering that Crimea, where the tsars, Tolstoy and Chekhov used to spend their summers, has been part of Russia for most of the past 230 years, that 60 per cent of its people are ethnic Russians and that 82 per cent speak Russian at home, they would be unlikely to change their minds.
The hard fact is that, whatever we think of President Putin, this episode has been the most salutary fiasco the “European project” has ever brought upon itself in 60 years. It has always been driven by two paramount principles: one, that it can assume ever more power over the nations that belong to it; the other, that it can suck ever more of them into its embrace (echoed in David Cameron’s boast last year of how he saw the EU one day stretching “from the Atlantic to the Urals”). But with Ukraine, their fantasy of an ever-expanding empire has hit the buffers.
For years the EU has been wooing Ukraine with that “Association Agreement” as the next step towards making it a full member. But by pushing its “soft power” right up to the Russian border, this strange organisation dedicated to eliminating national identity has finally run up against the rock of a national interest that will not give way.
And to what a pitiful state this has reduced our own supposed “leaders” in the West. They haven’t a clue what to do. They blether about how Russia is “isolated”, and of those pathetic little “targeted” sanctions.
Chancellor Merkel talks wildly of how the G8, of which Russia is currently president, “no longer exists”. President Hollande calls on Britain to act against all those Russian oligarchs who have put £27 billion into London, when the UK knows it has £46 billion invested in Russia.
The EU’s leaders can scarcely afford to be too aggressive when it imports from Russia 30 per cent of its natural gas. They prattle instead about having to replace it with imports from the US, which, thanks to fracking, has now replaced Russia as the world’s biggest gas producer. But the US is only now building facilities to export some of it, and its preferred customer will not be Europe but Japan, desperate to make up for closing its nuclear power stations. Squawking around like chickens panicked by a fox, the EU’s politicians suddenly say, too late, that to end our dependence on Russia, we must get on with fracking for shale gas ourselves.
So the Ukrainians are trapped between a rock and a place that turns out to be too soft to help them, On Friday, when their acting prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, came to Brussels to sign that Association Agreement, the EU was so embarrassed that the ceremony had to take place behind closed doors, away from the eyes of the media. The poor man was not even allowed a microphone, but had to shout out his wish still to see Ukraine as an EU member.
The EU knows it is powerless to prevent Mr Putin in due course absorbing Ukraine’s Russian-speaking industrial heartland, leaving the EU to look after what remains of that bankrupt country, like a dismembered corpse. But there is no sign that those impotent nonentities who pose as our leaders have yet realised that their ambition to take over Ukraine must now rank alongside the euro as the two leading examples of how their collective act of make-believe is finally hitting the brick wall of reality.
Why Met Office gaffes are worse than a joke
We are, of course, only too familiar with the way the computer models relied on by our global-warming-besotted Met Office have so consistently in recent years got their seasonal weather forecasts 180 degrees wrong: how its “ barbecue summer” of 2009 was a washout; how its October 2010 forecast that December would be warmer than average preceded the coldest December ever; how its March 2012 prediction that we were in for a dry April was immediately followed by the wettest April on record; and so forth.
What makes this much more than a joke, however, is that the other branches of government are obliged to believe these predictions and to shape their response accordingly. I recently described how the Met Office’s forecast last November – that we were in for a drier than average winter – prompted the Environment Agency to allow flooding of a key part of the Somerset Levels, in the interests of keeping enough water for birds. When this was followed by the wettest January on record, the already flooded area owned by Natural England blocked the draining of so much land further east that disaster was inevitable.
Fortunately, it is reported that Somerset’s floodwater, last month covering 65 square miles, has now dropped by six feet. And it may be little consolation that forecasting gaffes long predate those of our Met Office. A splendid reader has sent me a CD full of weather-related items from 19th-century editions of Gardener’s Magazine. One, in 1879, recalled how, that spring, “a meteorologist of long experience” had predicted in the Times that the summer would be so abnormally dry that “the drought of 1879” would be a wonder to behold. As shown by the Met Office’s England and Wales data back to 1766, the months between June and August that year promptly saw the heaviest summer rainfall in all the past 250 years. But at least we didn’t then have a government obliged to base its policies on what the “experts” foretold.
I must thank the reader who queried my own gaffe in claiming on March 9 that this had been only “the 16th wettest winter” since 1766. Having looked more carefully at the data, what I should have said was that January was only the fifteenth wettest month in that time (and last winter only the fifth wettest three-month period). My apologies.