Some Geo-Political Thoughts in these Extraordinary Times
1. Putin and Italy.
Russia has/is sending aid to Italy. Surely, this is something we can all applaud, help in time of crisis; Yes, but where once we said, 'Don't trust Greeks bearing gifts' we should now be saying,'Don't trust Putin bearing gifts'. The Russian Army has been flying in medical aid to hard pressed Northern Italy.
The background is however illuminating. Russia has been courting Italy over the last few years, seeking to widen divisions between Italy and the rest of The EU. This is an opportune moment for Russia, as many in Italy are critical of the lack of support during the pandemic from The EU centrally and from its individual members. A void into which Putin has marched.
Putin is also seeking any opportunity to weaken NATO, and Italy has been seen for sometime in Moscow as a potential weak link in the alliance. Indeed Russia has sought Italian help in gaining acceptance of Russia's annexation of Crimea and intervention in Eastern Ukraine.
Not only has Russia sent medical supplies but it has deployed medics from the Russian Army to help fight the pandemic.
Soft Power, or something potentially more sinister? You must judge for yourselves.
2. EU Solidarity
This story leads inexorably on to the second, namely the failure of EU Solidarity during this crisis. EU countries have closed their borders unilaterally, and imposed a variety of measures, or in Sweden's case relatively no measures, to deal with the crisis. By contrast Great Britain 's national Government has worked closely with the three devolved Authorities, and so far everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. The Queen has given leadership in a way welcomed by the vast majority of the population, and indeed in other countries too.
Does the EU's failure to provide leadership and common approaches expose the frailty behind the push for greater political union? Jacques Delors, now 94, has said that this lack of EU Solidarity could pose a 'mortal danger' to the EU.
Nowhere are the divisions more stark than over the money required for any European wide intervention. This in turn raises the wide divisions that already exist, economically, socially and politically between North and South, or more starkly still between Germany and the rest.
Of course, none of this will help the case for Britain's negotiation for a smooth exit from The EU.
Interesting times, indeed.