Explaining Europe’s Reaction

TURIN/NEW YORK – What explains Europe’s dramatic, costly, and even revolutionary response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

Germany’s newfound commitment to rearmament, which for decades would have caused an international outcry, has been widely applauded. And with traditionally neutral Finland and Sweden now considering joining NATO, the Alliance suddenly looks anything but “brain dead.” Even Switzerland has abandoned 500 years of neutrality to impose financial sanctions against Russia – and, while jaws dropped around the world, Swiss public opinion took it in stride. Most startling, perhaps, was the announcement by the Netherlands and other European states that they would send weapons to help Ukrainians kill Russian troops, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s snarling threat that any country intervening in his “special military operation” would pay a grisly price.

European outrage at Putin’s war is not limited to governments. Four out of five German citizens support Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s decision to help arm Ukrainians. The current surge of solidarity in European civil society has refuted the Putinistas’ bare-chested rhetoric that effete debauchery had incurably sapped Europe’s fighting spirit. Fundraising initiatives to help Ukraine are mushrooming everywhere. Countries often labeled as xenophobic, such as Poland and Hungary, are receiving Ukrainian refugees with open arms. The Ukrainian flag and its colors are now visible across the continent, from web pages to painted pets to soccer stadiums.

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