July 28th, 2014
12:24 PM ET

EU the world's great no-show

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

On Ukraine, Europe has always been a step behind, internally conflicted, and unwilling to assert itself clearly and quickly. Those same qualities have been on display ever since the shoot-down of Flight 17…

…It's really difficult to have your voice heard and feared when you both speak softly and carry a twig. The problem is now being described by some as European cowardice and appeasement. But it is better explained by an absence of coherence among 28 very different countries, a lack of strategic direction, and a parochial inward orientation that hopes the world's problems will go away.

The result nevertheless is a great vacuum in international life with terrible consequences.

If we look back years from now and wonder why the liberal, open rule-based international order weakened and eroded over the years, we might well note that a crucial problem was that the world's most powerful political and economic unit – the European Union – with a population and economy larger than America's, was the great no-show on the international stage.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column

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Topics: Fareed's Take • GPS Show

soundoff (172 Responses)
  1. chri§§y

    @ Will...i find it offensive when you use the Lords name in vane! Please refrain from doing so in the future! Thank you!

    July 29, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Reply
    • Star*Dagger

      You are kidding right? Your religious beliefs do not trump someone else's right to speak how they wish.

      July 29, 2014 at 3:12 pm | Reply
    • Igor

      I live in USA for 25 years, came from Moscow to do biomedical research. Still have friends/family in Russia and see present conflict from many sides. Thus, I will keep repeating, may be some people get a bit more knowledgeable about present crisis as US government is dragging its own country into economic chaos and the whole world into major cataclysm:

      Before Malasyan plane was shot down there was a prolonged intermission by CNN/BBC in reporting on Ukraine civil war. The fact that plane was directed through region of war where several planes were already shot down just underscores the fact that international community was largely ignorant of what is going on in Ukraine and did not take it seriously. The civil strife in Ukraine is not new. Ukraine region of Kiev is a starting point of Russia back in early middle ages. At the times of Ukraine/Russia origin both regions were ruled by same knights. Separation took place when rulers settled more towards northern areas. Whatever was called Ukraine in 17-th century
      voluntarily incorporated itself into Russia. Conflicts within Ukrainian population about disagreements on whether to be separate or part of Russia were
      going on and off from the time Ukraine/Russia can trace its history. One of the
      more notable episodes was a war between Peter the Great and Ukranian insurgency
      at Poltava (early 18-th century, when Swedish king sided with insurgents).
      About 10 million ethnic Russians live in Ukraine now; about 3-4 million
      Ukrainians live in Russia. Uncountable (millions of people) families
      have both Ukrainian and Russian sides. Ukraine never had an experience in
      independent statehood until 1991, when Soviet Union broke up. After revolution
      in 1917, the Bolsheviks organized a republic of Ukraine as part of Soviet
      Union. In 1920’s large parts of land (present day Estern Ukraine where civil
      war is going on) were transferred administratively from Russian Federation to
      Ukraine. This resulted in major Russian population in Eastern Ukraine. In 1954
      Crimea was transferred from Russian Federation to Ukraine.

      The present outburst of conflict was a result of many factors: 1. Malfunctioned state of Ukraine 2. An absence of agreement about degree of participation in European Union 3. Nationalistic riots 4. Concern of USA about Russia becoming stronger politically, economically and militarily over last 10 years, and therefore desire of US policy-makers to have leverages in the regions close to Russia. 5. Interference of the USA and support to Ukraine’s politicians who usurped the power in Kiev back in February 2014.

      What now? Airplane tragedy just provoked international
      attention. Thus, one should be aware that more than 1000 civilians were killed in Eastern Ukraine (more than 100 children) during this civil war by now. About 500,000 refugees from Civil war area are in Russia by now. Ukrainian army continues firing on civil area in hope to intimidate and suppress resistance. The Ukrainian army sustains major casualties. There are protests in Kiev and Western Ukraine against sending soldiers to fight in the east. The economy is crumbling as Ukraine cannot sustain the costs of war on its own. Ukraine is asking USA for military and economic help. If
      this help comes Russia will upgrade its participation in defending revolting
      regions as Russia cannot afford to let Ukraine become a province of USA militarily and economically.

      The USA is trying to get Europe more tightly involved in economic sanctions.
      Interestingly, England who will suffer least (it does not import gas from
      Russia) is screaming the loudest tunes. Should US send military and financial help it will put enormous costs on US economy as Ukraine was collecting all sorts of help for last 25 years with most of it ending up in pockets of corrupt politicians. What can be done? First, do not assume that Putin is aggressor.

      So far, he responded to a situation as a leader who cares about national
      interests of his country. Crimea had referendum, and naturally Russian majority
      decided that it is time to have Crimea as part of Russia again. They live in peace now, unlike Russian-speaking population in Eastern Ukraine. The only way to end this conflict is for USA to start serious negotiations with Russia and Ukraine, and stop giving illusion to Ukraine’s politicians that USA and Western Europe will solve their problems.......

      August 2, 2014 at 1:16 pm | Reply
      • Atomik1

        Thanks for the in depth historical analysis. If you paraphrase Fareed Zacharia simplistic analysis, Western media is a no-show in reporting real facts let alone real analysis of the situation in Ukraine. Either US media is intellectually dishonest or intellectually lazy. Both options are equally depressing.

        August 3, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
  2. Salmon

    There is no way Europe can speak with one voice when it is a union of many sovereign nations, without a Clear leader, authorised by all member nations to speak on the collective behalf. The United Mistakes of America have one advantage in having a commander in chief to be the spokesperson for the one government which is approved by the groups of states. Europe will most likely remain divided without a single voice speaking for all. Europe is a free market but a very divided market politically. .

    July 29, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Reply
  3. citizenUSA

    The, "absence of coherence among 28 very different countries", shows that part of the original purpose for creating the EU is not working. United they stand, divided they fall.

    July 29, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Reply
  4. P-51 Mustang Red Tail

    As long as they are solely dependent upon getting their energy supplies from Russia and Russia's big investment in their countries....it is no wonder they can't bite the hand that is feeding them the Gas and $$$. Putin will CUT it, then what? And none of these countries will Unite to go and TAKE it from the Russian Bear! (Far fetched and wreckless thought) but you see my drift. So, therein lies the dilemma. They will mouth off for a while, but they will still be his customers. Putin is saying: "Y'all want Gas to heat your homes this winter? Then STFU, mind your business." And of course the EU goes back to minding its own business as usual. Tsk, tsk. ENERGY DEPENDENCE.

    July 29, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Reply
    • Brian McKinsey

      Well, that about sums it up doesn't it? He who has the gold (or gas and oil) makes the rules. Don't bite the hand that feeds you, even when it belongs to a monster. God, if we could only become energy independent and tell these lunatics in the Middle East and Putin to go to blazes.

      July 30, 2014 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  5. Eric

    The Europeans have simply been spoiled by our military protection and economic stewardship. They have lost the ability to stand up for themselves.

    July 29, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Reply
    • sly

      Nah ... Europeans are just more intelligent than Americans, and they know that the Ukrainian Civil War is the business of the Ukrainian people.

      They watched as fools like Bush and Bomb Bomb McCain and DikCheney flushed America down the toilet so they could stuff billions of oil and military dollars down their pants.

      July 29, 2014 at 2:28 pm | Reply
      • marry

        sly – absolutely correct. Let’s hope things stay that way despite the US effort to push TTIP. TTIP undermines democracy with secret negotiations and secret courts. The US "people-corporations" have already harvested everything in the US – now they stretch there greedy hands out to do the same to Europe. But I think Europeans see this coming and will not agree to be taken to the cleaners like Americans have been because they are so politically asleep!

        July 29, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
      • Reality

        Europe has no GRIP. ....they can't even think for them self....TKS

        July 31, 2014 at 8:49 pm |
    • A6driver

      Eric's assessment is absolutely correct.

      July 29, 2014 at 6:59 pm | Reply
  6. gusm

    Let the EU defend themselves from Putin. Let them fend for themselves or maybe they don't mind being part of Russia. In any case, why should the US waste time, money and lives on these countries who don't even try to defend and take care of themselves.

    July 29, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Reply
    • Alan S

      GUSM: No one is saying anything about the U.S. spending any money or lives. The author was pointing out the fact that the EU is unable to make a decision, or show leadership.

      July 29, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Reply
  7. Prut

    Ever consider that maybe deep down they know that Russia has done nothing for which it should be punished, except for trying to stop with diplomacy our country's drive for war?

    July 29, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Reply
    • kurt

      Invading other countries and annexing them into your own is generally considered to be "bad" behavior.

      The US has done some pretty bad things... be we don't even annex territory from our neighbors these days.

      July 29, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Reply
    • Alan S

      Prut: My heavens. What are you saying? The Russians have not used diplomacy, and the U.S. has never shown any desire whatever for war in or near the Ukraine. Your comment flies in the face of every fact of the situation.

      July 29, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Reply
  8. dajadags

    I still cannot figure out what makes zakaria an expert on foreign affairs and where did he come from???
    anyway, europe wants to stay warm and it is that simple and let zakaria buy everyone a fur coat for winter.

    July 29, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Reply
    • sly

      The author is paid to write and appear on television for a major news organization because he has credentials, education and experience.

      You are paid to collect people's garbage because you don't have intelligence, likely never finished elementary school, and unlike your mother, you don't have any experience.

      He is qualified.
      You are a fool.

      Now did you figure it out?

      July 29, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Reply
      • marry

        sly – correct again. However, I would not have put it that way :-)! A bit patience sometimes works wonders – better than shooting from the hip the way some people like to "solve" problems – of cause letting others bleed for it and not even providing band aids should they come back alive.

        July 29, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
      • Steve

        In this economy, any job that pays wells is coveted and that includes sanitation...you'd be surprised to learn that some in the field are educated...

        July 29, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
      • Steve

        ...oh...and 'wells' should be 'well' in the above comment...but hey...that's why I don't have a job suited to an educated person, right?...

        July 29, 2014 at 7:45 pm |
  9. sy hersch

    From a pragmatic point of view, just exactly what can they do..... go to war with Russia? Sanctions won't work because in a mercantile global economy what is unavailable in one place is available in another. Moreover, Europe needs Russian oil more than Putin needs Europe. As for America, if Putin starts manipulating his oil and gas our gasoline prices are sure to rise. So we are not much better off.

    Russia is slowly and more cost effectively reassembling its sphere of influence over much of it former empire. If you think of this in business terms, what the Soviet Union did was to downsize and get more efficient and now it is ready to grow again. Besides everyone knows the Russians make the best chess players.

    July 29, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Reply
    • Brent

      If Russia is more important to Europe than Europe is to Russia then how do you explain the decline in the Russian economy after the sanctions began. Before the sanctions, the Russian economy was growing, hence the reason it was a BRIC. Also, if Russia doesn't need Europe then why do Russian officials denounce sanctions so often? If Europe is useless to them then they shouldn't care about sanctions at all.

      Rising gas prices could actually be good for the US if they lead to faster development of shale and other domestic energy sources, including alternatives. Overall, Putin has overplayed his hand because he (reasonably) expected the West to react as feebly as it did when he took over South Ossetia. If Europe decided to halt Russian energy imports all together then the Russian economy wouldn't last three months.

      July 30, 2014 at 8:12 am | Reply
      • D

        Brent
        "how do you explain the decline in the Russian economy after the sanctions began."

        Russians haven't learned yet how to properly massage numbers in the GDP formula like we do.

        July 31, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
  10. marry

    sly – they do have good chess players...:-)!

    July 29, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Reply
  11. Tommy

    I have totally stopped listening to and reading this guys stuff.

    July 29, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  12. George

    Zakaria sounds like a broken record. Like Obama, he does not understand that sanctions are a dead end and will accomplish nothing. Strengthening EU militarily also will accomplish nothing.

    The more fundamental issue is that this entire crisis was created by the U.S. and the EU with Victoria Nuland as the main instigator. They overthrew the legitimate government of Ukraine and now they are crying like idiots that their Fascist representatives in Kiev cannot get their way.

    July 29, 2014 at 6:32 pm | Reply
    • Brent

      Amazing. Not a single word in the entire post is true. Sanctions can work and strengthening the Euro military is as important to Europe as rebuilding Russia's was to Putin. The US has no real interests in Ukraine, did NOT overthrow their government, and neither did the EU. Perhaps in your next post you can explain how the sun rises through Putin magic and how it's the US and EU's fault that cows don't have wings.

      July 30, 2014 at 8:03 am | Reply
      • toofaraway

        US not having an interest in Ukraine???? Then, what the hell are they "leading the world" for in promoting and demanding sanctions over Russia???? What CAIA director was doing months before clashes emerged???? For the sake of altruism or the check tourism potential for his agents??? No way!!! If it would be the case, then what about Gaza? I understand Israeli's necessity to defend themselves over Hamas, but cannot understand using heavy artillery over civil population. Getting back to the main issue: check which US companies had negotiated with this Ukrainian establishment to have rights in fracking oil in Eastern Ukraine (coincidence the war is over there????). Check, who is Ukrainian army up against. But check on your own...do not listen what other tell you. You might be surprised that they are against Ukrainian with Russian ethnicity, but still citizens of Ukraine. Does Russia support them. Bet they do, regardless of the fact that I do not know. I have not been there. Just reading what others serve me to read (both the Russians and Americans).

        July 30, 2014 at 8:34 am |
  13. chri§§y

    Exactly @ sly...and you do have a way with words dont you? Lol im still laughing at your garbage pick up post lol. That was witty! And spot on @ marry and your comment about the POTUS and congress! Wish we could jail them for treason!

    July 29, 2014 at 7:21 pm | Reply
  14. chri§§y

    @ steve, sly wasnt talking to you he was talking to the person bashing Fareed. The one who ALWAYS bashes Fareed. I can understand his frustration with that person, it does get quite old reading that regularly!

    July 29, 2014 at 9:00 pm | Reply
  15. firstkingdomcall

    I agree with Zakaria 100%. Nothing frustrates me, not even Putin's callousness and madness, more than the inability of Europe to strongly unite, condemn, confront and curtail Russia's 'silliness' and utter disregard to the truth and decency. Why must America lead on an issue being played out on the doorsteps of Europe whiles European leaders are actively choosing to look the other way, even when Russia's proxies in Ukraine have murdered about 200 European citizens. JUST DON'T GET IT...

    July 29, 2014 at 11:55 pm | Reply
    • fun stuff

      Dude, you are indeed funny, and ignorant. Europeans need Viagara really badly. They have been impotent for quite a while now. Their jobs have gone to Asia. Do you know who owns Jaguar and Land Rover??? Do you know where Porsche and Volkswagon are being made nowadays??? Europeans are buying Oil and Natural Gas from Putin. Putin knows that. Europeans are like quiet little impotent and obedient dogs. They dare not upset their source of food (energy) or else they will be rather cold this winter............🙂

      August 4, 2014 at 3:44 pm | Reply
  16. Brent

    Europe is the world's most powerful political unit? Since when? Europe has cut it's defense spending for years. It is politically weak because of it's own divisions and because the world knows that Europe is only capable of lofty pronouncements which they cannot back up. The Euros could not have even succeeded in Libya if not for American logistical support. As Russia has recently proven, countries often need force, or the threat of force, to be taken seriously. No one needs to take Europe seriously.

    July 30, 2014 at 7:56 am | Reply
  17. Putin888

    You said it perfectly the liberal world has failed to stand up to Putin. The problem is that liberalism by its very nature carries a small stick and hardly speaks against tyranny much less loudly. Putin will continue to push them until he starts taking them over one country at a time. He WILL NOT stop, anyone who thinks he will is foolish at best and mentally retarded at worst. Putin's end game is to reunite the former USSR and then continue on its original mission. Turn every country they can into communist to thwart American rule in the west.

    July 30, 2014 at 8:14 am | Reply
  18. chri§§y

    Lol @ Brent...now you KNOW its Obama's fault that cows dont have wings!

    July 30, 2014 at 9:57 am | Reply
  19. chri§§y

    Lol @ Brian...keep the faith! One day it will happen...everything will be electric or...it will be like the jetsons lmao!

    July 30, 2014 at 10:10 pm | Reply
  20. guest

    cameron and currently far right england are wanting to leave the EU, and have political dogma similar to bush and cheney. Let's face it, the far-right is fundamentally opposed to the EU politics, so saying it was a far right scheme to topple the pro- far-right-russian government in order to facilitate ukraine moving to a politically liberal dominated EU doesnt make much sense to me. Sounds more like Ukraine people legitimately wanted to become part of the EU, and the government in power would not make the deal, and was overthrown by the people leading to russia taking back their southern ports in crimea, and this rediculous position that pro-russian ukrainian citizens had been stock piling russian tanks and missile launchers and weapons and military uniforms (no insignias of course though).

    July 31, 2014 at 10:53 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Gee guest, do you really believe what you posted above? It's the far right who is now running Ukraine and will stop at nothing to crush those in the east won just want to break away. Did it occur to you that the right-wing troops may have downed flight MH17rather than the rebels? Think about it!

      July 31, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  21. chri§§y

    A word to the wise aint neccessary. Its the stupid ones that need the advice.

    July 31, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Reply
  22. Kay

    Agreed with George; After fall of Soviet Union, U.S. compulsive disorder for expansionism has been intensified after fall of Soviet Union to a point that it is knocking on Russia's door. It preped a cue, hired Ukrainian traitors to carry on the plan which led to regime change (soft invasion). E.U. countries do what they are told to do and can not make independent decisions; What world needs a new order formed by independent nations with unbending, nationalist leaders to unite and to offset U.S. expansionism, otherwise it would devour one country after another.

    August 1, 2014 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  23. SoundJudgement

    There is the comment...not letting the left hand know the right hand is doing..But sometimes an outcome is well known..for example.."a war of words"..meaning strong verbal disagreement .Then there is War,no explanation required as within the borders of Syria and perhaps Ukraine.Then as in the US Congress,all of the above but commonly called infighting and now an ad-on,suing ,which in reality to the outside world may be seen as the left hand in mortal combat with the right hand.Now,taking "time out " in the fight corner shout it out loudly..Sanctions..Please explain why

    August 1, 2014 at 4:36 pm | Reply
  24. EU was always a joke

    Just look at the history of Europe, from pre-historic times until today. These guys used to be a bunch of warring tribes, with a special ability to commit exceptionally heinous acts of murder against each other. Did any of you guys ever read the "Asterix" comic books. I enjoyed reading those during my childhood. But if you look below the humor, it is all about the different tribes of Europe killing each other, for land, resources or supremacy. Any wonder the EU has always been a joke, since its inception, has always in jeopardy of falling apart, and can never be taken seriously!

    August 2, 2014 at 10:30 pm | Reply
  25. EU was always a joke

    Thanks Fareed. Great article and superb points within it. The entire world can now officially laugh out loud at the impotence of the Europeans. These guys have always been very good and slaughtering each other. That's it. When the EU was first formed, we Americans were actually amazed and actually believed that they might pull it off, and create the "United States of Europe" one day. Dream on! Their inability to communicate with each other lives on. I just can't believe that these are the same creeps that sailed in ships to just about every body else's country, murdered the crap out of millions of non-whites, and put their ugly flags on their soil and then said that they "owned" the place. The modern day truth about the Europeans is that they are the World's greatest NO SHOW. Just love it!!!

    August 2, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Reply
    • Abbas Alborzi

      Europe has become impotent because they were forced to give up colonialism. We non-Europeans of Planet Earth are well aware of this fact. Once their incoming money from 150 countries slowed to a trickle, their hard-on went soft. Viagara will not even work for them. Murder and thieving was their game since 1491 AD. Now, all their jobs are gone to Asia. They have less and less. Unemployment is soaring. Drugs abound. They are finished. They just don't know it yet. And America is not too far behind. With each useless, meaningless war, America gets more and more heavily into debt, which is now crossing US $ 18 trillion. They are getting impotent too. They need Viagara also.

      August 4, 2014 at 2:12 am | Reply
      • maybe Osama won?

        Osama Bin Ladin must be smiling from heaven, to read these comments. He was much smarter than anybody is willing to admit. By bleeding the West, he drove them into huge debt, starting their downfall. America's over-reaction to 911 was the biggest mistake they ever made. They have US $ 18 trillion shackled to their ankles now. More than enough to begin to sink their ship. Wow, what a realization!

        August 5, 2014 at 1:48 am |
      • how about Saddam?

        Yes Saddam Hussein was a villain. But he was quite a tough bugger too. He is also probably smiling from his grave. The entire 800 lb Gorilla US armed forces, including their army, navy, air force & marines, 200,000 US troops, armed to the teeth, night goggles and all, and let's not forget what it cost: US $ 3 trillion, could not keep control of a stable Iraq. What Saddam did, so deftly and so brutally, for 30 years, keeping Iran at bay, keeping the Kurds cowering, keeping the Shias and Sunnis in check, keeping Turkey guessing, keeping the oil flowing, and keeping it all together, the entire world has born witness that the 800 lb Gorilla (USA) has totally bungled and fell on their face badly, in a 10 year period, and then gave up and ran away.

        August 5, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
      • and how about Uncle Dick?

        Well, Uncle Dick made out like a bandit, didn't he? He was the fox watching the chicken coop. 23 subsidiaries of Halliburton, billing poor ol' Uncle Sam, 10 times the going rate, for each and every single piece of military hardware used in Iraq. Oh don't worry, they cackled, Uncle Dick will make sure we get our money, all 3 trillion of it. Who cares about that poor SOB called the US taxpayer. Add it to his tab. It's just miles of green paper spewing out of the US Mint anyway. Yeah, turns out Uncle Dick didn't even have a heart after all. Some poor SOB had to donate theirs to him.......

        August 5, 2014 at 7:11 pm |
  26. Yuette Pass

    Good site you have got here.. Its hard to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!

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    October 16, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Reply
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