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. Hugo Agogo

    Speak softly and carry a twig? That is Barry O's foreign (and domestic) policy. Pot meet kettle.

    July 28, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Reply
    • i6465490170@aol.com

      Wow amazing how you got the U.S. or even the president in this conversation when they're no where to be seen in the article or the article being about them, what next? a rabbit out of your hat?

      July 28, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Reply
      • krehator

        He's a bitter conservative. It's shocking how childish they get while trying to prove they could run the country better.

        July 28, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
      • tinkuboo


        July 28, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
      • bobcat2u

        WMD in Iraq

        July 28, 2014 at 5:26 pm |
    • Igor

      Before Malasyan plane was shot down there was a prolonged intermission by CNN/BBC in reporting on Ukraine civil war. Zakaria was also quiet for a while. The fact that plane was directed throw 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 episode 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; 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. Mulfunctional state of Ukraine 2. Lack 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? Airplne tragedy just provoked international attention. Thus, one should be aware that more than 1000 civilians were killed in Eastern Ukraine during this civil war 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. Want 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.

      July 28, 2014 at 4:33 pm | Reply
      • George

        Very well written article .CNN apparently did not know anything about 2 plane crashes after MH 17 .Nothing was happening in Gaza .What a biased and paid news reporters .

        July 28, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
      • George

        un fortunately Farid is a Paid and fraud writer .He does not care about anything as far he is getting paid

        July 28, 2014 at 7:10 pm |
    • booyaa

      Yup, I recall Dubya kickin Putins tail all over Europe when HE had the chance. You right wingers are at least slightly off your hinges.
      Maybe 8 years of Hillary will cure what ails you.............................

      July 28, 2014 at 6:47 pm | Reply
      • Cheetahe

        If she cannot handle Billy how is she going to handle Putin?

        July 28, 2014 at 6:58 pm |
  2. Giorgi Chikhradze

    The issue is that Putin keeps testing the water like a dog. Slowly stepping in and going back. Next time stepping a little farther in and backing off again. What the EU needs to realize is that if you don't stop him before his belly touches the water, he's gonna go all in.

    He got away clean in Georgia, he got Crimea, and his actions in the Eastern Ukraine are unpunished. The sad truth is that even if he had pressed the button which launched the missile towards the jet himself, EU still would debate whether they should take decisive action.

    Until the EU finds a way of attaining self sustaining energy, Putin will always have a hold of all the countries he supplies. EU knows this, USA knows this, and most dangerously, Putin himself knows this. Look at what he's gotten away with thus far, and realize that they're only his toes touching the water. I say when he gets to the diving board to jump in, we drain the pool and let him go head first into concrete. That would be the effect of stopping the purchase of Russia's natural gas.

    July 28, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  3. YYJ

    I can't agree enough with Zakaria. This is one smart guy. His insight is absolutely incredible. At some point the world needs to put their foot down. Or else the entire world will come under the thumb of one authoritarian at some point in history. I have repeated this sentiment more then once. Does anyone believe that Hitlera cronies ever considered what the repercussions of ther assistance to the mad mans rise to power would be like? No all they cared about was their own selfish interests and kissing the butt of the next person in charge of their future. If you are going to back someone you better have a clear understanding of who they are. Do you really believe any of Hitlers cronies ever imagined he was actually a murderous sociopath? Of course not, Hitler probably have his cronies plenty of indifference, that is until he longer needed too. No tyrant or oppressor with half a brain is going to reveal what a dirt bag they really are. Of course they are going to put on a fake smile, offer fake hand shakes, bows and false politeness, until they no longer need too. Its hard for me to believe, that most of those who supported the authoritarian like Hitler, really understood that he would go on to murder 30m people but that's exactly what happened. Furthermore, every wealthy businessman who thought they were getting in good with a tyrant like Hitler, were quickly proven wrong when either their buisness was taken away and/or realized all of a sudden their money really meant nothing under millitary rule and control. That is a common misconception many wealthy people have. All the money in the world isn't going to help you against an army. People are weak to money, but money is equally as useless against people. Not saying Putin is a Hitler. Other then sharing the fact he probably has an equal amount of brilliance to Hitler, I really don't know that much of Putin to make any other comparison, particularly when it comes to other character traits but what Putin has showed, if he were to have such power, would it surprise anyone with what he would do with it? So before the EU decides to ignore or back someone like Putin they better be sure what hand they are backing. And not the fake polite one cloaked in false smiles and bows they show but a realistic version, a microcosm of sorts, of what they would do with power if they have it or are allowed to abuse it unhampered.

    July 28, 2014 at 1:11 pm | Reply
  4. sly

    Civil War.
    None of EU's business.
    Ukrainian fighting Ukrainian over land disputed for thousands of years.
    Russia is acting like any neighbor nation would.
    Who cares? What, like 10 people have been injured so far? (oh, and I wouldn't ever recommend flying over Civil War zones).

    July 28, 2014 at 1:24 pm | Reply
    • Giorgi Chikhradze

      It became not only EU's, but the World's business when a passenger jet is shot down carrying nearly 300 people from all around the world.

      What are you talking about fighting for thousands of years? It's about a hundred years since the Red Army took nations by force and created the Soviet Union.

      July 28, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Reply
      • sly

        Confusious Say: "He who fly over war zone get shot down". Tragic mistake, both to fly over, and the shootdown.

        Investigate, try to find out who shot it down. Fine them.

        I believe America paid about $190 million to Iran when we 'mistakenly' shot down their airliner. So charge either the Ukrainian government or the rebels. Then move on.

        July 28, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
    • The Decline

      10 people? What about all the cargo planes that have been shot down?

      July 28, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Reply
      • sly

        Ok ... 10 people, a few military transport planes, a bunch of cows and chickens.

        The Ukrainian Civil War has now qualified in the top 100 current international disputes, placing #84 in terms of casualities.

        From what I've read, Crimean's should report to Russia – 95% of them are formerly Russian. But ... none of my business.

        July 28, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
    • Giorgi Chikhradze

      You're nothing but a troll. Go back to 4chan.

      July 28, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Reply
      • sly

        "Giorgi Chikhradze"?

        Is that a girls name?
        Misplaced Italian? Without Papers?

        Poor lil' Georgi lost his pudding I can tell ... now you just pull your panties out of your but and come up with an intelligent response next time instead of regurgitating on the keyboard.

        July 28, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
    • Rick

      Yeah, except it's more like Ukrainians fighting imported Russians. So the rest of the world DOES get a say if Ukraine wishes it.

      July 28, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Reply
  5. chri§§y

    10 people? Seriously? Damn what about the 298 on board that plane? Dont they count to you?

    July 28, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  6. Virgil

    Let's hope Europe will speak as one and stand against Russia in its quest to reach its former might. Don't underestimate Europe...while so dependant on Russian energy and having to cope with the loss of huge investments, it won't be long until cowardness is replaced by decisive action!

    July 28, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Reply
    • Rick

      When has Europe EVER engaged in decisive action? The concept is as foreign to them as anything I can imagine.

      July 28, 2014 at 4:53 pm | Reply
  7. E- man

    how wise will it be for the E.U to cut off the hands that feed them. weather you agree with Russia or not is besides the point. the reality is that the E.U will be the one to suffer if they decide to punish Russia with punitive sanctions, not the U.S who is pushing for these sanctions. oh lets not forget Iraq and what the U.S did, the arrogance and lies that came out of Collins mouth at the U.N.... Indisputable evidence of WMD..... we all know now it was fabricated.

    Given the United states track record, I can understand why EU nations would be hesitant to act against the hand that provides them energy. besides if there is indisputable evidence that Russia was responsible,why not show the evidence of russia's involvement instead of repeating idiotic rhetoric over and over again and hoping for the same outcome like Iraq....

    July 28, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  8. Brian

    Learn from history or it will repeat itself. The EU'S lack of action seems eerily similar to the reaction to Hitler invading Czechoslovakia in the late 30s; crickets. Was his excuse not they were disputed lands whose residents were ethnic Germans? Putin's land grab will continue and become more emboldened unless the EU stands up to the bully in their back yard. The U.S. is not and should not be the one fighting Europe's fights....again.

    July 28, 2014 at 2:21 pm | Reply
  9. E- man

    @ Brian
    It is hard to equate Russia anexing Crimea to Hitlers action. Just a brief read in history will tell you that Crimea had been part of Russia longer than the U.S existed. Crimea was handed over to Ukraine without the crimean's having a vote or say in the matter. Right or wrong, people can debate the matter till kingdom come, but these are not mear statements but indisputable facts. wheather you believe the voting that took place in crimea was illegal or not, does not matter. The fact is that the people choice was to be reunited with mother Russia

    By no mean do I thnk Russia is a saint, or any other country for that matter,but when evidence is not available to support idiotic mantra and rhetoric, it needs to be challanged and put to the test.

    July 28, 2014 at 2:49 pm | Reply
    • Rick

      Yet none of that gives Russia to simply decide one day to annex the territory, just like no amount of specious reasoning gave Hitler a right to annex the Sudetenland.

      July 28, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Reply
    • William Jackson

      And the same is true of the so called Eastern Ukraine which was added to Ukraine with out any vote on their part.

      July 28, 2014 at 7:45 pm | Reply
  10. nuffSaid

    Europe couldn't organize itself when the Mongols threatened to roll them over.
    Nothing new here, and the EU makes no difference. Each country acts in self interest, even when the whole is threatened.
    Finally, the idea driving the EU was economic progress and avoiding any more European Wars.

    Apparently, Neville Chamberlain is still much loved by the Eurocrats.

    July 28, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Reply
    • Rick

      wow, someone who actually gets it.

      July 28, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  11. NorCalMojo

    I don't often agree with Zakaria, but he nailed this one.

    The EU has proven they're nothing but a collection of US client states.

    It might as well be called Nato-lite.

    July 28, 2014 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  12. Sergio

    The import of the “news release” is to use social media to build the image of a dangerous Russia among an unsophisticated public independently of having to convince reporters. Once this image is created, Washington can use it to build public support for its purposes, such as more military spending or sending US troops to Ukraine.

    In my opinion, it is reckless for Washington to convince Russia that Washington is going to continue to lie in order to discredit Russia in world opinion and to continue to dismiss out of hand Russia’s protests. Washington is conveying to Russia that Washington has launched a very aggressive propaganda campaign against Russia, a campaign that could easily push the world to war.

    July 28, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Reply
  13. Misterwire

    Where is the UN? Instead of hiding weapons for terrorist in Gaza, they should focus attention on Putin the world biggest terrorist and leave Israel alone.

    I use to like Putin but after his men shot down this civilian airline with 300 innocent travelers, he is simply heartless and makes me throw up. God will surely require the blood of these people from Putin and Russia. If you sow the wind, you reap the Whirlwind.

    July 28, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Reply
    • E- man

      where is the Proof?? and dont give me that social media rhetoric as proof. even U.S intelligence has said they have not difinitive proof and if they did why refuse to present it in the maner that Russia Presented thier evidence by making it public and having their evidence subjected to public scrutiniy

      July 28, 2014 at 3:22 pm | Reply
      • sly

        Don't be silly – the proof is hidden in those Weapons of Mass Destruction somewhere in Iraq.

        July 28, 2014 at 5:27 pm |
  14. E- man

    Ladies and Gents, do not underestimate the power of self preservation. The E.U experiment was dead on arrival. at this rate the possibility of the EU breaking up has just increased. The big elephant in the room that no one is paying attention to is Germany. if Germany decides to leave the EU, France as the frech poddles they are will follow, Then Italy, and after that it will be Game over.

    July 28, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Reply
  15. ffc

    The European Union is not the policeman for the world or even Europe. The USA is. The EU has very little military cohesion without United States leadership – as in NATO.

    Both the USA and EU have been very timid on this issue. Very disspointing to see Putin gain more power and so many lives lost.

    July 28, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  16. krehator

    If any major EU country was under the same gun, they would be crying for help.

    That's the main problem with Europe. They are quick to criticize. Slow to do a darn thing. No a surprise they had to be bailout out in WW2 by countries that could fight.

    July 28, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Reply
    • wowhatamoron

      I can;t believe you said that, Either you're 10 years old or really REALLY stupid..

      July 28, 2014 at 6:31 pm | Reply
  17. steve

    The EU is being accused of pushing the old government in,to make room for a pro western gov't. It is probably in their best interest to stay quiet.

    July 28, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Reply
  18. Rick

    "On Ukraine, Europe has always been a step behind, " On Ukraine? Really? Europe has been phoning it in since before WW2? Remember appeasement? They never learn. They hem and they haw until their butts are in the fire and then they hem and haw some more. How in the world can nearly an entire continent be so clueless and spineless. And before you ask, I live here.

    July 28, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Reply
  19. bobcat2u

    The European Union should be at the forefront on these issues with Russia. It's their neighborhood that will be directly affected by future moves of Russia. I thought one of the reasons these nations came together was for a more united defense structure. With their combined military strength, there is no reason for them to continuously look to the US to play the bad cop. It's time for the EU to take a strong united stand against Putin and tell him it's time to accept the fact the Soviet Union is no more.

    July 28, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Reply
  20. FrParlentAuxFr

    Thank god it is a no-show. Europe is tired of the US politicians show starting wars everywhere. Last year the US politicians almost started a war in Syria. But the American people´s wisdom prevented their dangerous clowns to go into a conflict. This time it looks like they have more momentum, hopefully the American will stop the dangerous clowns again.

    July 28, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Reply
  21. bert f.

    The Eu is a no show because Western European countries rely on Russian natural gas as a primary energy source. They don't want to risk a cut off of natural gas by Putin as retaliation for a strong EU response. The EU, apparently, is willing to sit back and watch to see if Putin begins taking over Eastern European countries one at a time.

    July 28, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Reply
  22. Spgfld Tom

    Why would Europe follow us? We apologize to our enemies and abandon our allies. Now that we have left the world stage (during the reign of Barack the First) who is going to lead the world? China?

    July 28, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Reply
    • sly

      Yeah, we need more crooks as President's who lie in order to create war so they can maim the civilians and steal the oil.

      OJ is still looking for the killer of his ex-wife.
      Bush is still looking for those WMD's he saw over there.
      And Bomb Bomb McCain is furious that we haven't already send ground troops into the Ukrainian Civil War.

      July 28, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Reply
      • Yakobi

        While sly is still looking for a brain and two facts to rub together.

        July 28, 2014 at 6:09 pm |
  23. toby

    FZ actually said the words "It is hard to heard, and feared, when you both speak softly and carry a twig."

    It is sad. There was a time when a man who thought it good to be feared was considered a bully and a rogue.

    The values on display here are truly disappointing. There is a casual presumption that force and the threat of force are the most desirable and effective foreign policy tool.

    Americans should pause and consider how far they wish to go down the road of intimidating everyone else. FZ mocks the Europeans, but he does not pause to consider that the USA is generally considered the greatest danger to peace by most europeans. Right or wrong, most of Europe is turning away from the USA. Fareed laughs, because he doesn't understand that NATO is finished.

    The USA is not a supreme superpower, not in a world of nuclear weapons. All it really is, in truth, is the most confident nation. And perhaps, the most feared.

    Let's hope it is not the epitaph of a once great people and nation. It has been for every other people who sought to be feared by all, because they believed themselves rulers of all creation.

    July 28, 2014 at 5:14 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ toby:
      FZ is not mocking Europeans.
      Anyone who refers to the famous quote of Teddy Roosevelt is recalling America at its greatest.

      July 28, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Reply
  24. onestarman

    The EU says has a policy of Appeasement for Russia for the same reason that the U.S. says nothing about Abysmal Human Rights Violations in Saudi Arabia – Because of Dependence on the Gas and Oil provided by the Evil Ones.

    July 28, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Reply
    • john smith

      Saudi Arabia denies women the right to drive a car..........etc.

      July 28, 2014 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  25. chri§§y

    Well i wish someone would deny me the right to drive for awhile., lol im tired of being everyones free taxi!

    July 28, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  26. Glen

    Well Fareed, maybe now you know why the US is always stepping up to the plate. Because no one else will!

    July 28, 2014 at 5:52 pm | Reply
  27. Yakobi

    I don't see what all the fuss is about. Any group of people stupid enough to WANT to be part of Putin's new Soviet Union deserves what they get. Let 'em join Russia, I say.

    That aside, as usual I have the simple solution to contain comrade Putin: ask Ukraine if they'd like to join NATO. That'd stop him in his tracks and allow us to start providing Ukraine with the defense systems it needs to counter Russian aggression. Oh, right–that presupposes we had a LEADER as president willing to look Putin in the eye and wait until he blinks.

    July 28, 2014 at 6:14 pm | Reply
  28. chri§§y

    Lmao yup @ booyaa...that'll fix em huh! That was funny! And Yakobi...i doubt you could do a better job...so until you can, you should stop complainin!

    July 28, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Reply
  29. chri§§y

    Lol @ cheetahe looks like shes handled billy quite well! I mean they're still married arent they?

    July 28, 2014 at 7:26 pm | Reply
  30. rafa

    That what Europe is all about: weakness, deception, corruption and cowardice. Next time i will not send my kids to death to save them from Russia's'domination. They can strave to death.

    July 28, 2014 at 7:30 pm | Reply
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