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

    And how do you know what Fareed cares about @ George?

    July 28, 2014 at 7:38 pm | Reply
    • Michael Powers

      This all comes from having weak leadership. The EU has weak leadership and the United States has NO leadership.

      July 29, 2014 at 7:22 am | Reply
      • O'drama ya Mama

        This isnt the US's problem its the EU's problem. Why should the EU's lead be based upon the US's lead when it isnt a US problem?

        July 29, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
      • marry

        Michael Powers – Correction, the US has a fine President but the "Leadership" in Congress is beyond repair. If the President tries to find ways to work with them they scream "no leadership". When he takes advantage of his executive powers after they scream NO and filibuster even their own ideas, all they come up with is "Impeachment" or "lawsuit". Tell us what you want – prevent his 3rd term????? (The GOP/tp is not only useless – they are a gigantic stone around America’s neck!)

        July 29, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
    • Jeff Vogelgesang

      Neville – oops, excuse me, ANGELA Merkel

      July 29, 2014 at 11:30 am | Reply
    • MMasucci

      The EU is another sad establishment like the UN.

      July 29, 2014 at 11:41 am | Reply
      • marry

        Ever been there? See, they prefer to invest in their people and countries – not the "few" who's only interest it is to "harvest" and bring the big profits to little islands...

        July 29, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
    • Igor

      Among more than 1000 civilians killed by Ukrainian army in the Eastern Ukraine there are more than 100 children. The reporting on these atrocities does not reach Western audience. The anger in Russia towards the USA is getting on the rise and no question that confrontation will be escalating unless US government stops supporting present Ukrainian government and stops lying to American people about what is going on in Ukraine. Further escalation of this conflict will cost enormously to American tax-payers and it has high probability of drawing USA into direct military involvement. Stop before it is too late. PS: I lived in Russia for 28 years and in USA for 25 years; believe me, I see this conflict from both sides.

      July 29, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Reply
    • 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 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? 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. 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.

      July 29, 2014 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  2. chri§§y

    Wth are you talking about @ rafa? You want your kids to starve to death??

    July 28, 2014 at 7:41 pm | Reply
  3. William Jackson

    On this we can do nothing unless and until Europe is willing to act. Even then do we want a major war in Europe and at what point do we over stress our military. I just don't know how much farther we can push the troops.

    July 28, 2014 at 7:52 pm | Reply
  4. john green

    Just don't wait for the USA to get inviolved in this because the American people don't want that to happen. This is Europe's back door, so let them handle the problem.

    July 28, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Reply
    • scott

      we tried that in WWI, we got pulled in, we tried that in WWII , we got pulled in...see where this is going?

      July 28, 2014 at 10:31 pm | Reply
      • Umpire Sam

        this time don't get pulled in

        was germany ever going to attack britain and france if they would have been left alone headed East ?

        July 29, 2014 at 10:11 am |
      • auntaddie

        Before we entered WWII Nazi submarines were sinking merchant ships off North Carolina, and there was the whole Pearl Harbor thing.

        July 29, 2014 at 10:30 am |
  5. DW007

    Once again, Europe wrings it's hands as a brutal, corrupt dictator is warming up, preparing to shoot first and ask questions later. Passiveness invites aggression and as pacifists like Obama combine with a militarily impotent Europe, what happens next will leave only themselves to blame.

    July 28, 2014 at 8:52 pm | Reply
    • sly

      You are obviously joking, because nobody is that big of a fool.

      "Brutal Dictator"? Ho ho ho ho ho ...

      The problem with the neocons is poor literacy. This poor fool wasn't aware that the USSR broke up 25 years ago. Russia has a Democracy, no dictator, and no one is being 'brutal'.

      Jeez – no wonder the Party of Stupid got annihilated last election, and next election. Brains win elections.

      July 29, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  6. Ferhat Balkan

    There are no easy answers for the conflict in Ukraine. One can only hope that it doesn't escalate into a bloody regional war. Economic sanctions are the best approach, but they'll fail in the long run if places such as China, India and Latin America continue to strengthen economic ties with Russia.

    July 28, 2014 at 9:07 pm | Reply
    • Umpire Sam

      latin america really how much Goods can they sell russia and shipping must be a pain

      July 29, 2014 at 10:15 am | Reply
  7. scott

    they need to activate nato.......their citizens have been killed.. a flight originating from Europe has been shot down.. that would send a clear message without even firing a shot.... Europe needs to stand together and say this won't stand

    July 28, 2014 at 10:29 pm | Reply
    • andreslobo

      Before you call for war, you might want to read the treaty. Citizens died but no country was attacked.

      July 28, 2014 at 11:40 pm | Reply
      • Brian

        Russian artillery, firing from inside Russia to ground positions inside Ukraine (if true) would be considered an ongoing attack would it not?

        July 29, 2014 at 9:34 am |
      • charlie

        @Brian. Ukraine is not part of NATO. Their is no obligation to defend it and a very dangerous precident if NATO did so as there would then be no definition of which countries are protected by NATO and which are not.

        July 29, 2014 at 11:07 am |
    • charlie

      The west shot first, by supporting civil unrest when the democratically elected Ukraine government decided to sign a trade deal with Russia rather than the EU. The west could not let Ukraone make its own decision and insists that Ukraine join it rather than the Russian federation. That is the start of this crisis.
      Imagine what the US would do if Mexico left NAFTA to join the Russian federation (maybe with Cuba and Venezuela). Then you can understand Russia's position and realise that their actions have been very restrained.
      BTW I am an EU citizen and no fan of Putin but this mess was caused by EU/US imperialistic stupidity.

      July 29, 2014 at 11:01 am | Reply
      • GLF

        False,The Ukrainian people wanted closer ties to Europe and after a private meeting with Putin their corrupt President sold them out.That started the unrest.Later to find this corrupt man and his croies had looted Ukrains coffers.He also was voted out of office by a democratically elected government,including members of his own party.

        July 29, 2014 at 11:21 am |
  8. Name*w.goku

    Due to all this make it necessary for a giant like America to lead by good example. But whe

    July 28, 2014 at 10:57 pm | Reply
  9. andreslobo

    To the author. And Europe's reluctance to act is new? Maybe only new to you. Europe still with its head firmly buried in the sand.

    July 28, 2014 at 11:39 pm | Reply
    • George patton

      Let's hope it stays there, too, andreslobo!

      July 29, 2014 at 12:28 am | Reply
  10. George patton

    Let's all hope and pray that these "sanctions" never work. I'm sick and tired of seeing the right-wing thugs in Washington get their way!!!

    July 29, 2014 at 12:27 am | Reply
  11. Freddie

    The US thinks everyone should be as arrogant and war mongering as they are. The EU should disband NATO. France should leave NATO. It has no bad relationship with Russia. Same for Germany. Let the UK fight with the US.

    July 29, 2014 at 12:38 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Well said, Freddie. Thank you.

      July 29, 2014 at 9:09 am | Reply
    • julnor

      The US should pull out of NATO. It has outlived its original purpose and has too many countries as members that are not worth fighting for.

      July 29, 2014 at 10:22 am | Reply
    • charlie

      Although I would like the UK to have the courage to let the US fail alone for once.

      July 29, 2014 at 11:12 am | Reply
    • GLF

      And let history repeat itself again,when self serving morally weak coutries cowtail to a ruthless,murderous dictator.Personally I have no problem with disolving Nato and entering mutual defense contracts with countries like England that have a moral backbone, damn the consequences.

      July 29, 2014 at 11:28 am | Reply
  12. Freddie

    A simpleton view of Europe. Why doesn't the US stay out of world events. Its done enough damage already. Obama is falling over himself to get into a war to repair his dismal leadership.

    July 29, 2014 at 12:41 am | Reply
    • S1n

      Because European countries have proven on two notable occasions (WWi and WWII) that they are utterly incompetent in dealing with such antics from their neighbors.

      July 29, 2014 at 4:06 am | Reply
      • Jocho Johnson

        Ukraine/Russia is an internal conflict of the former USSR and two different Russian cultures, shouldn't be anyone's business except their own.

        July 29, 2014 at 11:07 am |
  13. Voltairasmus

    Instead of pointing fingers it is better to search causes. In fact, on all four items that Zakaria presents, Europe is already taking action and/or using diplomacy. Two causal mechanisms are at work. One is WW2. The Europeans, that is, all kids of three generations have learned to believe that wars and military are very bad. A strong NATO conglomerate of armies was necessary during the cold war but bad nevertheless. With the fall of the Berlin wall and the economic crisis, basically since 9/11, the negligence of military power has exacerbated. It is hard to believe, but the vast majority of Europeans think that all problems can be solved by talking. A worthy stance maybe, but it ignores the reality of biology, pecking order and actual force. Europe is as doomed as the officer who enters the slums without a gun and gives shoulder pats to thugs.

    July 29, 2014 at 1:06 am | Reply
  14. clayton

    Europe is putting greed ahead of lives, it is bound to backfire on them

    July 29, 2014 at 1:31 am | Reply
    • marry

      ...says someone in/from the US. Looked at US history lately? Or looked at the US economic exploitation of countries worldwide? Or perhaps US finance games that create problems worldwide? Never mind the overblown Military that wants things to do to justify its existence? Your comment suggests you did not – but perhaps you should!

      July 29, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  15. p.tiesha

    Say, that gay Obama fits in reel good with the eurotrash. You never see fareed putting Obama fown, oh no. Obama pranced from photo Opp to photo Opp doing nada.

    July 29, 2014 at 2:14 am | Reply
    • sly

      p.tooshy ... we speak English here in America, so if you want to talk about my great nation, learn our language.

      Us Americans do feel 'reel' good, so don't get 'fown'.

      These are great times for America, and thank the Good Lord we have President Obama, who doesn't send American boys to get their heads cut off in foreign lands which none of us care about.

      July 29, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Reply
  16. p.tiesha

    Don't censor me white boy!

    July 29, 2014 at 2:20 am | Reply
  17. Steve

    Just wait Putin is going to get all the eastern EU countries. Obama and his allies would do nothing just plain simple. He talks, but no action at all, all we heard from him in the last 6 years are lip services

    July 29, 2014 at 4:16 am | Reply
    • GLF

      Obama,won't be in power much longer.Hopefully the next government will not get us in sensless wars that achieve nothing. Iraq,Afghanistan,Syria.Countries that will never have peace with or without the US because of internal sectarian hate.Ukraine and the other former countries the USSR had as slave satellites are another story.

      July 29, 2014 at 11:36 am | Reply
  18. Michael Powers

    This all comes from having weak leadership. The EU has weak leadership and the United States has NO leadership.

    July 29, 2014 at 7:21 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      The right-wing thugs in Washington not only run NATO but the EU as well, Michael. This is why the EU rubber-stamps each and every order coming out of Washington D.C.

      July 29, 2014 at 9:15 am | Reply
      • GLF

        Since when?

        July 29, 2014 at 11:37 am |
    • sly

      Not sure what nation you reside in Mr. Powers, but America today has the strongest leader in 50 years.

      President Obama has accomplished everything he set out to accomplish:

      -Great Health Care for 50 million
      -1st President since Ike to not start a war
      -Killed our #1 enemy of all time
      -Record stock markets
      -Record federal deficit reduction
      -Ended federal discrimination on the basis of race and preference
      -Forced Russia and Syria to disarm the largest chemical weapons stash in the world

      Good times Americans, and I sure appreciate watching my house value rise by over 100% since President Obama rescued us from the deep, dark Bush Abyss.

      July 29, 2014 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  19. ronvan

    The EU, along with NATO & the UN have become worthless! TALK is cheap! Action speaks volumes! IF EUROPEAN countries are truly concerned over this tragedy then why not form a multi national force to go into Ukraine, secure the crash site, and when completed leave? This would force Putin to either withdraw or face the consequences of an "act of war" if this force was fired on! Sure the U.S.A. would get dragged into it but that is coming anyway!

    July 29, 2014 at 8:47 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      The reason that there's a tragedy in Ukraine is that the Neo-Nazis in Kiev don't want to give up the eastern part of that country and the right-wing thugs in Washington back them up.

      July 29, 2014 at 9:12 am | Reply
  20. Sri

    EU needs Russia and Ukraine for energy and so they cannot take sides as effectively as US does. US also looks the other way when Saudi or Pakistan or Israel violates some international law as they depend on them either for energy or strategy or political compulsions. Every one looks for their own benefit after all. So blaming EU on this issue is useless.

    July 29, 2014 at 9:50 am | Reply
  21. Umpire Sam

    so just what is Europe afraid of ?

    what's Putin's next three big steps ?

    would YOU really want the people of Eastern Ukraine as part of YOUR country ?

    July 29, 2014 at 10:18 am | Reply
  22. chri§§y

    Wrong, wrong, wrong @ freddie! Obama does NOT want war! I think youre confusing yourself! Obama has done everything he can to NOT get involved in war!

    July 29, 2014 at 10:34 am | Reply
  23. Jocho Johnson

    Why should EU care about the former USSR, allow them to sort out their own problems.

    July 29, 2014 at 11:05 am | Reply
  24. palintwit

    If I were Sarah Palin I would be compelled to horribly disfigure myself. Oh wait... she already is.

    July 29, 2014 at 11:27 am | Reply
  25. sly

    Civil War 15,000 miles away.

    Who gives a darn?

    Thank you again President Obama – you have proven to be the most effective foreign policy President since Truman. No wars. Killed our #1 enemy. Disarmed the #1 chemical weapons stash in the world.

    Americans – enjoy these good times – they only come about once every 50 years.

    July 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Reply
  26. palintwit

    Unlike Sarah Palin, President Obama knows the difference between North and South Korea, he knows that Hawaii is the largest US island and not Kodiak and he does not use the expression "refudiate".

    July 29, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  27. ebeeman

    So true.!!!!! But they do have the energy and strength to put pressure on israel when Russian strength threatens their countries a whole lot more. I just hope they get the same support they gave Ukraine when its their countries being threatened.

    July 29, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Reply
  28. A European

    The European Union is a trading union not a military one, that would be NATO, of which the US is the largest member with the strongest military. An intervention by the EU alone would only serve to provoke even greater Russian participation and escalate the East v. West conflict raging in Ukraine to a continental stage. Without US participation and support and given the Ukraine's historic and strategic importance to Russia as a satellite, and the size of the pro-Russian resistance, European intervention would be unable to decisively restore the Ukrainian government and may even ensure a Russian victory. In 1939 the UK went to war to preserve an independent Poland. In 1945 when that war was won Poland would begin 45 years under Soviet dominion, no freer than they would otherwise have been. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and to avoid these unintended consequences it is best not to raise the stakes in a hand the EU cannot win.

    July 29, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Reply
  29. Will

    If Russia staged a coup in Mexico and installed a hostile government that was counter to US interests and that included La Raza members, and I supposed to believe that the United States would sit idly by and allow this to happen? Give me a God-damned break.

    July 29, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Reply
    • marry

      We have seen it with Cuba. All long past but the US still holds a grouch!

      July 29, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Reply
  30. whz1234

    It looks like Mr. Fareed Zakaria needs more efforts to better understand Europeans.

    July 29, 2014 at 1:05 pm | Reply
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