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Guest Opinion: What has Europe lost from the Ukraine crisis?

(Xinhua) 08:48, March 29, 2022

BEIJING, March 29 (Xinhua) -- The Ukraine crisis has entered its second month. In terms of security, economy, refugees, etc., Europe will pay a heavy price in the crisis.

Since the end of the Cold War, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has pushed for five rounds of eastward expansion up to Russia's borders. As Russian President Vladimir Putin has said, if the U.S. and NATO missile systems appear in Ukraine, it would take those missiles only minutes to reach Moscow.

It is like shoving the muzzle of cannons to Russia's doorstep, which is certainly unacceptable to a big power like Russia. However, after instigating Europe and provoking Russia, the United States stood aloof from the conflict and left Europe to clean up the mess.

But don't forget that the distance between Washington and Moscow is 7,800 km, while Berlin is only 1,600 km away from Moscow. The security framework of Europe has broken into pieces. It may take years to restore the security order in Europe.

The European Union (EU) is the largest foreign investor in Russia with total direct investment of 311.4 billion euros (about 341.1 billion U.S. dollars) in 2019. In 2021, the total trade in goods between the EU and Russia amounted to 257.5 billion euros (about 281.9 billion dollars). But the close economic ties were cut off by the continuous and all-encompassing sanctions.

Figures say everything. The European Commission expects the EU's economic growth rate in 2022 to be lower than 4 percent as predicted earlier before the conflict. Some even forecast that the final growth rate will be less than 3 percent.

According to data from London's ICE exchange, the price of natural gas in Europe climbed to nearly 3,900 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters on March 7, with an alarming increase rate of 79 percent. The price of wheat in Europe has risen by over 50 percent to a new high unseen in 14 years. Closed airspace between Russia and Europe results in 3.3 percent of EU flights canceled and costs the airlines an extra 10,000 euros (about 10,951.3 dollars) per detoured hour.

The European Central Bank has adjusted the inflation outlook of the euro zone from 3.2 percent to 5.1 percent. And all the losses will be borne by Europeans.

Meanwhile, the influx of over 3 million Ukrainian refugees into Europe poses a severe challenge to European countries with emerging social problems such as food shortages, lack of health care and children's education.

According to the latest estimates, around 6 million refugees will eventually flood into Europe, costing Europe a stunning 30 to 70 billion euros (about 32.9 to 76.7 billion dollars) on resettlement and even more on their social welfare and access to housing, medical treatment and schools.

The government of Poland, which has received the largest number of refugees so far, has said it will need more money than the EU is currently offering in order to host the refugees arriving there.

History has proven many times that Europe's interests have never been America's concern.

Last year, the United States hastily withdrew from Kabul, leaving its European allies stunned and unprepared. The United States also forged the AUKUS with Britain and Australia, blatantly breaking the Australia-France submarine deal. These are typical hegemonic acts of the United States, which treats its allies and partners as mere political tools ready to be abandoned anytime.

Henry Kissinger once stated: "To be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal." That is something for Europe to chew on. 

(Xin Ping is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Global Times, China Daily, etc. He can be reached at [email protected])

(Web editor: Xia Peiyao, Liang Jun)

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