Divided Europe gets its act together to back Ukraine | #computerhacking | #hacking | #education | #technology | #infosec


Often fractious, Europe is showing strong solidarity in the face of the Ukraine crisis. Even Russia’s traditional supporters in the European Union have condemned the attack and joined in implementing sanctions.

As well, wide swathes of European civil society have joined as sports teams, social media groups and even the hacker community move to oppose or protest against the attack of the second-largest country in Europe. Only Russia itself has a bigger landmass than Ukraine.

After some days of debate, Germany and Italy joined in support of blocking Russian banks from using the Belgium-headquartered Swift system for transferring funds, a move that will cripple Russia’s international business.

In another sign of how unified Europe appears to be, leaders of Hungary and the Czech Republic, both seen as more sympathetic to Russia than many European heads of state, joined in condemning its actions in Ukraine.

Up until the actual attack, Czech President Milos Zeman was insisting that Russia wouldn’t attack. But by late last week he said “I admit I was wrong” and condemned the move. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has pursued a diplomatic and economic strategy he calls the “Eastern Opening” that favors closer ties with Russia, but following the attaack, Hungary stood with the rest of the 27-member EU. “Together with our European Union and Nato allies, we condemn Russia’s military action,” said Orban.

Bulgaria, once Moscow’s closest ally during the Cold War, followed suit as President Rumen Radev said “it is absolutely inadmissible” to have such attack in the 21st century. Romania’s ruling coalition leaders issued a statement holding Russia responsible for the “worst security crisis since World War II”. President Maia Sandu of Moldova, a former Soviet republic and one of the few former communist Eastern European countries not to have joined Nato, called the incursion a “violation of international norms”, and added that the international community “unanimously condemns these military actions”.

And European countries that were once circumspect about providing weapons to Ukraine have made a clear decision to offer military support. Reversing an earlier policy, Germany will send hardware, as will the Czech Republic, Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Facing his first international crisis, recently elected German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said over social media that “the Russian attack marks a turning point. That’s why we’re supplying 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 stinger missiles to our friends in the Ukraine”.

The Czech Ministry of Defense posted a video of what it said was a Ukraine-bound train carrying “machine guns, assault rifles, pistols, ammunition and artillery ammunition”.

The Netherlands said it will send 50 Panzerfaust 3 anti-tank weapons and 600 missiles. “In addition, the ministry of defense is investigating the possibility of supplying a Patriot air defense unit with Germany to a NATO battle group in Slovakia,” the Dutch Defense Ministry said.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said his country would provide 2,000 automatic rifles and 3,800 tons of fuel.

Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa said his country would send 175 troopers to help Ukrainian soldiers on the ground to secure their borders and later said it would supply military equipment including “vests, helmets, night vision goggles, grenades and ammunition, complete portable radios, analogue repeaters and G3 automatic rifles”.

And some of the unified moves appear unprecedented. As Ukrainian forces held out against the attack, the EU announced a ban on all Russian airplanes – commercial, military and private – in European air space. European Council President Ursula von der Leyen also announced the bloc is developing the tools to entirely block Russian media outlets such as Russia Today and Sputnik, sites long accused of spreading disinformation and propaganda.

Even the cautious Swiss joined and said they would likely impose sanctions. President Ignazio Cassis said it was “very probable” that the neutral nation would freeze Russian bank assets.

The response to Russia’s attack is even bringing historic changes to Europe. German Chancellor Scholz announced an unprecedented boost in German military spending with a 100 billion euro fund that will be set aside immediately to strengthen the country’s armed forces along with a sustained increase in defense spending over the long term. He received a standing ovation from the Bundestag, the German parliament, which has often been pacifist due to Germany’s history in the 20th century.

In another historic development, Sweden decided to break with its doctrine of not sending arms to countries engaged in an active conflict. Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told a news conference that the country will send 135,000 field rations, 5,000 helmets, 5,000 body shields and 5,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.

Other reactions include in the sports world with moves to cancel matches and sponsorship deals. The soccer associations of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic issued a joint statement urging that no World Cup playoff matches be held in Russia. In Germany, the second-tier league Schalke announced it was removing the logo of its main sponsor, Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom, from players’ shirts.

Manchester United announced it has terminated its sponsorship deal with Russia’s national airline. “In light of events in Ukraine, we have withdrawn Aeroflot’s sponsorship rights,” the club said in a statement.

Also European musicians, singers, theatre companies have cancelled their upcoming concerts and performances in Russia. “Music is intrinsically a messenger of peace and beauty and we cannot accept the horror of war,” said Italian soul singer Mario Biondi after cancelling his show in Moscow.

Even the shadowy world of computer hackers has joined in actively opposing Russia. The Anonymous collective declared it was “at war” and claimed credit for bringing down government websites and media outlets including the official sites for the Kremlin and Ministry of Defense.

If the intent was to divide and weaken Europe, it appears Russia’s attack on Ukraine has had the exact opposite result. Even veteran observers say they have never seen such a unified European response.

Jon Van Housen and Mariella Radaelli are veteran international journalists based in Mila

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