The difference in perspective on the war in Ukraine between Western and Eastern Europe was acknowledged in Athens; anxiety, fear, and discontent are building up around Vladimir Putin; meanwhile, the EU is facing a new wave of Covid-19 pandemic.
The Athens Democracy Forum: conclusions about the war in Ukraine
The seven-month-long war in Ukraine has tested the unity and resolve of the European Union’s 27 members, the participants concluded.
"It seems the Ukrainians are the only nation capable and ready to defend E.U. values with their own lives," said Karolina Wigura, a lecturer at Warsaw University. "And yet they are not a member, so it is a paradox."
Vera Jourová, vice president of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, believes that this moment in history will either put Europe more together or divide it:
"I call it the ‘big meeting,’ because suddenly the West has started listening to the East."
Ms. Wigura said Ukraine’s commitment to its democratic freedoms was now a source of inspiration for the rest of Europe.
Jaroslaw Kuisz, editor in chief of Kultura Liberalna, also said that history explains the "nervous sovereignty" of countries like Poland, Finland, and the Baltic states, as their experiences of Russian aggression are the prism through which these countries view the war in Ukraine.
He noted that the difference in perspective between Western and Eastern Europe became apparent in their diplomatic approaches to the war in Ukraine.
Putin’s future will be decided in the coming weeks
Anxiety is growing around the Kremlin’s bloody dictator, Vladimir Putin, and one member of his inner circle has voiced disagreement over his handling of the war in Ukraine, The Washington Post writes.
The tensions have been particularly increased by recent Russian losses during Ukraine’s counteroffensive, as well as misguided direction and extensive military shortcomings.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov publicly acknowledged that there have been disagreements and debates among Russian leaders over the recent mobilization.
"It seems to me his position is fragile," one Russian official said of Putin on condition of anonymity. "In all these months, we have heard that half the world is on our side. But neither Modi nor Xi are now supporting this."
Senior security officials in Europe said that cracks were increasingly evident across multiple layers of the Russian system. Behind his back, Putin is being called "stubborn" and "obsessed with Ukraine".
Two Russian business executives said the coming weeks could be crucial for determining Putin’s future.
"This is a breaking point," one of them stressed, adding that if the Russian military doesn’t stem its losses, then infighting will break out in the Kremlin.
The Russian elite is trembling: the war cannot be won
Sources interviewed by The Guardian say that the seven-month-long Russian invasion of Ukraine has plunged the Russian ruling elite into uncertainty.
Western intelligence agencies have reported high levels of dissatisfaction among the Russian army and in the country’s elite. Some have even suggested a coup could take place.
Two of Vladimir Putin’s most notorious lieutenants, Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, have openly declared war against the defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, and his top generals following a series of disastrous defeats on the frontline.
"Putin is a very destructive personality, he will play the different factions off each other and see what the best outcome will be," a former defense ministry official told the Guardian.
Marat Gelman, a former adviser to Vladimir Putin, affirms that the Kremlin is looking for scapegoats, but Putin is unlikely to be willing to fire Shoigu.
A journalist who works on Russian state television said that "intense dread" has taken hold of much of the political elite.
"There is general understanding now that the war can’t be won."
A new wave of COVID-19: hundreds of new forms of Omicron are gaining ground in Europe
A new COVID-19 wave appears to be brewing in Europe as cooler weather arrives, writes Reuters.
Public health experts warn that vaccine fatigue and confusion over types of available vaccines will likely limit booster uptake.
Besides the Omicron subvariants BA.4/5 that dominated this summer, newer Omicron subvariants are gaining ground. Hundreds of new forms of Omicron are being tracked by scientists, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said this week.
Cases in the EU reached 1.5 million last week, up 8% from the prior week.
Hospitalization numbers across many countries in the bloc, as well as Britain, have also gone up in recent weeks. This week, COVID hospitalisations in Britain saw a 45% increase versus the week earlier.
In the same period, COVID-19 hospital admissions with symptoms jumped nearly 32% in Italy, while intensive care admissions rose about 21%, compared to the week before, according to data compiled by independent scientific foundation Gimbe.
In Europe and Britain, the latest boosters have been approved only for select groups of people, including the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. But the willingness to get yet another shot, which could be a fourth or fifth for some, is wearing thin.
Weekly vaccine doses administered in the EU were only between 1 million and 1.4 million during September, compared with 6-10 million per week in September 2021, according to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.