Mission creep in the war over Ukraine

The EU was created to secure peace in Europe – not to wage war. Now the Union is suffering from “mission creep” – there is no end to the war in Ukraine, and Brussels is preoccupied with things that have nothing to do with the original mission.

Mission creep

  • a gradual shift in objectives during the course of a military campaign, often resulting in an unplanned long-term commitment
  • the gradual broadening of the original objectives of a mission or organisation.
Oxford Languages and Merriam-webster

Both definitions apply to the EU. With its financial and military assistance, it has helped to stop the Russian invasion and to invasion and regain territory – but also to prolong the war. It has itself become a party to the conflict.

This has not only shifted the objectives, as in our definition. The new mission is also becoming permanent. The EU vows to support Ukraine “as long as necessary”, with no end in sight. This is the unplanned long-term commitment.

However, the “mission creep” does not only apply in Ukraine, but more and more towards Russia as well. This became particularly clear last week. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented two new initiatives:

  • First, the EU is to set up a special court to try Russian war crimes.
  • Secondly, she wants to transfer the confiscated Russian assets into a trust fund to be used to finance reparations for Ukraine.

Both proposals are apparently based on the wishes of Ukrainian President Selenskyj. Von der Leyen has adopted them. Selenskyj’s agenda thus becomes the European – and the Ukrainian victim’s
perspective is now in the focus of European policy.

That in itself is problematic. Von der Leyen should not represent Ukraine’s interests, but those of the 27 EU members (that is not the same thing). She should not put on Ukrainian glasses, but European ones. She has no mandate for her new mission.

But it gets even worse: the EU is not up to the task. It does not have the necessary means. It cannot even say what it is about. When it comes to Russian assets, it has to rely on estimates, no exact figures are available.

When asked, it came out that the EU Commission did not even know where the Russian Central Bank’s billions are invested. The Commission also has no clue on which legal basis it can confiscate the assets and pay them to Ukraine.

The situation with war crimes is similarly confused. There is already a criminal court in Europe (The Hague), but since Russia is not a member, it cannot take action. For a special court the same applies. Even international law experts see a problem there 🙂 .

Both initiatives are striking examples of “mission creep”. The EU takes on tasks for which it is not responsible and for which it is not equipped – and in doing so forgets its real mission: to secure (or reestablish) peace in Europe.

Now the war is dragging on. The unplanned long-term commitment could keep us busy for months, if not years. It is likely to change EU’s character completely. After only nine months of war, the Union is hardly recognisable…

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) The original post (in German) is here