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Europe’s Red Tape Is Helping Russia

The European Union’s cumbersome and narrowly defined regulations for public procurement and spending are not simply inadequate; they are dangerous. They weaken the bloc’s ability to protect itself from a broad range of Russian hybrid attacks while prolonging Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

PARIS – The European Union’s spending rules and public-procurement processes are plainly inadequate to the threat posed by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. If the World War II Allies had been subject to such strictures, they would have been unable to buy landing boats for the invasion of Normandy for a landing in 1944, equip General Charles de Gaulle’s Free French Army, or issue war bonds in time. The EU’s regulations undermine its capacity to mitigate the war’s effects on Europe itself, weaken its ability to protect itself from a broad range of hybrid attacks, and prolong Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.

That is why some European leaders have increasingly called for the EU to put its economy on a war footing. French President Emmanuel Macron, for example, has rallied a coalition of countries to increase support for Ukraine. But while such a shift is urgently needed, efforts to this end have so far mostly been confined to the military sphere, leaving both Ukraine and the bloc vulnerable in other domains.

For example, the procedure for financing and building a new electricity interconnector to Ukraine – which might become increasingly essential as Russia intensifies its strikes on energy infrastructure – would probably not differ from the pre-war procedures. Now as then, a project that could be built in, say, one year, can easily take several more years, owing to bureaucratic barriers.