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  Power and helplessness of the Western diplomacy

Arûnas Spraunius
2008 12 09

Helplessness or rather its appearance is the actual power of the Western diplomacy, since the West, i.e. the homeland of dialectics, knows all the secrets of diplomacy.

Let‘s take the case of resumption of negotiations with Russia on partnership. The decision made by the EU to resume negotiations, which was suspended after the military conflict in Georgia, was controversially evaluated by media and politicians.

During the EU summit in October, Great Britain and Sweden stated that it was too early to resume negotiations with Russia. Today these countries, as well as the skeptical Poland are ready to negotiate if Moscow is insistently urged to execute all its commitments. The official Paris states that conditions for the resumption of negotiations are appropriate; however, the press and politicians remind the unchanging Vilnius position. But the discussion is not yet over, although the Russians proceed to threaten. This could hardly be considered as serious discussion, but the tax on duration is not a bad thing, it is also part of dialectics.

Has anyone had any doubts that the EU Member States would agree and approve the resumption of negotiations?  Certainly not. It is better to speak about the speed which often seems uninterrupted, but, if needed, could have huge effect. In August the leaders of the EU worked with Georgia and Russia especially intensively, but Moscow‘s actions before, during and after the conflict made us question Russia‘s preparation to fully observe the international commitments.

According to certain statements, the search for compromise is a dominant attitude of the EU. However, the key problem is that Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and that this recognition would not be revoked. Whereas the EU did not recognize their independence and proceeded supporting the territorial integrity of Georgia.  This is the key contradiction and it would hardly disappear in the nearest future.

Since the majority of problems of Europe are related to Russia, dynamics of their relationship is the catalyst of efficiency of the EU‘s policy. There are two different positions in Europe: the first is that it is necessary to „involve“ Russia, another – to „withhold“ it. Positions seem to be controversial, but Europe is simply forced to search for understanding (agreement), i.e. for compromise.

It might be that the EU tries to strike up a binding partnership with Russia so as not to lose the influence which is determined by cooperation and inter-dependence. When united, Moscow responds to the EU position quite sensitively. It was happy when on 1 September the Council of the European leaders decided not to introduce sanctions against Russia. Besides, Gazprom received about 75-75 million US$ for the gas sold to Europe, when its total export totals to about 100 billion.

EU has been standing at the crossroad long time ago: to surrender or to stay firm with respect to Russia? Allowing Moscow to ignore sovereignty of smaller neighbors or surrender to the concept of its „spheres of influence“ would imply the return to „daily matters“ when Moscow has not yet fully executed its commitments.  On the other hand, long-term co-operation might bind Russia with agreements and transform the country in a long-term perspective.

The article „Europe, not America, can force Russia behave decently“ in  „The Christian Science Monitor“ reminds that only due to mediation of France, which has taken over presidency of the EU, fire in Georgia terminated, and raises the question: was this simply a success or manifestation of the EU‘s power?  The answer is that the real power of the EU is attractiveness, since for the Russians it is a rich and stable region.  According to authors of the article, the EU should prepare a program for integration of Georgia and Ukraine into the Western structures, and proceed (at the same time) with the negotiations with Moscow on energy issues.  Regarding South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Europe should follow the strategy pursuant to the analogy of the compulsory integration of the Baltic States into the USSR in 1940.  The article also highlights that isolation of Russia would not be accepted and would only increase its imperial ambitions.

On 18 August „The Independent“ referred to a similar behavior as an advantage.  Having reminded Russia‘s statement that Poland might become a target of nuclear attacks, the publication emphasizes the necessity of the Kremlin rebuff, especially when it extends its threats towards the EU and NATO states.

In general, the „dialect style“ of the EU policy most probably consists of the procedural mobility, which from time to time is balancing on the verge of „wash out“ of values. For critics of the above style this situation gives a pretext to speak about the lack of values or unacceptable domination of realpolitik. On the other hand, such balancing most probably teaches patience and control, i.e. the qualities which in the modern world acquire higher, even the existential, value.

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