On EU - Russia relations preceding the November 14 Summit in Nice (6)
Archived Articles 07 Nov 2008 sddddEWR
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Tunne Kelam MEP

After hearing the presentations by Mr. Javier Solana and Mrs. Ferrero-Waldner before the AFET Committee November 5, 2008, my concern that on the eve of the planned Nice Summit the Council and the Commission are obviously not willing or prepared to draw the proper conclusions from the Russian large-scale use military force against a sovereign neighbouring state has only increased.

The fact that the Russian military invasion and occupation of large parts of Georgia presents a deliberate challenge to the fundamental principles upon which international relations and security are based has not been seriously addressed by the Commission.

While the EU, led by the French presidency, should be commended for both its rapid reaction to the Georgian crisis and its effective mediation leading to the ending of armed fighting, the EU's current position is alarmingly ambivalent.

The EU’s High Representative Javier Solana declared, "Although we are at a critical juncture with Russia, there is no alternative to a strong relationship. We need Russia as much as Russia needs the EU and that is why contacts are on-going."

The crucial point is that the EU's approach to the aftermath of the invasion of Georgia is not credibly balanced between what Mr. Solana called rational and principled components.

With values and principles left on the level of declarations and their full implementation indefinitely postponed to future conferences, rational arguments end up dominating. This means that while EU leaders declare that there is no business as usual, in reality business as usual will be continued because "there is no alternative".

This is a risky and short-sighted policy by which the EU deprives itself of respect as a serious and independent actor in international affairs. It will be a dangerous slippery slope. If after Russia’s blatant use of force and dismembering of an independent friendly state, the European Community finds that it can afford no principled alternatives at all, this will be interpreted by militant Kremlin leaders as opening the way to further demonstrations of force and intimidation.

I wonder if similar declarations about there being no alternative to continuing business as usual will be made after Russia has invaded Crimea to "protect" its newly-created citizens there to whom Russian passports with EU visa facilitation opportunities are currently being distributed. What are the guarantees that the Kremlin hawks, emboldened by the absence of any concrete consequences to their actions will not try their luck again in Ukraine or elsewhere?

Unfortunately, EU hesitancy to set clear limits to such a pre-planned violation of the norms of international conduct is in all likelihood going to encourage further assertiveness of revanchist Russian nationalism. The authoritarian Russia of today has an alarming resemblance to national-socialist Germany 70 years ago, trying to compensate its humiliation of a lost empire and using the pretext of defending its compatriots abroad (Sudeten Germans) to justify military expansion. Western democracies' desperate attempts to cling to the continuation of a strong relationship with Hitler failed.

Since August 8, 2008, the paradigm of international security is no longer the same. The longer united Europe hesitates to make clear that there will be serious consequences resulting from the one-sided change made to this paradigm, the higher the price will be for continuing business as usual.

(Brussels, November 6, 2008)
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