You'd think that people who are in favour of national sovereignty, especially based on an agreement that was created when a forcibly united multi-national state based on ideology fell apart, would actually support one of them when it is under attack. Well, you'd be wrong. A curious misreading of what happened in Ukraine has led a number of eurosceptics helter-skelter into the ranks of the Putinistas who appear to be in favour of the recreation of a new Soviet Union in the shape of the Eurasian Union. (Fortunately for many of us, not to mention the people of the former Soviet Union, Russia as led and destroyed by Vlad and his mates is not in a fit state to impose its rule on the others though it is quite capable of the aforementioned territorial invasion and destabilization.)
Why am I not in total despair? Well, it always cheers me when I read an article that clearly understand the issues and does not mince its language. Such an article is in July/August's issue of Standpoint and it is by my good friend (full disclosure) Michael Mosbacher.
He lambasts the insane and Stalinist left and insane right in equal measure but what is particularly painful from my point of view is his well-argued and fully justified attack on the Bruges Group that, in my absence from its counsels, seems to have gone slightly mad.
Whether intentionally or not, the Eurosceptic Bruges Group has become an apologist for Putin. The group was established in 1989 to support the views expounded by Margaret Thatcher in her Bruges speech of the previous year calling for an end to the federalist project and a more decentralised Europe. It has now produced Someone Had Blunder'd, a 30-minute film attacking UK and EU policy on Ukraine for provoking Russia, indeed for being the cause of the current crisis. It is fronted by Bruges Group director Robert Oulds and features Conservative MPs Peter Bone, Bernard Jenkin and John Redwood, twice a leadership candidate, as well as erstwhile party chairman Lord Tebbit. They are now exploring a follow-up film with Sir Bill Cash MP.To be honest none of the participants of the film are people to whom I would turn for elucidation of any question of foreign affairs, let alone those to do with the former Soviet Union. What the egregious John Redwood might have meant by his comment is anybody's guess as is Bernard Jenkin's invention of the mythical and meaningless Euro-neocons.
The argument of these critics is that, in the phrase of Bernard Jenkin, the Euro-neocons — surely as mythical a beast as any yet imagined — running the EU have pursued an aggressive policy of eastward expansion which has encroached on Russia's sphere of influence and thus made it feel threatened. In their view it is the EU's rather than Russia's expansionism which has provoked conflict. Jenkin argues that the EU has been "fomenting divisions in order to bring Ukraine into the European orbit". Redwood says: "It was EU action seeking to expand their empire to the West [sic] which first started the reaction of Russia."
Mr Mosbacher explanation of what happened and what role the EU played at the very beginning of the crisis (after which it became irrelevant as I have mentioned a few times before) is accurate:
It is true that the demonstrations against Yanukovych began last November when he announced that he would not be signing an Association Agreement with the EU but would instead throw in his lot with Putin's Eurasian Customs Union.Clearly, it is not high on the average eurosceptic's list of priorities either (that is, assuming, they know where Ukraine is, something I am doubtful of).
The critics are right that the Association Agreement is much more than a free-trade agreement. In Article Seven it commits Ukraine to "promote gradual convergence in the area of foreign and security policy". Article Ten of the agreement provides for "increasing the participation of Ukraine in EU-led civilian and military crisis management operations" and exploring the potential of military-technological cooperation.
The agreement may indeed undermine Ukrainian sovereignty, but surely is nothing compared to the Russian-dominated Eurasian Customs Union. While the latter may on paper be nothing more than a customs union does anyone seriously believe that it will remain as such? Has Putin's aggression in Ukraine not rather proven the point that Ukrainian sovereignty is not high on his list of priorities?
There is also a well deserved attack on the Conservatives and their allies in the Council of Europe and its preposterous Parliamentary Assembly. Read the whole piece. The title? Putin Has His Useful Idiots on the Left and the Right.