Thursday, February 12, 2015

Should we really abandon discussions of Brexit because of Russia? - 1

On Tuesday evening I attended an event organized by the Foreign Policy Centre (partner: the European Commission) at which they launched their new publication, Trouble in the Neighbourhood? The Future of the EU's Eastern Partnership. There is a good deal to say about the publication but in this posting I want to concentrate on something that came up during the panel presentation and discussion (all of which was about forty minutes too long).

But first: we have yet another agreement between Ukraine, Russia and, to represent the EU and the West in general, Germany and France (I'll come to that later on). The agreement, though arrived at after an all-night sitting, does not seem to be that different from the one signed in September, which was broken within hours.

As Baroness Falkner of Margravine said in the debate that followed the Statement on Ukraine in the House of Lords, also on Tuesday:
Does my noble friend accept that in the unlikely circumstance that we have progress in Minsk tomorrow and that Mr Putin sticks to his word perhaps for more than an hour or two, or even a day or week or two, the holding of any ceasefire is contingent on the verifiable force of peacekeepers?
Indeed, that debate showed that few of the peers, interested enough in the subject to participate, had any illusions about the Russian President (who continues to look ever less like a human being and ever more like somebody who could be put next to the Lenin wax work in the Mausoleum).

One of the participants in the FPC discussion was Edward Lucas of the Economist, a man who is very knowledgeable about Russia and other countries that had formerly been either in the Soviet Union or the European Communist sphere but whose great fault is inability to look beyond the European Union even though he spends a great deal of his time rightly criticizing its activity and non-achievement.

It was he who made the obvious comment that the whole idea of an Eastern Partnership was deeply flawed as it involved treating very different countries, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus as being essentially similar and homogenous. This is, undoubtedly, true but the problem is that this is the only way the EU can create policies. Mr Lucas also added that "we" presumably the West but mostly "Europe", a concept that was mentioned frequently throughout the evening, have no Russia policy. Indeed not. The EU has no Russia policy just as it has no Ukraine or any other policy because it cannot have one.

This goes back to the whole problem of common foreign policy on which I have written so often that it would be impossible to link to the various postings here or on my erstwhile blogging home, EUReferendum. Foreign policy has to grow out of some definition of interest and the European Union's member states have no common interests while the Union's own interests do not extend much beyond survival and ever closer integration. (In fact, one of the member states, Greece, is an ally of the Putin government and has always been pro-Russian, regardless of what was going on.)

When I first started writing about the common foreign policy and its non-viabiltiy, all those years ago, I compared the EU to an amoeba in that its survival depended on shape changing and swallowing of organisms close to it. At the time the nascent common foreign policy consisted largely of efforts to make the neighbouring countries into member states. There could be no question of policies or relationships. If a country could not become a member then we did not know what to do with it and that, obviously, applied to Russia.

The fall of the Soviet empire presented the EU with various problems, some of which it could solve to its own temporary satisfaction by taking the Central and East European countries in, even though at least two of them, Romania and Bulgaria, remain problematic. The Balkans were and continue to be a mess despite the fact that two of the former Yugoslav republics are now within the EU and little attention was paid to the former Soviet republics except for the Baltic ones that are, as agreed by all, in a different category.

No optimistic or pessimistic analysis can possibly postulate EU membership for any of the countries in question. Therefore, they will remain near (or relatively near) neighbours and some sort of a relationship needs to be established with them. But, not having any particular interests only general, ill-defined "values" the EU cannot do so. Therefore, it has fallen back on its past method of treating all the countries as one region and dealing with them as such. The fact that this method has been unsuccessful in the past does not seem to bother anybody. After all, argue the officials involved, what is successful? We have structures, we have conferences, committees, reports and funds for managing certain problems. What else do we need for success? The fact that we cannot cope and are not set up to cope with the huge crises in the various countries, let alone the war/civil war that is going on in parts of the Ukraine remains a detail.

Mr Lucas is right to point out the faults with this sort of policy but wrong in that he cannot see that it is endemic to the political construct he has (still) such high hopes for.

[I was hoping to cover the subject in just one posting but find that it is not possible. Therefore, I shall put this up on the blog and continue in a second installment.]

12 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Good discussion about the logical impossibility for the EU to have a nuanced foreign policy relative to its members or neighbours.

    Very observant, too, about the physical deterioration of Putin (and John Kerry, himself, is a pale example of his presidential-candidate self) — what gives, I wonder?

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    1. Well we know Putin overindulges in botox and steroids but there are also rumours that other things are wrong. Did not remove his shirt once in the past summer, we all noted thankfully. But Kerry? What's with him?

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    2. i await part 2 of this riveting analysis with bated breath!

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  3. there is no eu policy because washington tells them what to do! lucas is a neo liberal fool who hates russia ! the house of lords is full of hateful warmongers who think they can push putin and russia about. it could go horribly wrong! i pray it wont happen. i am not optimistic.

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    1. You, sir or madam, are an idiot who cannot write, knows nothing and has not got the guts to tell us who you are. Begone. You are of no interest.

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    2. i served my country helen so you can have your freedom ! i suppose that makes you an idiot! you should be ashamed but doubt you have the humanity for such feeling.

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    3. you may find this article in the american conservative helpful. its called,"the ambitions driving the ukraine consensus" by scott mcconnell .have nice day!

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    4. Thanks for that. Very informative and refreshingly truthful.

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    5. Since I don't know who you are, Anonymous, I have no idea whether you did serve your country and when or, indeed, anything else about you. I have made it clear that I consider people who refuse to give themselves a moniker to be utter cowards. And no, I am not ashamed of that or of anything else. Your comments showed absolute ignorance and you clearly did not even bother to read the Lords debate that I linked to. Anyone can say they served their country.

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    6. i did read the debate why else would i make such a comment. we are frog marching ourselves to war. seriously is that what you want! i await the second part of your post.

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    7. You will get the second part. In the meantime, let me repeat, I do not think highly of people who hide behind that Anonymous moniker, I do not think you understood what the debate was about and we are not marching to war. I would also add that you did not bother to read properly what I have been writing. But, hey, why would any of that matter? You know it all.

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