September 3, 2008

Audacious Russia, feeble Europe

As EU leaders strive to bridge the divide over how best to deal with Russia post Georgia, attention has now focused on energy policy, principally Europe’s dependence on Russian energy. Washington has weighed in; urging Europe to diversify supplies to counter the increasing economic advantage Russia is gaining over the continent. If anything, the present crisis has clearly demonstrated the West’s lack of leverage.

With Moscow supplying 40% of Europe’s gas, and 25% of its oil and given that the 25/40 mix is expected to rise dramatically over the next 20 years, Gordon Brown’s comments that the EU is “sleepwalking into energy dependence,” should be heeded.

For the time being, and if world headlines are any indication, the crises over Georgia has not merely altered opinion of Russia, but caused a significant amount of disquiet.

Russian Daily Kommersant compared the recognition of the Georgian territories with 9/11, stating that world politics would never be the same again.

“For the first time in history, Russia demonstratively undermined the principle of territorial integrity, giving preference to the principle of self determination of peoples.”
The Financial Times said:

“By recognizing … Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, against international law, the Russian president had made Moscow’s intention clear: The Russian government wants to change the map of Europe by violence.”
Referring to Medvedev’s assertion that Russia might act against the Ukraine as it has done in Georgia, The Washington Post warned:

“This is the rhetoric of an isolated, authoritarian government drunk with the euphoria of a perceived victory and nursing the delusion of a restored empire. It is convinced that the West is too weak and divided to respond with more than words. If nothing is done to restrain it, it will never release Georgia -- and it will not stop here.”
Russia is a bully writes The Daily Telegraph as it noted the steps the west could take to defy Kremlin bullying:

“Expulsion from the G8; freezing consultation within the EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and the Nato-Russia Council; an invitation to Georgia and Ukraine by the alliance to join its Membership Action Plan; and the blocking of Russia's WTO membership.”
The Death of 1989 wrote Paul Berman in an exceptional article, The vast, frightening fallout of Russia's invasion of Georgia.

“An adequate response can only be complex, long-term, and global … We will need a newly combined policy, then--a reaffirmation of the principles of democratic solidarity, together with an urgent, national-priority effort to develop alternative-energy industries in order to weaken the Putin dictatorship and a series of other petro-enemies of democracy.” warned that Russian recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia may backfire:

“Russia is packed to the gills with its own separatist regions and Tuesdays decision will only give all these disparate and resentful groups food for thought … So why open a Pandora’s box? First and foremost the recognition decision is about Kosovo. In Kosovo, the west utterly ignored Russian concerns and imposed a legal regime that fit with western interests; with South Ossetia Russia is returning the favor in its own backyard.”
However, the Wall Street Journals Bernard-Henri Lévy discounts this in his opinion piece:

“As if there could be anything in common between the case of a Serbian province hounded, battered and broken by ethnic purification which lasted for decades, and the situation of Ossetia, victim of a "genocide" that, according to the latest news (a report by Human Rights Watch) consists of 47 deaths.”

The Russians have even gone as far as threatening the economic interests of Australia following Canberra’s threat to review the deal to directly export uranium yellowcake. Two-way trade between Australia and Russia is worth about $800 million per year. But it remains Europe dependence that mostly disturb me. As the Daily Mail’s Edward Lucas writes:

“Let us not forget our own guilty men: Tony Blair snuggling up to Vladimir Putin for nights at the opera in St Petersburg, safely distant from the howls echoing from the torture chambers of Chechnya, writes Edward Lucas. Nor our pinstriped fifth column: businessmen whose salivating pursuit of profits blinded them to the looming menace of Russia's authoritarian crony capitalism. And let us also blame the European leaders in Germany, Italy, France and elsewhere, crass and craven by turns, who have divided the continent and endangered our security. But we can still fight back.”
Moreover, fight back we must before the apathetic spinelessness brought upon us by PC aficionados, seize what is left of western interests.

Recall Putin’s words concerning the dissolution of the Soviet Union, referring to it as, “The greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century.”

America alongside Europe must make it clear that the west will not stay idle if Moscow attempts to re-assert its control over former Soviet Union States. Otherwise it truly will be a case of the, Death of 1989.


WomanHonorThyself said...

fight back we must before the apathetic spinelessness brought upon us by PC aficionados, seize what is left of western that line Otto..says it all indeed!:)

MK said...

VDH wrote an article recently that says pretty much what you've quoted in the post and i think the writing is on the wall. The west will stay idle, after all, if we ask the average man in the street, he won't know about Georgia, nor care.

Unfortunately for Georgia, Russia will continue doing what it wants to do and the rest of the so called western free world will continue hating on America and making them pay for actually freeing Iraq.

David Schantz said...

If you would have ask me if I thought we'd ever see a return of the USSR I'd have told you no. Now I'am thinking I'd have been wrong. Great post.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

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Anonymous said...

While I missed the article by BHL and therefore may be reading the quote out of context, I think BHL is dismissing the parallel of Kosovo to South Ossetia for the wrong reason - he is roughly correct in the comparative levels of ethnic purification. Nor would I overplay the extent of the Russian political and kleptocrat caste's sympathies for any peoples including its own, which it is slowly but steadily killing through the utter failure of its domestic policies. The reason the South Ossetian crisis is compared to Kosovo though is because of how Russia views the imperative of its power projection. The West's (including our own in the US) insistence on promoting Kosovar independence without the gestures Russia was seeking, is in my view what caused Russia to engage in sham ethnic solidarity in South Ossetia, ultimately provoking a gullible Saakashvili and setting up a feeble but popular-with-the-home-team (inasmuch as the average Russian actually gets a vote on anything the Kremlin does - ha) pretext for invading Georgia.

I agree Western Europe is in a very tight spot by being so energy dependent on Russia, which has routinely exercised punitive withholding of supplies to countries that have angered it. This is a bad situation for Europe, and it's no good for the US either.