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Europe's Message to Moscow

By Dan Hamilton

The European Union has entered diplomatic no-man's-land by deploying more than 200 monitors to areas of Georgia next to the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, replacing Russian forces that invaded Georgia in August. The EU's Georgian deployment is a test of its ability to manage relations with a resurgent Russia, and to develop a more credible approach to the volatile "in-between" lands that stretch along EU borders from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

The EU faces some tough challenges. Moscow has not only refused to make good on its commitment to remove its forces from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it has actually recognized the two Georgian provinces as independent countries, given many of their citizens Russian passports, and deployed a sizable contingent of its own forces. EU efforts to initiate mediation talks in the conflict fell apart in Geneva Wednesday due to disagreement between Georgia and Russia over participation of the two breakaway regions.

In the short term, the EU is well-advised to maintain its position as "honest broker" in the conflict. This allowed it to mediate and engineer the current ceasefire, and despite this week's setback offers an opportunity to work with all sides to tackle the unresolved issues of status for the provinces and security for people across the area.

In the longer term, however, the EU must review its approach to Russia and the region as a whole.

The message to Moscow is straightforward. If Russia continues to bully its neighbors and cling to outmoded spheres of influence, the international community will hold Russia accountable. If it uses its energy wealth to invest in its people, build a more sustainable economy grounded in the rule of law, tackle its truly stunning health and demographic challenges, and build better relations with its European neighbors, the EU and the U.S. stand as willing partners.

The EU's message to smaller neighbors demands more from Brussels. The EU has an interest in preventing violence along its eastern borders. It needs to address wider Europe's remaining conflicts, most of which are labeled "frozen" but are really festering sores that have dragged down small young democracies and blocked their economic development. The EU also has an interest in projecting stability eastward so that instability does not flow westward. It needs to discourage its neighbors from irresponsible behavior and to engage with them in ways that reduce the region's vulnerability to Russian pressure and forge closer links to the EU itself.

EU enlargement has been the bloc's greatest foreign policy achievement. EU leaders remain reluctant, however, to acknowledge that a turbulent Europe without walls and barriers requires vigorous efforts to extend the EU's brand of democratic stability even further eastward. Now that EU forces have been forced to deploy to the eastern shore of the Black Sea, the magnitude of wider Europe's challenge - and the need for a more dynamic response -- may become clear.

Dan Hamilton, director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins SAIS, is the host of Next Europe.


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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Johns Hopkins University.

Comments (17)

Alban1 Author Profile Page:

"Russia today is not the ragtag nation of Boris Yetsin. It is Putin's and Medveded's Russia. And they respond like Siberian tigers to challenges. And neither Europe nor the U.S. can challenge Russia either financially or militarily. "


Spoken like a Greek, blindly supporting his "Orthodox bothers." Russia is a bully, they can never take on Turkey, let alone US and NATO. That 'wonderful' economy Pootie supposedly built is oil and commodity based.

Drill, sell and steal 75%. Now that prices are way down, their stock market has crashed and even during the boom, Russia didn't build a km of new roads. Russia may have some cash in reserves, but that is no match for a US /EU diversified economy. Have you noticed how this week how Iran, Venezuela and Russia stopped beating their chests? Oil went below $70, that's why.

WarrenDew Author Profile Page:

I think a lot of the comments are missing the point.

There are two Russian personalities involved: Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev. Putin was the one making all the hard line speeches right after the Russian invasion. Medvedev was the one who signed the agreement to withdraw to positions as they were before the war.

Bullying neighbors and outmoded spheres of influence are Putin's policies. In the immediate aftermath of the Russian military success, Putin was very visible, making speeches, and ignoring Medvedev's agreement.

Then the Russian stock market collapsed. In the face of Putin's attitude, E.U. investors withdrew, and because Putin had so mismanaged Russia's domestic financial markets, the withdrawal of European investors was sufficient to cause financial turmoil and threaten economic collapse.

Since then, Putin has shut up and Russia has moved towards honoring Medvedev's agreement. They're not all the way there yet, but it's still a significant victory for the E.U.

I think the article is valid. Having more than token strength to back this kind of action would be good for the E.U. It would be good for Russia, too - not good for the oppressive, Stalinist Russia of Vladimir Putin, to be sure, but good for the more progressive, enlightened Russia that Medvedev spoke of during his campaign. Russia would do well to abandon spheres of influence for active cooperation, and Europe is doing well to facilitate that.

pgr88 Author Profile Page:

"...The message to Moscow is straightforward. If Russia continues to bully its neighbors and cling to outmoded spheres of influence, the international community will hold Russia accountable...."

Spoken like a true ivory-tower academic. The best the EU can do is hide its own weakness and lack of resolve to confront Russia. Putin plays hardball and knows he can slowly but steadily get what he wants.

dorian9393 Author Profile Page:

Do you all realize it sounds like you're praising Russia for wanting to rebuild the Soviet Union? Need I remind you that political figures in Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, ect. all want to grab more power, territory, and allies to try to rebuild the USSR under their banner. I agree with Russia that Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be recognized as independent countries, what I don't agree with is Russian or Georgian troops being anywhere within arm's reach of either one of them. Don't start saying things like "...the EU needs...A guy like Vladimir." Because I would take a drunk off the street and put him in a leadership position in the free world before I would put Putin there. Stop Georgia bashing because they aren't the only easterners who are messed up.

venik4 Author Profile Page:

Fortunately, EU is in no position to hold Russia accountable. Russia does not need partners. It needs customers. EU buys Russia's natural resources and Russia buys whatever it needs from EU. And that's the extent of this relationship and has always been. And every time Europe ventured outside this arrangement, they ended up regretting doing so.

T-Prop Author Profile Page:

-------------------------------------------
Oh my

There goes Putin, rearing his head again...
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brochner1 Author Profile Page:

i agree with Bobah and Foxjh.

I disagree that the article is completely slanted, but there certainly is slant. Especially with 'outdated spheres of influence'. Who says the 'Near Abroad' is an outdated sphere? The Russians are very paranoid of not being perceived as a great power, 'Rodney Dangerfield syndrome' wasn't a poor metaphor for what the Russians are feeling. They feel that Western Expansion into their perceived sphere of influence is a vital threat to their world (and especially self) perception of velikaia derzhavnost (translation: great power).

The west needs to back off a bit, and engage Russia with much softer language, as well as some limited political and even economic ostracism. If Russia is treated as an adult, given respect, and respectfully shown they are destabilizing world order, they will become much more open to the west and more friendly. I'm not saying they will fall in line with the West, but they will certainly be more open to negotiations and not so prone to using hammer down and annihalationist tactics in the Caspian and Caucasus.

Soft engagement and gentle ostracism, they keys to successful policy in regards to Russia.

rigel_11 Author Profile Page:

Russia suffers from the Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome "I get no respect", the crying rally of peoples still yearning for the old empire. They actually opened a museum to show their great victory over a small country that was no match to the Russian military and the West is supposed to be in awe?? If it wasnt for the ostrich-like behaviour of the few old Europe countries like Germany, France and Italy who want to apease the crying baby that feels no respect and throws a tantrum, kicking former satellite countries around....enough said.

nalbjs Author Profile Page:

I see that Putin’s KGB information machine is on attack and spreading disinformation.

The history of Georgia does not start with Stalin or the Bolshevik revolution, or Russians as a nation. Georgian statehood is older than Russian by at least 7 hundred years. Abkhazia, and the region currently called South Ossetia always have been integral parts of Georgia, both ethnically, culturally and territorially - long before Russians woke up learned about Caucasus and after.
Before the Bolshevik revolution, Georgians were majority ethnic groups in both of these regions. Stalin and other Bolshevik leaders were the ones who gave minorities – Abkahzians and Ossetians an unwarranted autonomies as a thank you for their active assistance to Red Army’s invasion and eventual occupation of Georgia in 1921. Sounds familiar, hah? Who says that history does not repeat itself …
If Russians want to distance themselves from Stalin, the creator of the contemporary Russian empire, I would suggest the author of the earlier comment to call on Mr. Putin to return the lands stolen during the Stalin rule to Germany, Japan, China, and to Georgia. Yes, to Georgia - in addition to Abkhazia and Ossetia annexed by Yeltsin and finalized by Putin, Stalin gave Sochi, a historical Georgian territory to Russia under a justification that Russian workers in Siberia and far east did not have a sufficient number of black sea resorts.

Neither Abkahzia nor South Ossetia broke up from Georgia on their own. They were taken and have been occupied by Russians since early 90s who ethnically cleansed Georgians – the majority of Abkahzia’s population - and other non-Russians from Abkhazia, and under a threat of occupying the whole Georgia and bomb Tbilisi forced a weak central government in Tbilisi embroiled in a civil war with supporters of President Gamsakhuardia - to give Russians - the occupiers - a status of ‘peace-keepers.’ Both US and Europe were too busy with securing Russia’s crumbling state and nuclear arsenal to help Georgia. Who says the history does repeat itself? The ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Abkahzia had been finally recognized by the UN the last year. However, even after more than 15 years since the ethnic cleansing took place, Russian refusing the return of IDPs, cynically saying that it is too early to talk about IDP return.

As for the August war, it was not started by Georgians. It had been planned by Russians for more than an year. After Russian started shelling Georgian villages in South Ossetia (yes, there were Georgians living South Ossetia) and Russian tanks moving through the Roki tunnel to Georgia, Georgia did not have much choice left. Either it had to fight, or surrender, and once again become a Russian colony and live under occupation. The conduct of Russian occupation forces in this war – killing civilians, looting and burning down houses, raping women – showed that Saakashvili made a right choice.
As for Europe, Georgians have been warning about Russian plans for the last two years at least. Europe did not think that the threat was serious. Next can be Ukraine, then the Baltics, Poland, and Ms. Merkel may see a Russian tank in her backyard again. Putin showed that his is very good in capitalizing on a ‘first mover’s advantage.’ Actually this is the only game he knows.

thescientist1 Author Profile Page:

Agree with BOBAH.
Here is a part of this article with my very slight edits in square brackets:
"If [deleted: Russia, added: USA] continues to bully its neighbors and cling to outmoded spheres of influence, the international community will hold [deleted: Russia, added: USA] accountable. If it uses its [deleted: energy] wealth to invest in its people, build a more sustainable economy grounded in the rule of law, tackle its truly stunning health [care] and demographic challenges, and build better relations with its European [and Asian] neighbors, the EU and the [deleted: U.S., added: the rest of the World] stand as willing partners."

BOBAH Author Profile Page:

Blah Blahdy Blahdily Blah...
This article is nothing but one-sided view of the problem and repetion of western propaganda lies repeated ad nauseum.
Several facts you might consider:
1. The territories in question historically never belonged to Georgia. The conflict we have is a direct result of communists' national policy from 1917 to 1922 when USSR was created. Georgian Stalin draw arbitrary boundaries on the map of what used to be one Great Russian Empire. That is why Ossetian lands were artificially separated into North and South Ossetia autonomous rebublics. The same people were arbitrarily divided. North Ossetia ending up in what was to become Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic (RSFSR) and South Ossetia becoming part of Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic (GSSR). These borders never meant to be. To support these borders is to support Communism.
2. The so-called "Rose Revolution" was exactly that - a revolution, a coup d'etat sponsored by CIA. So any mentioning of "democratically elected" government in Georgia is simply laughable.
3. Saakashvilli is a former KGB man as well as a former pimp. He was almost sentenced to prizon term for procuring underage girls for hardcore porno movies. Only bribing a corrupt judge saved him from going to prison. And this is the kind of a person US politicians associate themselves with.

Regardless, the stronger is always right.
Is US willing to get into nuclear war over Gerogia?

foxjh Author Profile Page:

To counter Russia, the EU would need:
1. Oil
2. A military
3. A guy like Vladimir.

Don't hold your breath.

ikeik Author Profile Page:

The level of naivete expressed by the commenters to this article thus far is truly disheartening. To any who have paid due attention to the current Russian oligarchy, the necessary reaction to the on-going situation in Georgia is clear; it is also, so far, non-existent.

Russia's actions in Georgia and the former Soviet states are only probing efforts against the resolve and intentions of NATO and its allies. Thus far, those probes have shown an opposing force less than enthusiastic in action, and far less creative in the limited actions it has taken, to ever truly oppose the coming Russian aggression.

A time is coming soon when even those whose heads are buried in the sand will see the clear intentions of the new Russian Machine.

When, in the dead of winter, gas and fuel supplies are cut to Europe and the Baltics, forcing drastic political and military concessions by EU leaders, they will know. When Russia's oil and gas producing allies around the world cut off supplies to the U.S., breaking the back our economy and throwing the world into an economic nose dive, whose devastation even Congress won't be able to match with a "bail-out" plan, they will know. When the millions of disenfranchised European Muslims stand up to claim "what rightfully belongs to Islam" bringing chaos across Europe, which only Russian "peace-keepers" will be in a position to roll in and calm, they will know. And when they know, they will look back to Russia's actions in Georgia, point their fingers at their predecessors in leadership and ask, "Why didn't you stop them when you had the chance?"

Of course, all will be well in this time of knowing as the peace will be dictated by the Glorious Law of Islam and enforced by the peace loving forces of the resurgent KGB Russian state.

NikosRetsos Author Profile Page:

Europe's message to Moscow is meaningless because
it represents only the U.S., France, Great Britain, and Poland, while many other members, like Italy, don't agree with the hardliners mentioned, while other European states are actually tilting toward the Russian position - but they cannot declare that publicly as a show of unity to E.U.

The term "the international community" used always to refer to the American position is not taken seriously internationally. Votes at the United nations General Assembly have consistently shown the U.S. to be in the minority controlling only about 60 votes -some of them minuscule states- out of about 196 United Nation registered nation states.

The only thing Europe can do is to keep observers in Georgia until Mikheil Sashkasvilli come to his senses and digest that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are gone for good! Nicolas Sarkozy told Sashkasvilli straight: "that's all we could get from Russia, take it or leave it." He knows now that its is all over, but he is taking his last gasp for domestic consumption in Georgia. If Sashkasvill knew what had happened to Generals Kolchac and Denikin after the Boshevik Revolution, his country would have had a better lack with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia today is not the ragtag nation of Boris Yetsin. It is Putin's and Medveded's Russia. And they respond like Siberian tigers to challenges. And neither Europe nor the U.S. can challenge Russia either financially or militarily. That is why John McCain's temper flares up any time he talks about Vladimir Putin,
the architect of today's Russia. And he doesn't even bother to mention Dmitri Medveded, the president!
Epilogue: The Europe's message to Russia is so feeble, the Russians don't even hear it. It is OK to say that we or Europe have leverage toward Russia for domestic consumption, but let's not over emphasize that. Nikos Retsos, retired professor of Pol.Sci. and History.

Fahrenheit941 Author Profile Page:

Clearly he hasn't read the material. The scarey part is that his editors at the Washington Post also didn't see quite how myopic the view presented is. If they had, he might have written it as follows:

The European Union has entered diplomatic no-man's-land by deploying more than 200 monitors to areas of Georgia next to the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, replacing Russian forces that stabilized the pre-August contested borders between Georgia and the contested South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The EU's Georgian deployment is a test of its ability to manage relations with a resurgent Russia, and to develop a more credible approach to the volatile "in-between" lands that stretch along EU borders from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
The EU faces some tough challenges. Georgia has not only refused to make good on its commitment to resolve contested border issues peacefully, it has actually invaded, first the Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia a couple of years ago, and then South Ossetia in August. EU efforts to initiate mediation talks in the conflict fell apart in Geneva Wednesday due to disagreement between Georgia and Russia over participation of the two breakaway regions.
In the short term, the EU is well-advised to maintain its position as "honest broker" in the conflict. This allowed it to mediate and engineer the current ceasefire, and despite this week's setback offers an opportunity to work with all sides to tackle the unresolved issues of status for the provinces and security for people across the area.
In the longer term, however, the EU must review its approach to Georgia and the region as a whole.
The message to Tbilisi is straightforward. If Georgia continues to bully its neighbors and cling to outmoded spheres of influence, the international community will hold Georgia accountable. It must use its meagre wealth and its newly discovered humanitarian aid channels to invest in its people. Georgia must divert its sizable and continuing investment in military offensive capabilities to rebuild a more sustainable economy grounded in the rule of law, tackle its truly stunning poverty, and build better relations with its European neighbors, the EU and its surrounding neighbors.
The EU's message to smaller neighbors demands more from Brussels. The EU has an interest in preventing violence along its eastern borders. It needs to address wider Europe's remaining conflicts, most of which are labeled "frozen" but are really festering sores that have dragged down small young democracies and blocked their economic development. Among the countries of the former Soviet Union, Abkhazia stands as one state that has embraced democracy, perhaps more passionately than any other. The EU also has an interest in projecting stability eastward so that instability does not flow westward. It needs to discourage its neighbors from irresponsible behavior and to engage with them in ways that reduce the region's vulnerability to military pressure and forge closer links to the EU itself.
EU enlargement has been the bloc's greatest foreign policy achievement. EU leaders remain reluctant, however, to acknowledge that a turbulent Europe without walls and barriers requires vigorous efforts to extend the EU's brand of democratic stability even further eastward. Now that EU forces have been forced to deploy to the eastern shore of the Black Sea, the magnitude of wider Europe's challenge - and the need for a more dynamic response -- may become clear.

capskip Author Profile Page:

The UE and the US should go after that idiot that governs Georgia, He is the one that started the problem and should resign

NthrnNYker Author Profile Page:

Who is this idiot trying to con ? Russia NEVER negotiated their rights away to station troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (as was mandated by a UN security council resolution a decade ago..as PEACEKEEPERS). Spread your right-wing republi-CON lies, we know better.
The terms of the peace agreement negotiated last month after Russia was forced to defend it's UN-MANDATED peacekeepers against the atrocities of that insane madman that dictates in Georgia was that Russia would pull-back to pre-war borders....which WAS within the Abkhazia and South Ossetia borders. And no amount of right-wing propaganda is going to change that.

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