Russo-European Security Relations
Paris, October 9, 2008 – The issues that have fueled Russian-American tensions in Europe in recent months, and European tensions with both Russia and the United States, have suggested a willingness on all sides to reignite conflict that on the face of it serve no one's real interests. The past week, however, has displayed some different perspectives and the possibility of a general reassessment of problems, with new security arrangements to replace the weakened cold war structures that currently badly serve everyone.
The United States and NATO headquarters have blamed recent troubles on a "resurgent Russia's" wish to reclaim its cold war predominance in Eastern Europe as well as within the old boundaries of Russia. Yet the first is an impossible ambition: only by a new European war could Russia retake control of the former Warsaw Pact states (not to speak of reconstituting East Germany). That it wants to be left alone within Russia's historical borders is normal enough, if inconvenient to Georgians. However as a Georgian leader of Russia, Stalin, once said, "I am not responsible for geography." As the history of Cuba, Grenada, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama demonstrates, living near a large country is dangerous.
The Warsaw Pact gave Russia a deep defensive glacis to absorb attack by western armies. The western armies are no more. The only one that survives, the American, is battling for its life in Afghanistan and sitting on a powder keg in Iraq. No one in Russia today can be so paranoid as to think Russia threatened by an attack by a NATO Alliance currently unable (and unwilling) to scrape up the troops to resist the Taliban in Afghanistan.
There is zero European interest in provoking trouble with Russia. Nearly every one of the West European governments formally abstained in the UN General Assembly vote last week to send the question of the legality of Kosovo's declared independence to the Hague International Court of Justice.
The U.S. created Kosovo independence but was one of only six states voting against sending the affair off for an international court verdict on its international legality (which anyway could only be advisory).
The General Assembly vote was 77 to six, with most of the European governments abstaining, a devastating defeat for the U.S. and victory for Serbia, backed by Russia. The U.S. reiterated that it will continue to station troops in Kosovo and train and supply an embryonic Kosovo army.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Europe to make another generally unsuccessful effort to recruit NATO and non-NATO troops to support the ill-advised U.S. and NATO campaign in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev insisted to a conference at Evian of France's Institute for International Relations that the United States has forfeited its place at the center of world order by its illegal and unjustified invasion of Iraq, its reintroduction of missiles into Western Europe, interpreted as threatening Russia, its expansion of NATO despite promises not to do so, and its attempt to annex to NATO Ukraine and Georgia, both parts of czarist Russia since the early 19th century.
Medvedev said "the Warsaw Pact has not existed for almost twenty years, but unfortunately for us...the expansion of NATO is being carried out with particular fervor. Naturally, no matter what is being said, we regard this as directed against us."
On the same day, the Georgian government confirmed that Russia had fulfilled its promised withdrawal of forces from the buffer zones protecting the breakaway regions that Georgia (as now is generally acknowledged) attacked and attempted to seize in August, causing South Ossetia and Abkhazia to declare their own independence, under Russian protection.
Medvedev's colleague Serguei Karaganov, offered a glimpse of the steel in the Russia reproach by denouncing an "anti-Russian campaign" in the western press and reminding Europeans of their dependence on Russian energy exports (heavily dependent on western technology, he was reminded, and not worth trading for Russia's current version of democracy).
However the affair ended with Nicolas Sarkozy, current holder of the EU presidency, and President Medvedev talking about pan-European security, with Sarkozy arguing for a summit called by the Organization for European Security and Cooperation to create new security institutions "from Vladivostok to Vancouver" to replace those of the cold war with what Sarkozy called a "new multilateralism." The formula is sure to enrage today's Washington establishment, but possibly would be of interest to Barack Obama.
© Copyright 2008 by Tribune Media Services International. All Rights Reserved.
This article comes from William PFAFF
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