Transitions Online, via Business Week, says that Europe is being much tougher than some perceive on Russia’s Georgia atrocity. But is it tough enough?
Even allowing for the difficulty of the situation, the European Union’s reply on 1 September to Russia’s aggression against Georgia might seem weak and meager. Suspending talks on the EU-Russia framework agreement—which weren’t going anywhere anyway—unless Moscow does something it had already promised to do—withdraw its army to pre-conflict positions—is really very little.
There is little that can be done. The war is over, Georgia has been humiliated, and it’s not as if anyone’s going to send tanks to dislodge the Red, sorry, Russian army from its positions in the faraway Caucasus. Certainly not the EU, for it hasn’t any. Frankly, the Russians have won and it’s too late to do anything about it.
Actually, the EU’s reaction, agreed at a special summit of its leaders, may amount to a bit more than we were led to expect. For one thing, there was a special summit. That happens very rarely; the last one was in 2003 on the eve of the Iraq war. That in itself shows that Europe, as a whole, takes the matter seriously, something that hadn’t always been clear.
For another thing, based on the pre-summit newspaper reports, which ranged from cynical to hysterical, on the “deep split” among members, the bellicose and the “appeasers,” one might have expected there was never going to be a common position at all. That the EU, too, would be left humiliated, its pretense to a common foreign policy—and to being a great power—in shambles again.
That didn’t happen. There did emerge a common position, perhaps not as strong as the hawks in Eastern Europe and Britain would have liked. But strong enough to momentarily satisfy them and to contain the seeds of further escalation if Russia doesn’t comply. Much stronger, also, than the draft circulated by the French EU presidency before the summit, thanks primarily to the Baltic states and Poland. These are the countries that are the most concerned, understandably, about the bellicose new Russia.