Europe must Look East

Viktor Uspaskich, a Lithuanian member of the European Parliament, writing in the Moscow Times:

The Eastern Partnership, the European Union’s program to improve economic and political integration between Europe and the former Soviet republics of Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, was launched in Prague a little more than a year ago to a drumroll of high expectations and fanfare. Although the partnership has delivered very little in its first year, we have seen promising developments in recent months among some of the European Union’s eastern neighbors. It is vital that the EU seizes the opportunity to improve relations and strengthen cooperation with these countries. This can be done without any revolutionary policy diversions and, more importantly, without sacrificing fundamental political freedoms.

Moscow’s Victory Day parade on May 9 may have been a turning point in Russia’s relations with the West. Polish and U.S. troops marched alongside Russian troops on Red Square. This new face appeared after the tragic plane crash in Smolensk that killed President Lech Kaczynski and many senior Polish officials. Although we are not suddenly dealing with a radically new, “softer” Russia, I believe that some of the developments on the Russian side go beyond rhetoric, and it would be a mistake for the EU not to take advantage of Russia’s new pragmatism. We don’t necessarily need a “reset button” to achieve this, just above all a constructive attitude and the willingness to compromise when necessary. This applies to Russia as it does to Belarus and Ukraine.

Belarus has long been neglected by the European Union. Until recently, the EU had employed a slightly simplistic “sticks versus carrots” approach — only that the carrots were not juicy enough and the sticks were not big enough. Punitive measures such as the suspension of EU-Belarus trade and visa restrictions for high-ranking Belarussian officials produced limited results.

Belarus’ accession to the Eastern Partnership in February 2009 briefly raised expectations but did not translate into a political breakthrough. It is largely economic considerations and Belarus’ changing relationship with Russia that have gotten the ball rolling. Either way, Belarus is gradually reaching out. Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime is now making efforts to improve the country’s business climate by opening its doors to large-scale international investment and approving numerous privatization deals.

As with Russia and Belarus, close cooperation with Ukraine is essential if there is to be any hope of stability in the region. Recent years have seen Ukraine turned into a political football. If the events of the past few years are anything to go by, then Ukraine should not be forced to choose between Russia and the West. Whether Ukraine leans East or West, the EU now has an opportunity to fashion a new approach to the country that factors in Russia.

It won’t be easy, but there have been promising signs. In Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s inauguration speech, he stressed that Ukraine should serve as a bridge between East and West. Security and energy are two areas where cooperation would go a long way to remedy some of Kiev’s woes. The EU should broker an energy deal between itself, Russia and Ukraine, providing a steady gas supply to Europe while simultaneously securing Russian income.

With its population of 46 million, Ukraine remains the linchpin of the EU’s eastern neighborhood while relying heavily on the EU for trade and financial stability. Hampered by economic malaise, the Eastern Partnership has not managed to have a definitive impact on Ukraine. It is time for the Eastern Partnership to be revived and focused toward manageable, yet significant, goals. These could include free trade and visa liberalization, both of which would be seen very favorably by the Ukrainian public.

There is no contradiction between deeper EU integration for Lithuania and other new EU members and better relations with Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Cooperation is important, but not at any price. Political freedom and human rights considerations must not be pushed aside. It is important for the EU in general, and Lithuania in particular, to seek closer cooperation with our eastern neighbors even if some differences are bound to remain. This process can be kick-started by reviving the Eastern Partnership and giving it a more focused agenda.

12 responses to “Europe must Look East

  1. By Konstantin Probrazhensky: ‘How Russia Conquered Chechnya’:

  2. More from the same:

    The U.S. has even tolerated the mammoth SVR operation of merging the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with the Moscow Patriarchate. Sober-minded Americans, of course, understood that Russia did this to introduce its own influence and spy activities into America. There was also one more reason: money laundering.

    The Church is a giant off-shore zone. Moscow can launder millions of dollars into this country using the Church. But formally, America has praised the seizure.

    And now, low and behold, the U.S. has arrested some Russian spies for doing exactly the same thing as has been happening with the Church.

    Where is the logic?

  3. Kalachmirnoff

    Polish and British troops. German politicians. They were showing off the hammer and sickle, that’s the equivalent of a swastika to many in Eastern Europe. So next year let’s organize a march where swastikas are shown, you know – to remember the good old times. Screw Europe as well, I wonder if Merkel gave both Putin and Medvedev handjobs or was it just for Putin.

    • As a Jew who lost numerous relatives in the Holocaust, I am painfully aware of the efforts by neo-Nazis to portray Hitler as being no worse than Lenin, and to portray Nazi Waffen SS as being no worse than the Red Army soldiers who liberated Auschwitz and defeated the Nazi Berlin.

      • Well, the Nazi’s killed around 6 million in their camps, and maybe 20 million over all.

        Russian communists killed over 60 million by reasonable estimates, starting with the Red Terror (Lenin), through the great terror (Stalin) through Khrushchevs violence in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, right through to Andropov and his murdering thugs.

        Being a Russian Jew, I suspect you had just as many relatives who comitted crimes against humanity in the name of communism and mother Russia as you had relatives who suffered at the hands of the nazi Germans.

        • Andrew rote: “Being a Russian Jew, I suspect you had just as many relatives who comitted crimes against humanity in the name of communism and mother Russia as you had relatives who suffered at the hands of the nazi Germans.

          Why would you say such anti-semitic nonsense, Andrew?

          • Here is the link to the article.


            And us, the Jews? An Israeli student finishes high school without ever hearing the name “Genrikh Yagoda,” the greatest Jewish murderer of the 20th Century, the GPU’s deputy commander and the founder and commander of the NKVD. Yagoda diligently implemented Stalin’s collectivization orders and is responsible for the deaths of at least 10 million people. His Jewish deputies established and managed the Gulag system. After Stalin no longer viewed him favorably, Yagoda was demoted and executed, and was replaced as chief hangman in 1936 by Yezhov, the “bloodthirsty dwarf.”

            In 1934, according to published statistics, 38.5 percent of those holding the most senior posts in the Soviet security apparatuses were of Jewish origin. They too, of course, were gradually eliminated in the next purges. In a fascinating lecture at a Tel Aviv University convention this week, Dr. Halfin described the waves of soviet terror as a “carnival of mass murder,” “fantasy of purges”, and “essianism of evil.” Turns out that Jews too, when they become captivated by messianic ideology, can become great murderers, among the greatest known by modern history.

            Not anti semitic, just historical fact Ostap Bender, without peorple like your mass murdering relatives, the reign of terror of Russian communism would probably have died still born.

            • So, how does it prove that “just as many” Jews “comitted crimes against humanity in the name of communism and mother Russia” as the number of Jews “who suffered at the hands of the nazi Germans”?

              How many Soviet Jews suffered at the hands of the nazi Germans? Two or three million, right?

              How many “comitted crimes against humanity in the name of communism and mother Russia”(sic.)? Maybe three or four hundred? One thousand?

              How can 1 thousand be equal to 2 million, Andrew?

              • I never said “just as many Jews”, I said I suspect you had just as many relatives who comitted crimes against humanity in the name of communism and mother Russia as you had relatives who suffered at the hands of the nazi Germans and given the nature of your pro soviet and pro communist tyranny views, I am pretty sure I am right.

  4. o, you condemn my Jewish relatives based on my crimes, Andrew. Which is exactly what your German Nazi predecessors did: they condemned innocent Jewish civilians for crimes committed by their Jewish relatives.

    Look, Andrew, you are a Nazi, which is a short hop from your russophobia, armenophobia, ellinophobia and other xenophobias that you suffer.

  5. Andrew, where is the evidence on commiting the crimes by the relatives of the men? Your suspicions are offensive, by the way. And you can be made answerable for such statements easily!

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