Monday, November 24, 2014

Putin’s Reality Check for Europe

BERLIN – For far too long, the West has harbored illusions about Vladimir Putin’s Russia – illusions that have now been shattered on the Crimean peninsula. The West could (and should) have known better: Ever since his first term in office as Russian president, Putin’s strategic objective has been to rebuild Russia’s status as a global power.

To this end, Putin used Russia’s energy exports to recover gradually the territories lost when the Soviet Union collapsed a generation ago. Ukraine has been at the heart of this strategy, because, without it, the aim of a revived Russia is unachievable. So Crimea was just the first target; the next will be eastern Ukraine and persistent destabilization of the country as a whole.

Before our eyes, the post-Soviet international system in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia is being overthrown. Nineteenth-century concepts of international order, based on zero-sum balance-of-power considerations and spheres of interest, are threatening to supersede modern norms of national self-determination, the inviolability of borders, the rule of law, and the fundamental principles of democracy.

As a result, this upheaval will have a massive impact on Europe and its relations with Russia, for it will determine whether Europeans live by twenty-first-century rules. Those who believe that the West can adapt to Russian behavior, as Putin’s Western apologists suggest, risk contributing to further strategic escalation, because a soft approach will merely embolden the Kremlin.

Indeed, whether or not its leaders acknowledge it, the European Union is now in direct conflict with Russia over its enlargement policy since the end of the Cold War. That is because Russia’s re-emergence as a global power requires not just the reintegration of lost Soviet territories, but also direct access to Europe and a dominant role there, especially in Eastern Europe. So a fundamental strategic struggle is now a given.

From a Western perspective, willful confrontation makes little sense, because the EU and Russia are and will continue to be neighbors. Looking ahead, Russia will need the EU even more than vice versa, because in its Far East and in Central Asia, China is emerging as a rival of entirely different dimensions. Moreover, Russia’s rapid demographic decline and enormous modernization deficit imply the need for a joint future with Europe. But seizing this opportunity is possible only on the basis of the rule of law, not of force, and must be guided by the principles of democracy and national self-determination, not great-power politics.

Instead, Putin has now triggered a lasting crisis. The West’s response will be a new containment policy, mainly taking the form of economic and diplomatic measures. Europe will reduce its energy dependence on Russia, review its strategic alignment and priorities, and scale back investment and bilateral cooperation.

In the short term, Putin seems to have greater leverage, but the weakness of his position will soon become apparent. Russia is completely dependent, economically and politically, on its commodity and energy exports, which go primarily to Europe. Lower European demand and an oil price that no longer suffices to sustain Russia’s budget stand to hobble the Kremlin very quickly.

Indeed, there is reason to believe that Putin may have overplayed his hand. The collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990’s was caused not by the West, but by a wave of secession, as nationalities and minorities, seeing the party-state weakened, seized the opportunity to break free. Today’s Russia has neither the economic nor the political strength to regain and integrate the lost Soviet territories, and any attempt by Putin to press on with his plan would impoverish its people and lead to further disintegration – a bleak prospect.

Europeans have reason to be worried, and they now have to face the fact that the EU is not just a common market – a mere economic community – but a global player, a cohesive political unit with shared values and common security interests. Europe’s strategic and normative interests have thus re-emerged with a vengeance; in fact, Putin has managed, almost singlehandedly, to invigorate NATO with a new sense of purpose.

The EU will have to understand that it is not acting in a vacuum in its eastern and southern neighborhood, and that, for the sake of its own security interests, the conflicting interests of other powers there cannot simply be ignored or, worse, accepted. The EU’s enlargement policy is not merely some expensive, expendable annoyance; it is a vital component of the EU’s security and outward projection of power. Safety comes with a price tag.

Perhaps now there will be a reassessment in the United Kingdom of the costs of an EU exit. And maybe there will be a realization on the Continent that European unification must move forward more quickly, because the world – and Europe’s neighborhood in particular – has turned out to be not as peaceful as many, above all the Germans, perceived it to be.

The EU peace project – the original impetus for European integration – may have worked too well; after more than six decades of success, it had come to be considered hopelessly outdated. Putin has provided a reality check. The question of peace in Europe has returned, and it must be answered by a strong and united EU.

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    1. CommentedJean-Louis Piel

      i agree totally with : "The question of peace in Europe has returned, and it must be answered by a strong and united EU."

    2. CommentedE Burke

      Putin is not a perfect messenger of our Lord because there are no perfect messengers as we are all unrighteousness. Putin is a flawed messenger of the Word - but a messenger he is. A global powerful leader however is exactly what is needed to counter satin's minions who rule the west which is the new evil empire building their new Tower of Babel in the form of the New World Order. People of faith throughout the world need a powerful leader who will not be intimidated in a fight against the pharasies and money changers of this new world order. Now only The Lord truly knows what is in Putin's heart but this is certainly not the first time that God has chosen flawed messengers and leaders to spread His Word and fight the forces of Satin - where to begin: Abraham a liar ("Sarah's my sister"), Jacob a thief and a liar, Moses a murderer among other things causing God to deny his entrance into Israel, David an adulterer and murderer, Solomon a pride filled power monger, Peter a pride filled coward denier or Our Lord - as we're the other 10 original faithful deciples (judas obviously excluded thus 11), Paul a murderer prior to his conversion, and list goes on - only One was righteous and perfect and that is our Lord in the flesh. So why not Putin as he appears to fit the bill - a flawed and sinful man but one ready and able to carry the Word of The Lord - why does God choose such obviously outwardly flawed leaders to fight the forces of satin because it then becomes more apparent that it is NOT the human leader but God through such flawed sinners which then makes it apparent to those willing to see that it is God leading the fight through his faithful against the forces of darkness - Remember for Christ is the way, the truth and the light - what other global leader is standing courageously against the evil pagans of the west - so may God bless Putin in this fight and at the same time help him to repent for his many sins (including that of Christian persecutor (Saul before he was St. Paul) murderer as a KGB agent, pride-filled, etc.) but through faith in Christ alone who died for our sins he is redeemed.

    3. CommentedDan Adams

      'EU is not just a common market – a mere economic community – but a global player, a cohesive political unit with shared values and common security interests.'

      Ohhhh come on.....

    4. CommentedJonathan Lam

      Wakening of a strategist

      One percent rules to explore, Ninety nine follows to suffer;
      Both jammed at its cost of living in the silence of deflation.
      When currencies rose above what he earned; many squealed.
      Money talks, people fellows----plutocracy won.
      As monetarists won by its margins of growth and profits; madness roamed.
      Only a few mesmerized in the writ of democracy and more dissent.
      Uprising at causation, multitude riots over a change---- oligarchy blundered.
      Sovereignty fell to its ground----Balkanize.
      What a strategist was drowned under the hedge of dollars.
      Annexation or abolition, totalitarian toke its stand.
      Inevitably Black Sea fleet made Crimea it home, Democracy writhed EU.
      Change of throne in the battle of economics and sovereign----polarized.

      From Economic cost of Crimea seizure mounts for Russia
      • A World Bank report on the Russian economy, compiled before the most recent evidence of the scale of capital flight, made clear Moscow was already set to pay a significant price in lost growth due to the most serious East-West confrontation since the end of the Cold War.
      • Gross domestic product (GDP) could contract by as much as 1.8 percent in 2014 if the crisis persists, it said. That high-risk forecast assumes that the international community would still refrain from trade sanctions.
      • "An intensification of political tension could lead to heightened uncertainties around economic sanctions and would further depress confidence and investment activities," the World Bank said.
      • "We assume that political risks will be prominent in the short-term."
      • Under a low-risk scenario, assuming only a short-lived impact from the crisis, GDP could grow by 1.1 percent, just half the bank's 2.2-percent growth forecast published in December.
      • At 1050 GMT the rouble-denominated MICEX index was up 2 percent and the dollar-denominated RTS was up 2.6 percent.
      • Hail to Mr. Putin, he saved his rouble. Can he hold? Perhaps, many may learn as well in his faith of one’s value if mergers fail.
      Mr. Putin, how do see the inequality and revival of growth by its means on sustainability and stability?
      And Mr. Obama where will you value your dollar after QE broke its line on ROE?
      Monetarist and totalitarian are competing on the application on productivity at the expense of it populace or benediction to its sovereign is soon to be known; and I hope World Bank could stop disparage competition and keep it data on the digits of stability and sustainability. East-West confrontation may not a bad thing if monetarist cannot balance its books.
      May the Buddha bless you?

    5. CommentedJason Gower

      So much analysis of this issue when it really just comes down to one thing: Energy. Would the EU (with Germany at the fore) have reacted so softly if they weren't so dependent on Russian energy imports? Probably a simple answer. If the US ramps up energy exports on the back of the shale boom then the EU will indeed slowly move away from Russia and Putin will have to turn east for a life raft or risk major turmoil at home. Of course Europe will also be competing with the far east for any additional US exports and it remains to be seen how friendly legislation ends up being in the US as industry of course, sees this as a major competitive advantage. Give this global revolution in energy markets a few more years and Putin could be begging the EU to take his exports as his one trick pony economy stalls and the pressure builds at home.

    6. CommentedRachel Green

      Hasn't this been part of the problem from the beginning? The refusal to form the political entity necessitated by the economic entity?

    7. CommentedRavi Srinivas

      Now that the notion of EU has failed in reality with more nations contemplating exits than entering EU, war-mongering with Russia is a last ditch attempt to keep the ship afloat!

    8. CommentedRavi Srinivas

      Instill fear in them and further your masters' goals - Spinelli Group - so that European nations give up their sovereignty and dignity (like Greece and Spain) for the sale of globalist agenda.

    9. CommentedRavi Srinivas

      Serves well for the Nabucco pipeline, which paying you handsomely for this and other propaganda.

    10. CommentedRavi Srinivas

      Yeah - all of Europe will start speaking Arabic very soon, and will wear hi-jabs and practice one religion. Ofcourse, the new currency will be Dinar & Dirham.

    11. CommentedRavi Srinivas

      Why don;t you just say this straight - "NATO will pipe GCC oil and gas to Europe, choking the Russian economy" However, we will occupy Syria and Iran as a pre-cursor, to ensure we rule the access points.

    12. CommentedRavi Srinivas

      Yeah - Europe will now start burning fire wood to stay warm instead of buying gas from Russia!

    13. CommentedRavi Srinivas

      This para must read "the NATO's rapid moral decline and enormous debt burden and economic deficits imply that NATO has only one option - plunder the planet"!

    14. CommentedRavi Srinivas

      US and NATO is dragging the EU into a direct conflict with Russia, because it serves perfectly well for the US' foreign policy and global dominance.

    15. CommentedRavi Srinivas

      For the NATO, Ukraine is just beginning after Eastern Europe. Next will be other peripheries of Russia, and eventually the Kremlin!

    16. CommentedPaul Daley

      I probably shouldn't put it this way, but characterizing the EU's enlargement policy as a vital component of the EU's security and outward projection of power sounds an awful lot like earlier demands for "Lebensraum." But perhaps only Russians would hear those echoes.

      Actually, the choice facing Europe is whether to persist in its enlargement policy in the face of opposition from Russia, or try to work out a modus vivendi under which the EU and Russia could cooperate in converting the Ukraine into a bridge between the two. In the second case, a well-financed EU stabilization program for the Ukraine that promised large, positive spillover effects for Russia might make a lot of sense.

    17. Commentedhari naidu

      "In the long term, Crimea is more than a name attributed to a region; it is all about Vladimir Putin's diplomatic policy, Russia's international profile, and its internal image.
      The Crimean peninsula has always been a political hot potato, and a regular centre of historical disputes. Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech in the Kremlin on March 18 added a new chapter to Crimea's history. Putin's speech was not so much a statement of his position, as a political declaration on how Russia will revive under his rule.
      In addition to its general strategic importance, the Crimean peninsula is the military port for the Black Sea Fleet, and therefore the key pivot by which Russia controls the Black Sea and access to the Mediterranean Sea. Crimea is a touchstone of the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, which itself forms a significant part of Russian history. During the period when Russia had a warm relationship with Ukraine, Russia’s garrison in Crimea was considered as a link between the two countries. But in this dispute Russia cannot respect the wishes and interests of both Ukraine and Crimea. Therefore, in the face of huge pressure from the West, Putin has made his choice of sides. The result of the Crimean referendum has placed the U.S and Europe in a difficult position.
      It is clear that Russia's revival will not proceed without difficulties and challenges. Putin's swift response to the Ukrainian political handover shows how close the Ukrainian issue comes to the core of Russia’s vital interests. Crimea's new union with Russia can be considered as an important declaration that Russia will act to defend what it perceives to be its interests and its security.
      It seems that in Putin's eyes, Russia's revival must be ready to take on any challenge to its security interests from its neighbors, and especially from Europe. In cases such as Georgia and Ukraine, Russia's 21st century renaissance has already faced challenges from countries of the former Soviet Union. The West recognizes Putin as a powerful politician, but neither the U.S. nor the Western European countries can know exactly what strategies and measures he has in mind. Crimea's new union with Russia marks the beginning of a new game between Russia, the U.S. and Europe.
      In the short term, no party wants to take any action that might trigger armed conflict; in the long term Crimea may prove to be much more than a territorial annexation by Russia - it is also a manifestation of Putin's diplomatic strategy and a symbol of the country's political dignity and successful image".
      The article is edited and translated from 《克里米亚入俄:一份俄罗斯复兴宣言?》, source: The Beijing News, author: Shang Han

    18. Portrait of Christopher T. Mahoney

      CommentedChristopher T. Mahoney

      Ronald Reagan proposed a solution to Europe's Russia problem: ballistic missile defense. Mr Fischer and his ilk derided this as "provocative" and "war-mongering".

    19. CommentedEdward Ponderer

      I would express a still greater concern here. Firstly, the Russians have time. Crimean energy reserves are being bought by EU with Russian control. Only a vague threat by the EU has been expressed if Russia should attack the Eastern Ukraine. The Russians have already garnered enough military might at that border--there is some maintenance costs, but no rush to attack. They got their beach head and could wait. Wait for what?

      A couple of natural allies--nuclear-to-be Iran (whose economy now is starting to sing again), and nuclear-but-getting-better-at-it, North Korea. The three great idealists--Putin whose diplomacy brokered the US on Syria, got Olympics, and got Crimea, to save Eurasia from "fascism;" Rouhani whose diplomacy is getting Iran back economical and atomically, to save Arabia and its territory & oil from "Zionism;" and Kim Jong-un, strong in the tradition of his Dad who suckered the Clinton Administration, to save the South and beyond from "Western imperialism." And what would China, or India or whomever else do or not do if they saw this such an Axis truly materializing? -- No one really knows, do they? Probably depends on exactly how the game would play out.

      Einstein warned about this already in the late 1940s. He saw the power unleashed by the bomb, he saw the draw of it towards every power and poser wannabe, and he saw what would happen if great egos reached a crescendo.

      Let Europe and the Americas appealed the reality with China, Japan, and India--and appeal to in the Middle East (well the Egyptians, the Israelis, Jordan, and the Saudis and the Emirates won't take much convincing). From here push to a full federation that would not pull power rank, but willingly dissolve into an accelerated globalization of unified equals, to include everyone--including with open arms the Russians, Iranians, and North Koreans--but with knowledge that (true) global economic muscle--in round table decision--will happen if they don't join.

      Let this crisis get scooped up into the jaws of a true lasting peace--a true last civilization.

      Why shouldn't Humanity have enough common sense to have a future?

    20. CommentedZsolt Hermann

      I agree with the article.
      I would add that first of all Europe is not in conflict with Russia, but it is in a conflict with itself.
      If Europe worked as Mr. Fischer indicates towards the end of the article, as a truly united, mutually cooperating, reciprocally complementing union, this conflict might have never happened.
      Such an ideal mutually responsible and mutually supporting community would draw admirers not enemies, others would feel an attraction towards it and would want to join, or in the case of the UK would never consider leaving.
      It is true Russia is opening up a very dangerous Pandora's Box, as they are exploiting the power vacuum created by having no "global leader" or "global policeman" any longer in our new interconnected and interdependent system.
      But the only way of filling the vacuum, and create a new, truly sustainable peace is through mutual responsibility and mutual guarantee.
      And here Europe is the only area where at least the preliminary infrastructure exist for such a system to be born and evolve, but for that Europe has to urgently press on with full integration.
      As we saw from the French local elections yesterday, from the Spanish street protests, and from many other emerging signs, there is not much time left, the extremist forces are marching forward to exploit the vacuum and despair as a result of the crisis and idleness.