EU-Russia Talks

The EU Observer reports that Lithuania is the last holdout against restarting EU-Russia strategic partnership talks. France has proposed restarting the talks while simultaneously condemning Russia’s violations of the Georgia ceasefire agreement:

The proposal was good enough for Russia-critical states Sweden, the UK,the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia, which agreed that major EUsecurity and financial interests outweigh the niceties of the Georgiaconflict. . . .

“If you look at this issue, legally there is no reason to relaunch thetalks. But political reality dictates that we need to communicate withRussia,” an EU diplomat said.

For some more on that political reality, the article cites a report by EU top diplomat, Javier Solana:

. . . [T]he EU needs Russian support on all major foreign policy problemsincluding Iran, the Middle East, European frozen conflicts,counter-terrorism and non-proliferation of chemical and nuclear weapons.”In these areas, where nothing can be achieved without – let aloneagainst – Russia, [current] co-operation can be described as intensiveand broadly constructive,” the document, drafted on 5 November, states.

To which Lithuania responded:

“France and Germany are still dreaming of the Russia of the 1990s.Meanwhile, Russian tanks are parked in an EU neighbourhood country,” aLithuanian official said. “Something very serious is happening in theeast. The Caucasus is becoming like the Balkans, where the EU did notwake up until it was too late.”

That’s basically it in a nutshell. At a certain point, common decency requires opponents of an antagonistic posture towards Russia (of which I count myself) to acknowledge that overlooking the annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia amounts to tossing chub to a shark. And the wisdom of that approach depends largely on whether you’re the one tossing or being tossed. Lithuania’s position is understandable given that, but for a decade’s headstart, it could easily have found itself in the position Georgia now does.

Still, the EU’s Eastern Partnership offer to the states bordering Russia is a potential middle ground measure that could satisfy the security concerns Lithuania is expressing out of solidarity. It would seem to be strengthened by a continued effort to engage Russia.

And while the appeasement argument is sure to be trotted out, there’s a significant difference between Russia’s global posture — as illustrated by its involvement on the dossiers mentioned in the Solana report — and the historical examples usually cited to prove the fatal errors of that approach. And while it’s very possible that Russia has its sights set on a renewed sphere of influence, it certainly doesn’t extend to the Atlantic.

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