Mark Mardell’s Euroblog about the EU’s response to Russia at the Avignon retreat, and the string of comments in response, represent a good window into how Europeans are struggling with the question of Russian intervention in Georgia and its consequences. Here is an excerpt:
In EU jargon this meeting is a “Gymnich”, named after the German castle where the first one took place. It’s an informal meeting, which means it can’t issue conclusions. But in reality it’s likely they will decide whether to go along with the plan of the German foreign minister to launch an investigation into the beginning of the war.
Mr Miliband was not against this “It is important to make sure false stories about the origions of the crisis do not become holy writ ..but equally that serious allegations are followed through.”
They will also look at the plan to send EU monitors to report on the ceasefire. This, of course, may be difficult without Russian approval but the vetran Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bilt was dismissive: “The Russian position is ‘What is ours is ours, what we have taken is ours, the rest we can negotiate about’. That’s classic, it’s been so for a couple of hundred years. We will deploy our mission to Georgia without asking for permission”.
An investigation is a good idea, and while they are at it, there should be a broader investigation of the entire relationship between Russia, the EU, NATO and the United States. We are facing a watershed that will either lead to a more balanced world, or a slippage into a new Cold War. There is a real cleavage here between those analysts who focus, justifiably in my opinion, on Putin’s anti-democratic irredentism, and those who focus, justifiably in my opinion, on America’s unwise militarization of foreign policy vis a vis Russia since the end of the Cold War. Both are true and will be borne out by the facts. And both need to be considered by the Europeans as they assess responses to this latest crisis. We also should have as our aim to appeal to the Gorbachev’s of Russia’s leadership as opposed to the ultra-nationalists. They have legitimate concerns about American belligerence, and if responses are tailored to their concerns, it will make it harder for Putin and Medvedev to continue the dangerous path they are on. So far American foreign policy has failed to do that.