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A lot more EU mush to push

June 5, 2015

These past few days have seen (unusually) some very insightful and indeed right-thinking commentary upon the EU, Ukraine and Russia.  Like London buses, nothing for ages and then three come along at once.

Lilia Shetsnova rips the stuffing out of the “humiliation syndrome” offered up by Kremlin apologists and “understanders” of which there are more than a few within EU capitals, as a reason for appeasing and accommodating the Kremlin whim.  She is absolutely correct in the point she makes.

There is then a very solid read (with recommendations) from my chums at Chatham House relating to Russia, Ukraine and the EU.  It is all very sensible – yet there must be serious doubt that the European political class have the political will to adhere to the advice of its academia and diplomats.

Lastly there is this piece by Andrew Wilson lambasting the EU for acting like a mega-NGO rather than a political animal – a charge your author has made regularly on twitter as any twitter followers will know.

No better reads have there been this week than those linked above, and none recommend a policy of appeasement or concession to The Kremlin – quite rightly if international law is to remain unsullied by political compromise and major shifts in interpretation by “The West”.

What exactly is there to negotiate regarding something so fundamental as the rule of law anyway?

It is not just Ukraine or the “East” where the EU acts like an NGO/third party, rather than the political beast it is.

Naval warships in the Mediterranean to catch human traffickers ferrying desperate people from MENA to Europe?  The human traffickers exist because there is a demand for them.  They are a symptom, but not the cause behind those fleeing MENA to Europe.   Dealing with the symptoms will not cure the disease, and as long as that disease is not confronted, the symptoms will continue (and possibly mutate).

It is all rather pitiful, shortsighted and expedient.

Yes there is Greece, Libya, Ukraine/Russia, Syria, the Balkans, other internal distractions of 28 domestic issues, common prickly issues to be solved with the TTIP, or CSDP etc.  But (half-heartedly) tackling the symptoms rather than robustly confronting the causes simply displays the EU inability to deal with the causes, and barely deal with/do the absolute minimum regarding the symptoms.  If the EU can only act effectively in fair weather, then it is not the regional/global actor it purports to be.

Rolling over the sanctions against Russia later this month is not exactly “job done” (regardless of whether The Kremlin is really hurting or not), and a signal to move on to something else – and neither is clinging to “Minsk” in the absence of doing anything else much of a policy, when Minsk was ravaged at Debaltseve before the ink had dried (with no response) and a further 28 villages have been lost since February (again with no response).  Both are strong indicators of EU limitations internally, and thus upon the regional and global stage.

It is not only Ukraine that notes the limitations of the EU – the entire globe can see its inability to deal with a single cause effectively – let alone robustly.  All look-on as it flails about thrashing ineffectively at symptoms east and south, despite its potential to do far, far better.

jabba

As a large inactive docile lump, it is by nature glacial in its action, but being a large inactive docile lump, it is also able to absorb shocks relatively well.  Clearly however, a large inactive lump is adverse to pro-activity or swift movement – which comes as no surprise for an organism that works on lowest common denominator consensus.  Why move an entire arm, when it can lift a finger and then wait and see what happens?

The problem being disproportionality is not only going too far – it is also not going far enough!

In the meantime, the nimble and swift actors – USA, China, Russia, India etc – by virtue of not working glacially by consensus at the lowest common denominator, expose the limitations of the EU as a robust, proactive regional and/or global actor.  Indeed their nimbleness identifies for all to see, the EU as a large inactive docile lump.

This statement yesterday by the EU regarding renewed serious fighting in eastern Ukraine reads like a statement from a disinterested NGO going through the motions – particularly in light of the US statement above.

This statement by German FM Steinmeier over the event is nothing short of humiliating – “could be deemed as a serious violation of the truce.”  If the last fighting in eastern Ukraine wasn’t a serious violation of the truce, the Baltic nations must be wondering what would constitute “an act of aggression” under NATO Article 5 from a German perspective.

In neither EEAS nor Steinmeier statement is the “an or else” – for there is no “or else” that can be threatened.  If an “or else” is threatened, then going through with that threat is required when your bluff is called.

The EU choice then, knowing it has reached its limitations (short of Russian air interdiction or fully overt action at major urban/metropolitan area), has the choice of making empty threats that it knows will be called if they do, or simply saying nothing by wording its statements about as a robustly as a disinterested and powerless NGO.  That, dear Russian readers, is genuine humiliation for those that hold dear the rule of law – no self-serving “humiliation” manufacturing required.

As written over on the Facebook page a few days ago:

“Probe with a bayonet if you meet steel, stop.  If you meet mush, then push.” – Vladimir Lenin. 
A lot more EU mush to push it seems.”

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