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By Peter Sain ley Berry. When I was at university, there used to be a game, still popular around the world today, called Diplomacy. The players each represented one of the major European nations as they existed about one hundred years ago: France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia and so forth; their mythical armies and fleets no aeroplanes then battled for territory and power on a large board representing the map of Europe and the seas around it.
The game was known as Diplomacy because, as it is difficult to attack and to defend oneself at the same time and as a single country did not necessarily have the force by itself to overcome an opponent, the object was to arrange strategic alliances and non-aggression pacts with other players while bluffing about your true intentions.
EUobserver’s coverage of the European election. Watch our founder Lisbeth Kirk explain the reasons in this 30 seconds video. It was, however, a time consuming game. Even in the real world, diplomacy is a task that requires a slow and steady hand. Besides, the game could only really be played effectively lfy discussions could be clandestine. Diplomacy by megaphone, though fashionable, is counterproductive.
What lej to strike me as significant, however, was the characteristics of the nation being played did not reflect, as they would in any other game, the characteristics of the player.
Rather it seemed that whoever played Russia, for example, or Britain, would always end up playing that country in the same way. What is true in a game, I suspect, holds no less true in real leyy.
Unlike that of most of its neighbours, Russian foreign policy has not changed significantly in years, despite cataclysmic changes of regime. It would be naive of us therefore if we were to pretend that Russian foreign policy is le to change now, rooted as it is in the country’s geography and history.
I am sure that President Sarkozy of France, as president of the European Council, will bear this in mind as he steps on to the Moscow tarmac on Monday accompanied by Mr Barroso and Mr Solana, to discuss with Mr Putin and President Medvedev how best we move on from the 26869 imbroglio. For, in a sense, Europe has been caught facing two ways.
Ostensibly it has broken off the current round of partnership talks with Russia, designed to set a new framework for co-operation, until the Russians withdraw their troops, now occupying leu of Georgia, to the positions they held on 7 August.
Yet it is hard to see Monday’s Kremlin talks other than as a re-invigorated lwy to find a secure basis for just such a partnership.
If agreement can be reached on Georgia on the basis of some mutual understanding how much easier will be be to extend the same understanding to other issues? One does wonder, however, how much is likely to be achieved in a single short day. Given the importance and intractability of the issues, more time is surely needed for something worthwhile.
But whatever the length, it is surely important that we on the European side understand Russia’s legitimate fears and aspirations which, of course, extend far beyond the Caucasus.
These have been well rehearsed in the press – not least in an excellent analysis by Jan Oberg in these pages last week.
Of course, 266689 understand does not necessarily mean to agree, still less to cave in. But by understanding the Russian position – including why so many actions taken, semi-innocently, by the West are seen as provocative and leh by Moscow – we shall be better able to reach a positive conclusion rather than a conversation that remains a dialogue of the deaf, which is what occurs when politicians posture and issue empty threats.
We in Europe need also to understand and with a degree of humility how our own actions, over Kosovo in particular, are seen by Russia. It is no use saying, as French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner does, that Kosovo is ‘unique.
As a reason for transgressing international law, uniqueness is worthless. We Europeans like to pat ourselves on the back and tell the world how we have replaced ‘war’ with ‘law. That the United States has an even stronger stake in this hypocritical position should not cloud our judgement. We accepted that international law should be broken when first we bombed Kosovo and Serbia and then again when a majority of member states recognised Kosovo’s illegal independence.
A number of European states also joined the equally illegal and ill-fated crusade into Iraq.
Better Russia as an ally than a foe
With such stains on our collective conscience, it ill behoves us to lecture Russia about adhering to international law; we are both tarred with the same delinquent brush. Yet once we accept this – admit that we have no moral superiority here – we can sit down on an equal basis with Russia and talk about how it would be in the interests of both parties to see a future in which we both, really and truly, abide by international law.
Heaven knows we need a stable and effective partnership with Russia – and not just to run our own inter-bloc relations – but for the wider world as well.
Europe needs Russian help in the Security Council on issues such as Iran, militant Islam, the Middle East, climate change, nuclear proliferation and so forth. This does not mean abandoning the Caucasus, still less backing down from fierce criticism of Russia’s record on human rights and democracy. But it does mean ceasing to treat Russia as though she were simply a blank space on the map. The issues at stake are complex. They include trade, security, energy, democracy all the way from the Arctic to the Black Sea.
They will take time to resolve. We must be prepared for give and take. Russia is not the old Soviet Union bent on ideological domination by force. We can deal rationally with modern Russia. We both need a rules-based world. And we both need to help each other stick by those rules.
Russia is better an ally than a foe. Transparency remains an essential instrument to remedy the present crisis of trust in the institutions. Accepting its fading away will be extremely damaging. With US forces leaving, there is a realistic scenario that Turkey would seize the opportunity to invade Rojava, killing the aspirations of the Kurds for autonomy in a federal Syria in the future, similar to the situation in Iraq.
There is room for cautious optimism in Slovakia, but the chilling effects of Jan Kuciak’s murder may be felt for some time and continued international scrutiny is important. On Thursday December 6the constitutional affairs committee of the European Parliament will finally have a crucial vote on changes to rules of procedure that govern MEPs. It’s success – or failure – will largely depend on the EPP.
Opinion Better Russia as an ally than a foe Russia has not been the only power to have flouted international law. The West too ignores the rules when it serves us. Student, retired or simply can’t afford full price?
Better Russia as an ally than a foe
Don’t miss out on EUobserver’s coverage of the European election. Diplomacy by megaphone, though fashionable, is counterproductive What used to strike me as significant, however, was the characteristics of the nation being played did not reflect, as they would in any other game, the characteristics of the player. Need for EU action Today, Are judges destroying transparency in EU institutions?
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