esmaspäev, oktoober 23, 2006

Western Europe Wakes Up to Putin

It looks like tiny Estonia won't be the only country feeling the Kremlin's heat from here on out. Unable to divide and conquer [ie: cite the oppression of Russian speakers in Estonia and Latvia] the Russian answer to a semi-united front from the European Union appears to be to spread the criticism, to the farthest reaches of the continent. As the Guardian reports:

Mr Putin's sarcastic anti-Spanish outburst at a dinner on Friday with EU leaders in Lahti, Finland, was accompanied by criticisms of Italy's mafia problems.

His comments, first reported in the Guardian, made the front page of Spain's El País newspaper yesterday.

Mr Putin pointed to the southern resort town of Marbella, where the mayoress and former mayor have been jailed and thousands of illegal homes face demolition, as well as other Spanish corruption cases.

El País said the Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, had been "perplexed" by the comments. Italy's Romano Prodi had been left "without words" when Mr Putin pointed out that his country had invented the mafia concept, the newspaper said.


In a way, Russia's new "voice" towards Western European criticism is a positive for EU-Russian relations. Despite the support of Mediterranean EU chiefs like Jose Barroso, Javier Solana, and Romano Prodi, it has been my impression that EU-wide interest in the eastern flank of the country had more to do with fears of Polish plumbers than the EU-Russian relationship. Now EU citizens from as far away as Napoli and Marbella can indulge themselves in their very own "Putin experience."

From what I gather, with Schroeder gone, Putin's last ally in the EU is septegenarian Jacques Chirac. He was the one who advocated for a 'light touch' with regards to the Georgian-Russian issue. So perhaps we should all start thinking about the French presidential elections next year. The Chirac successor seems like a key piece of the puzzle in determining how the big players in Europe will react to Putinism, as does whomever succeeds Tony in the UK. The next two years should make for splendiferous blog postings.

9 kommentaari:

ants ütles ...

If You ask – why? Well, I believe there are two reasons:
1. If I’m betraying my friends, he perhaps lets me survive. (In fact – he does not!)
2. Cheeky blackmail, like did Hitler. Chamberlain & Daladier naivly payed, believing, Hitler stops and does not put more demands (What a simple-mindedness!)
I think, the small nations have more ‘healthy sense’, to compare of some great ones (british, french, germans…), so I’ll post today to You a copy of two pages from Sept.. 1938 issue, of one-time Estonian journal “Nädal Pildis” about the Munic events with title. “Võitjad ja kaotajad Čehhoslovakkia TRAGÖÖDIAS” (Winners and losers of Chechoslovac tragedy) /My block letters/ Have enclosed yet a comment page of the meeting in Lahti + 50 anniversary of Hungarian revolt 1956. from todays “Posimees.”

Giustino ütles ...

1. If I’m betraying my friends, he perhaps lets me survive. (In fact – he does not!)

Why should Europe fear Russia? There are 460 million EU citizens, but only 150 million Russian Federation citizens. What are they afraid of - it's nukes?

If it really came down to a total military solution all you would need to succeed in Russia is take out its two urban centers - St Petersburg and Moscow.

Instead of tiptoing around the fear of Russian unpredictability, maybe the EU leaders should act like the leaders of a union that has more than double the population of Russia. Russia should be kissing the EU's ass, not the other way around.

Giustino ütles ...

I think, the small nations have more ‘healthy sense’, to compare of some great ones (british, french, germans…)

I think World War II [and the Cold War] has had too much of an impact on current geopolitical thought than is necessary.

We can almost blame all of the US' post 9-11 military errors on interpreting current events through the prism of WWII.

In this context Al-Qaeda became the Nazis or the Soviets. Anyone who questioned this metaphor was an "appeaser." The American occupation planners paid scant attention to the experience of the British occupation of Iraq in the 1920s - yet which has been a better model of what to expect? The takeover of Japan in the 40s or the British mandate in Iraq?

So why should we continue to view Europe through this prism? All of the great European powers of the past - the Swedes, the Spaniards, the Italians, the Brits, the French, the Germans, the Poles, the Danes - are on pretty much the same page. That is, there is no great power rivalry between France and Germany, for example.

Instead of interpreting current events as some postmodern 'World War II redux,' I prefer to see a reversion to an older model. European devolution [epitomized by the emergence of Montenegro as a state] shows the European map looking more like it did 400 years ago than anything.

So I see it as more of a game of capital than land and troop installations. If you look at the Nordic "roadmaps" available - from the Nordic Council's directives to the EU's Northern Dimension initiative, you can see that the northern flank of the EU is clearly interested in "Northwest Russia."

They want to invest there - and Russia is holding the door closed. In other words, they want to spread the "Hansa ideal" eastwards and they are meeting resistance. This sort of boils down to what the EU-Russian dialogue is really about.

Tiia ütles ...

You'd think that *corruption* and the *mafia* would be two subjects that the Russian leader should leave alone... Glass houses come to mind. As much as I've seen in big melting pot situations, the Russians are always much more feared than the Italians. I think that they are feared because there's an element of desperation to their acts, whatever they are. Like they really have nothing to lose and can go all out in a fight.

notsu ütles ...

You asked:"Why should Europe fear Russia? There are 460 million EU citizens, but only 150 million Russian Federation citizens."
Well, one reason might be that EU leaders do not want their citizens to be killed, but Russian government has never cared about such unimportant matters when in war.

Giustino ütles ...

Well, one reason might be that EU leaders do not want their citizens to be killed, but Russian government has never cared about such unimportant matters when in war.

This is a fairly recent development. Napolean showed similar lack of remorse for the dead of his army when he occupied Moscow in 1812.

ants ütles ...

I don’t believe ‘taking up arms conflict’ between Russia and some EU state. This period is over. But Russia has significant economical levers for guarantee its supremacy in Europe. It means restricting free reflection, increasing corruption and flow the russian undisciplined workers into western mechanism, what reduces the competitionability EU states, even if against China. In other words – the life will go more hard!! So, like Joseph has sold his first being born rights to lentil-soup.
A trend of reversion to an older model in Europe, (increasing number of small stetes) is really occuring and it would be the best. If their voices of common sense do change more loudly, perhaps the great nations have to renounce their egoism for European unity – unjustified support for the french farmers and repayments to the British.
I hope meet You once in Tartu, when You with Epp and Marta come to Estonia, to speak more thoroughly of those problems. I’m sure they will be pleasant talks, as much I have learned know You.

Giustino ütles ...

I don’t believe ‘taking up arms conflict’ between Russia and some EU state. This period is over.

But I feel that the threat of instability and violence follows Putin around. He intimidates others. Maybe it's just his Judo mind tricks.

Omar Cruz ütles ...

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