teisipäev, aprill 03, 2007

The New Western Theater (LMMC Part II)

Attending the Lennart Meri Memorial Conference, I was struck by how three countries seem to be defining -- for better and for worse -- the West's future in the post-communist space.

Those three countries are Belarus, Georgia, and Ukraine. Each one presents a unique challenge.

For Belarus, the challenge is this: How can Western countries back pro-democratic forces without engaging in the unsavory under the table diplomacy favored by the West's opponents? In short -- how do you win a basketball game playing by the rules against a street team that always wants to play dirty? This question in itself drives us to question our faith in our values -- and if there's one thing the Western press likes, it's talking about itself.

For Georgia, the challenge is this: How can the West positively reward and encourage reform at a time when its institutions already seemed saddled by obstacles. Between EU enlargement that grew membership from 15 members to 27 in the course of three years, uncertainty over the future of the EU constitution, and NATO operations in Afghanistan that are criticized by the alleged lackluster support from some members, how can the West hold out the carrot of NATO and the EU to Georgia while it has its own doubts about the development of those organizations? In essence, can you really help your friends study for final exams when you don't know the material that well yourself?

Finally, there is Ukraine. Ukraine gave the world the "Orange Revolution" and the easy-to-empathize-with face of President Viktor Yushchenko. Yet Yushchenko this week signed an order to dissolve the Ukrainian parliament headed by his 2004 presidential rival Viktor Yanukovych. While nobody in the West likes the Kremlin-friendly Yanukovych, they don't entirely like the idea of a president dissolving parliament one year after elections for what are, as it seems, political reasons. Here the challenge is this: Are we more interested in the means or the ends? Is a EU, NATO friendly Ukraine worth more than a principled, democratic Ukraine, warts and all? And who do you root for, if nobody has any principles?

I'm not sure anyone really has the answers to these questions. But I do think that these are three central debates that are burning in foreign policy circles right now.

5 kommentaari:

Flasher T ütles ...

In Georgia's case, it's not such a massive problem I think, once you start thinking of it as a matter of bread & circus rather than a matter of ideology. Georgia is a relatively small country with a relatively unified population. It is now presented with roughly the same choice as Estonia had in the late 1930s. It is within the spheres of influence of both Russia and Europe, and it needs to choose one or the other. So it's chosen the one that will give it the best chance of economic prosperity.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

With the Orange Revolution I discovered the blogosphre. From Kiev you could read blogposts on an hourly basis or even more. You could get in contact with people who went to Maidan stayed there over night and simply wanted their votes counted. This is democracy. What else should a Western diplomat or politician or adviser do than suppporting it. Ähm, and even with money. Through the eyes of common western journalists the reading very often was instead: Yes nice. BUT there is Russia, minority, splitting of country, change of balance of power, Putin might get angry etc..

Anonüümne ütles ...

If Georgia is admitted to the EU before Turkey, Georgia would be a detached island. This suggests a slogan: "Georgia -- the EU's Kaliningrad".

This would also provide yet another pretext, albeit a slightly frivolous one, to keep Turkey out of the EU (which is of course everyone's goal): it would destabilize the exclave balance.

space_maze ütles ...

Also, if Georgia joined the EU, the Euro bills would have to have yet another alphabet added to them, after the Cyrillic script, which is already overdue with Bulgaria having joined the EU.

(hey, if people object to DC statehood in the US because 51 stars would look odd on the flag .. ;) )

stockholm slender ütles ...

I would say that Ukraine is the key. Here I would be inclined to quite olfashioned geopolitical thinking in that the West really must keep Ukraine out of the politically backward Russian sphere. Of course, this has the added benefit of being in the absolute selfinterest of Ukranians themselves - as opposed to Russian aims... Georgia and Belarus are of course important as signals of how the situation developes but Ukrainian independence is the absolute cornerstone for a healthy relationship with Russia. And that is in the best interests of all three parties, the West, Ukraine - and Russia.