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The Russian Bear awakens. Perhaps it will convince Europe to unite.
by Christos Mouzeviris
2014-04-11 10:25:30
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The ongoing developments in Ukraine and Russia's aggression and annexation of Crimea, bring again on the spotlight the original ideas of the founding fathers of the European Union: peace, stability and counterbalancing the big powers.

Small individual states can not defend themselves against a global player, like Russia. The Euro-skeptics have long convinced us, after the developments in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, that federations do not work.

These countries are a living proof according to them, that trying to bring different ethnic groups together and uniting them under one government, not only does not bring peace and stability, but it is a time-bomb that could bring on-going conflict.

There is a point in this argument, but they forget one major factor: Russia. During these break-ups, the Russian Bear was recovering from the collapse of the Soviet Union. They did not pose a direct threat to any of Europe's smaller states, but now things have changed.

Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, in an effort to stop the expansion of NATO and EU ever East-wards. A few years ago they entered into a conflict with Georgia, just to show the Bear's teeth. Now, after many decades, they have committed something that was absent from our continent for a long time: ending another country's territorial integrity.

Even worse, many people fear that they won't stop in Crimea, or even Ukraine itself. Other countries with relatively large ethnic Russian minority, like Moldova and the Baltic states, are very wary of the recent developments. Besides, not only they have a Russian minority, but in the case of the Baltic states they share common borders with Russia.

NATO forces are making their presence felt in the region, trying to remind Russia that the alliance will protect its members, no matter how small. Naturally this is very unnerving for all in the continent. If these developments escalate, we could enter a new era of a cold war in Europe and the world.

The EU is trying to bring certain countries quickly closer in its sphere of influence, by offering economic support in the form of trade benefits for Ukraine and a visa-free regime for Moldova. But if Russia decides to keep pushing West-wards, what will Europe do to stop them?

The answer of course is the relevance of NATO. The importance of the alliance is going to be a key player in the conflict, though personally I support the creation of a European common defense mechanism and organization.

If Europe keeps relying on America for its protection, it can never form independent foreign policy. Let's be honest about it, their protection does not come for free. The American influence is evident throughout the continent and that is the price we got to pay for relying on their military might and supremacy.

Not that I support the ending of Europe's alliance with America. But if Europe wants to become a global player, it must form its own military and defense.

Of course to achieve that, it needs to increase its spending on its arms industry and proceed with militarization, something that under the economic crisis most European leaders refuse to do. But if we think that over 40% of EU's budget goes to one industry alone, agriculture via the Common Agricultural Policy, then perhaps there are some funds that could be found.

By reducing what we spend on CAP, we can invest and diverge more funds in our protection and also becoming more energy sufficient, ending Russia's monopoly on Europe's energy needs and supply. If we invest in green and renewable energy industries, we could limit our dependence on Russian gas and oil and of course Russia itself.

The solution that Europe should take to deal with the re-awakening of the "Russian Bear" and its expansionist agenda, is of course an ever closer military, political and economic union. In this case, Russia might act as the necessary bogey-man that Europe needs, in order to stop going in circles over its further integration plans.

It is clear why there are links between the Russians, Europe's far Right political parties and their rise to prominence. Many of Europe's extreme Right leaders are supportive of Russia and vice versa. Obviously for Russia, the empowerment of these parties means the weakening of European unity and integration, that could mean the disabling of a united European response to Russia's plans for reclamation of its old territories.

Leaving of course America as the only competent threat and challenger of the Russian aggression and expansion. Just like it was before the fall of the Berlin wall. Both the American and the European leadership must acknowledge that uniting and empowering Europe as a global and military power, benefits both.

The Americans can not keep playing the role of the stabilizer in the world alone. They need Europe to become an equal partner, but with an increased might and influence in the world. And Europeans need to grow up and stop relying on America for their protection. Even if hat means digging the hands deep in their pockets and shaking up their relationship with America's arms industry, or America itself.


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Nikos Laios2014-04-12 05:33:15
Whilst I agree that the annexation of any part of Ukraine is abhorrent,the situation in the Crimea is unique historically and could have been handled differently; and the awakening of the 'bear' is the reverberations of the supposed end of the Cold War in the 80's still playing out.America doesn't have to live next to Russia, Europe does; therefore negotiation and dialogue is the only course, but not through the political union of Europe.On the contrary, I believe that the EU is a mistake; what should have been a loose trading confederation has changed into this monster to cater to German socio-economic needs vis-a-vis their reliance of exporting and lending to their fellow EU states; whereby in the current economic downturn, EU nations have been denied the economic levers to manage the demand and supply in their own economies via the ability to value/devalue their own currencies, and the management of their own interest rates ( as do other nations around the world with success).Whereby they can only use the only economic tool available to them, which is cost cutting; which has seen youth unemployment soar to 50% + in many areas and much social dislocation.The only solution is the dissolution of EU, the reversion to national currencies and interest rates; most economists agree,but unfortunately the Germano/Franco power axis at Brussells will not allow this to happen. But with the structural problems and socio-economic pressures building up in France, and coming to a loggerhead in the coming few years, it will be intersesting to see if EU states ever give a vote to every citizen via a referendum on the future of the EU. When Papandreou of Greece tried to do this, he was quickly shunted aside by the French and German leadership.Discussions and dialogue with Russia?...yes indeed....as united Europe?....no ....this experiment of the EU needs to disolve, and do so fast......ask the common man in the street what they think of the EU, and you'll see that they might not disagree.

Emanuel Paparella2014-04-12 09:42:04
The above analysis is problematic in some of its assumptions. In the first place, despite its possessions of nuclear weapons, it is not correct to consider Russia a global player as the Soviet Union was when it spent most of its budget on arms, which in term brought down the whole system. That is what Putin would like to pretend to be but to be and remain a global power one needs to also be an economic power too with global reach. I think that President Obama had it on track when he assessed Russia as a regional power.

In the second place while it is true that the intentions of the EU founding father leaned toward the creation of a polity which emphasized peace and stability, it is doubtful that they wished to create another super-power mega-nation to counterbalance the big powers. Rather what they wished to bring into existence was an alternative to the putrid Machiavellian political paradigms based on raw power which landed Europe in two World Wars, and thus give an example to the world on how to live in and keep the peace.

To conceive of its mission the counterbalancing of the the big power would in effect mean that the EU has joined them in their game. The game’s name is “might is right.” Putin loves the game. The consequence of that attitude is a natural envy of the other military powers which explains much of the knew jerk reaction called “anti-Americansim” while at the same time allowing America to finance any military venture and the nuclear protective umbrella. On this side of the Atlantic this is often misguidedly perceived as ingratitude; in any case, the result is the loss of sight of the fact that both sides belong to Western civilization with its unique tradition and values. As I have tried to point out repeatedly in Ovi, that is the problem, the neglect of the genuine cultural roots and identity of Europe (Christianity is not even mentioned in the EU Constitution). If one does not know oneself and cannot explain what are the common values that keeps the EU together, one will sound ratjer hollow when one goes around parading certain ideals about peace and stability. Be that as it may, it is this a game that has allowed the ignoring of the environmental crisis, a situation that if not corrected will lend us all to doom, nuclear weapons and all.

Christos Mouzeviris.2014-04-13 15:25:06
Niko I will disagree with you. The EU is the greatest experiment that any region of the world has ever achieved, but we take it for granted. What kind of people are you talking to, I am not sure, but where I live, though they might be angry and disappointed, they have absolutely no desire to leave the institution because they well know what life was before the EU, back in the 60s and 70s.

The EU may have lots of shortcomings, but it is not a mistake. It is actually our national governments that create the mess, so "more Europe" is actually the solution, not less..Less Europe or no EU, will lead to more intergovernmentalism, that is the exact problem that causes the problems within EU.

Mr Paparella, you know that I do not agree with you in this, and will never will. You may call it "anti-Americanism" but I call it European patriotism. Europe can never fulfill its own destiny, if it keeps being under Uncle Sam's influence and control. It is time to leave adolescence and fly the nest for us Europeans. America and Europe will remain close partners, but equal ones, not Europe being America's underdog.

America's arms industry interests is to waste so much money in weapon supremacy, and in order to keep selling and justifying their illogical amounts spent on weapon manufacturing, instead of solving America's deep social divisions, is to be the head of NATO and sell to poor stupid small nations like Greece, weapons that they do not need, to protect themselves from a NATO ally of theirs: Turkey!!

Scrap this alliance if it can't offer its members protection from one another, that is what I think. Create a European defense system and then nobody, either it is Turkey, Russia or Iran (though seriously I do not see any threat from the last ones) will ever dare to attack Europe, a region of more than 500 million people, and the richest region of the world.

The founding fathers may wanted to create this "Machiavelian" peace and loving region as you have put it, but we are long past this dream, it is time to move forward and develop naturally to a global player, not allow America or Russia playing chess games on our soil and with our fortunes. How long must we remain their chess pieces and underdogs?

Lawrence Nannery2014-04-14 18:12:45
I think Putin is only doing what anyone in his position would do.
And, more important, one should look at the real situation in the Ukraine. I find that the coverage of this developing situation has been completely false in the United States. President Obama has been completely off base in everything he has threatened to do.
Americans have not been appraised of the evil of what has transpired in the Ukraine, and mentally challenged idiots likd John McCain never heard of it, but the kleptocracy that was the Ukraine is still alive and well. Blaming Yanukovich is preposterous, since every nation state has a special residence for its head of state -- except the Ukraine. Also, it is well to understand, over teh Jewish Passover, that Ukraine has been, AND STILL REMAINS, the most anti-Semitic state in the 20th century. Not only did they help the Nazis in 1941 to kill all the Jews in that region, but still today, the leaders of this so-called state give speeches in the illegal Parliament denouncing "Jewish influence"!
Putin has been totally correct in everything he has done do far in this crisis, and I hope he takes over the Eastern portion of this robber-nation, this mentally retarded nation, which serves only the lowest interests a nation can perpetrate.
Forget about intervention. No other nation has an interest in losing their youth to a bunch of maniacs who have no notion of decency or of politics whatsoever.

Emanuel Paparella2014-04-16 15:05:12
Mr. Mouzeviris,I understand your disagreement and the reasons for it but I stand by what I said and my perplexity has not been addressed: how can fear of the Russian Bear bring the Europeans together. If they need that fear as a cement to stick together then logically the genuine reasons for staying together, as envisioned by the founding fathers of the EU, are dubious at best and I am afraid that what is being advocated is the Machaivellian power game of real politik which leads all of us to our doom. I suggest that the vision of the founding fathers had precious little to do with power games a la Putin or a la Machiavelli.

Christos Mouzeviris2014-04-18 23:03:20
Sadly that is the reality in Europe Mr Paparela. The vision has been abandoned and so we need a boogey man to unite us.

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