Friday, August 8, 2008

Another crisis for the EU's common foreign policy

While the media is oohing and aahing about the spectacle China has put together for the opening of the Olympic Games, a grimmer tale is unfolding to the north-west. Georgia and Russia are on the brink of a war in South Ossetia, nominally part of Georgia but de facto independent of that country and heavily dependent on Russia.

I shall try to do a longish posting on it later this evening or tomorrow to go through the saga as it has been unfolding. Suffice it to say that while the CFSP's Chief Panjandrum, Javier Solana, was sending good-will messages to Beijing, Georgia has decided to respond to the constant attacks from South Ossetia, inspired, the Georgian government says, by the Russian military peacekeepers by shelling the capital of the break-away region.

Earlier today it was announced that the Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian Prime Minister, has ordered his troops to stop fighting and suggested negotiations with Russia as guarantor of South Ossetia's autonomy, as long as the region stays within Georgia.

This does not seem to have worked and Russia has sent in heavy armoured vehicles and tanks to strengthen their troops peacekeepers.

The West in general, and the EU in particular, are, as usual, wringing their hands. NATO, which came up with a complicated solution at its summit to the problem of Georgia is worried:
"We are very closely following the situation, and the NATO Secretary General (Jaap de Hoop Scheffer) calls on all sides for an immediate end of the armed clashes and calls for direct talks between the parties," a NATO statement said.
The EU, the still-hopeful new soft power, is also worried:
A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the EU was very concerned by how the situation was evolving. "We repeat our message to all parties to immediately stop the violence," he said.
All parties, eh? That would be what? Invaders and defenders, attackers and counter-attackers? Well, it is a complicated situation but it is hardly an unexpected one as Vladimir Socor of the Jamestown Foundation makes clear. But, of course, the EU has no idea what to do or say about Russia or the Caucasus.

We have already seen the problem. Germany is terrified of nay-saying Russia because it is so heavily dependent on that country for its energy supplies. Of course, the chances of Russia not supplying Germany with gas and oil are very slim but that is not how the German government and Chancellor see the issue.

The new member states, particularly the Balts, on the other hand are more than a little worried. If Russia is starting proxy wars in former Soviet republics, being unable to exercise its supposed renewed power any other way, who is going to be next. Lithuania, for one, is not waiting for that famous CFSP to kick into action but has sent her own foreign minister on a fact-finding mission.

The story is developing.

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