Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A single European voice will speak truth unto Russian power

Yeah right, if I may be pardoned such a vulgarism. Charles Crawford gets it right:
The key argument in favour of an 'EU Foreign Policy' we hear in the UK is that it acts as a multiplier for British positions.

What tends not to be mentioned is that it acts as a multiplier for other EU Member States' positions too, not least when they disagree with us.
There is also the problem that quite often British positions are not all that clear with Supergordon Brown waiting for the consensus before he can make up his mind.

This is where I part company with the highly esteemed Edward Lucas, author of "The New Cold War". His view is that the EU must work out a common foreign policy, that being the only way it can stop the Kremlin's machinations.

All very well but what if the common foreign policy becomes Germany's policy, which seems to be one of complete appeasement, despite the occasional eruptions by Chancellor Merkel? The only reason this has not happened is the East Europeans, with some support from the Scandinavians and an occasion hum-ha from Britain, challenging the Franco-German line on the subject.

This morning's International Herald Tribune has an article that once again confirms that point of view.
Nowhere was this marriage of interests better expressed recently than in a top-level gathering last month at a castle overlooking the River Elbe. Attendees oozed confidence that, despite the August war in Georgia and the gathering storm in world finance, Russia and Germany would only deepen their centuries-old bonds, perhaps even realizing the dream long held by some of binding Russia closer to the West.

Among the hundreds of guests, all sniffing deals, were German managers in from Moscow mingling with Russian officials, even as East German veterans of Soviet enterprises chatted up younger Russian entrepreneurs.

"The long-term goal is about integrating the Russian economy with Europe," said Peter Danylow, director of the East and Central European Association, an independent business body that promotes contacts between Germans and Eastern countries. "We are a long way from that. But Germany is not prepared to give up. There is too much at stake."

Last year, more than 3 percent of Germany's total exports went to Russia, with trade volume between the countries reaching €57 billion, or $74.6 billion at current exchange rates. German exports to Russia increased by 20 percent in 2007. During the first quarter of this year, they jumped a further 25 percent, according to Klaus Mangold, chairman of the Ost-Ausschuss, the influential group that promotes Germany's economic interests throughout Russia and the former Soviet bloc.
There is no particular reason why Germany should not look to its financial and economic interests, though recent experience indicates that doing business with Russia is a hazardous exercise because of the Kremlin's obsession with power. Furthermore, given President Prime Minister Putin's policies and those of his teddy bear (mishka), President Medvedev, putting quite so many eggs into that basket is likely to turn out to be a bad move.

From our point of view, though, the problem is that Germany, ever more closely tied to Russia and ever more dependent on that country economically, is dictating foreign policy to the rest of the European Union.

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