Thursday, August 28, 2008

Where is the new political geometry?

Whatever happened to the new post-Cold War political geometry? The one that was going to have the European Union as its leader and exemplar? Gone, all gone. Well, not permanently, we expect, since the EU common foreign policy rises from dead more frequently than Dracula in an average Hammer Horror Film, but for the moment we are back to familiar territory.

NATO ships, led by the US Navy, are exercising in the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, watched and growled at by Russia, who has missed the chance so far of upgrading its naval strength, if not to compete, at least to start catching up with NATO. Sinking one Georgian boat, the great boast of the war in Georgia is not the same as going against the naval power of the West.

There is talk of a new Cold War (though some of us have been saying for some time that it is there in existence) and what Britain should do. The Henry Jackson Society, for instance, has come up with various ideas with a press release today that has what one can only describe as a mish-mash of suggestions.

The Henry Jackson Society recommends the following:

· An urgent defence review following Russia’s military threats and aggression

· Increasing the national defence budget

· A permanent Defence Secretary to end the farce of having a part-time job share

· Boosting our military forces in Germany

· Starting a mass recruitment exercise for the armed services

· Calling for other European countries to take on greater military responsibility and commitments

· Strengthening NATO by encouraging its members to take European defence more seriously by having more joint military exercises and building stronger armed forces within the EU.

· NATO to accept the Ukraine’s immediate membership into the organisation

Best not to enquire too closely what purpose European defence and armed forces within the EU might mean. I suspect the well-meaning HJS has not yet managed to work out that the EU is part of the problem not the solution.

The G7, which became the G8 in the general post-Cold War euphoria and desire to be nice to Russia is now issuing condemnations of that country.
"We, the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom, condemn the action," the group said, in what the UK Foreign Office described as an "unprecedented step".

"We deplore Russia's excessive use of military force in Georgia and its continued occupation of parts of Georgia.

"We call unanimously on the Russian government to implement in full the six-point peace plan brokered by President Sarkozy on behalf of the EU, in particular to withdraw its forces behind the pre-conflict lines."
Well, they can call for what they like. The time to issue warnings was some months ago. Still, there is something spectacular in the way Russia has managed to unite almost everyone against her without, it would appear, achieving a great deal.

But where, oh where is the European Union in all this? Where is Javier Solana, who is supposed to speak for the EU in matters of international importance? What will President Sarkozy, whose country is in the EU's presidential seat, do now that his efforts have been comprehensively trashed by President Medvedev? How long can Germany and France bleat about the need not to isolate Russia and to keep talking nicely to her? Where, in short, is the new soft power?

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