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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Putin's Failed Policies Polarize Europe Against Russia

The International Herald Tribune reports:

As he prepares for a crucial meeting with top European Union officials that starts Thursday, President Vladimir Putin is finding out that his confrontational policies toward several European countries have unexpectedly united the 27-member bloc, diplomats said. EU foreign ministers agreed at pre-summit talks Monday in Brussels to postpone negotiations for a new trade accord with Russia after opposition from Poland and Lithuania. "Unless there is a major shift during the summit, Putin has miscalculated," said a top EU diplomat involved in the meeting in Samara, Russia, that will include Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president. "Putin assumed he could divide Europe by playing off Poland, Lithuania and Estonia against Germany or France so that he could get talks for the trade accord started," the diplomat, who requested anonymity, said. "The EU is sticking together because of his heavy-handedness. It is the exact opposite of what he had intended."

Merkel, who intends to confront Putin on human rights and press freedom issues, was not prepared to isolate the new member states to launch the trade talks. She and other EU leaders are also frustrated with Putin's refusal to endorse independence for Kosovo and his sharp criticism of U.S. plans to deploy elements of its antimissile shield in Eastern Europe. But the core of the dispute between Russia and the EU is Russia's reluctance to accept an enlarged EU that includes those East European countries once in Moscow's sphere. "Russia never accepted this enlargement," said Pawel Swieboda, director of demosEuropa, an independent research center in Warsaw. "He sees how the new members have begun to change the EU's external policy."

Before the 10 formerly Communist countries of Eastern Europe joined the EU in May 2004, foreign policy was set by the older, powerful member states. While the bloc sought to devise a strategy for partnership with Russia, Berlin, Paris and Rome pursued their own national interests, particularly in signing energy contracts with Gazprom, Russia's giant state-owned gas giant. When the new members joined, their interests were hardly taken into account. "The integration of the new member states into the EU's foreign policy was not taken seriously," said Ivan Krastev, director of the Center for Liberal Studies in Sofia. "Some of the old member states believed it would be business as usual with Russia. France and Germany did not want EU foreign policy to be held hostage by any new member state." The so-called Orange Revolution in Ukraine in December 2005 changed that. During the standoff between the pro-western leader, Viktor Yushchenko, and Viktor Yanukovich, whom Putin supported, the Polish and Lithuanian presidents mediated.

"Putin resented this interference by the EU because Ukraine was regarded as Russia's sphere of influence," said Pavol Demes, director of the Slovak office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. "The implications of an enlarged EU were becoming evident." Since 2005, Polish and Lithuanian diplomats say Russia has sought revenge by imposing a ban on Polish meat imports worth €350 million, or $473 million, a year, and by temporarily halting oil deliveries to Lithuania. Until these issues are resolved, Poland and Lithuania will continue to block the start of the new trade accord with Russia. The European Commission has stood by both countries. "We have made it clear to Russia that these are EU, not bilateral, issues," said the EU diplomat. Putin's use of energy as a political tool also spurred several of the new member states, heavily dependent on Russia for their energy needs, to challenge the EU to establish a common energy policy.

The EU started to take their concerns seriously in January 2006 when Russia cut gas supplies to Ukraine, a major transit country for Russian gas to Europe, and a year later when Russia stopped oil deliveries to Belarus. "The energy issue is crucial for establishing what kind of relationship we want with Russia," said Marcel de Haas, a security expert at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations. "Many of the big countries continue to forge new energy contracts with Russia. But this issue will not go away because of our dependence on Russian energy." Despite this dependence and the way individual member countries make their own deals with Russia, the EU will this week delay starting the new trade talks until Russia's disputes between Poland and Lithuania are resolved. Petras Vaitiekunas, Lithuania's foreign minister, welcomed this solidarity. "If the strategic partnership with Russia is important for the European Union, it is twice as important for the member states who are Russia's neighbors," he said. "We are the first to win or to suffer when EU-Russia relations change."


Anonymous said...

This is Hector,

On the other hand, perhaps it is possible that a second Cold War might come about between the western and Russian capitalists. After all, there have been times where Russian imperialism has conflicted with U.S imperialism such as in the former Yugoslavia, Ukraine, and Georgia. Adding to this possibility is the fact that the vast majority of the curent U.S enemies are the same reactionaries that they sponsored during their crusade against Communism, such as the Yeltsinite-Putinite regime in Russia.

La Russophobe said...

You mean Vladimir Putin, KGB spy, doesn't really govern Russian, but instead "capitalists" do? I doubt there's much evidence to support your theory. Even in the worst days of the US robber barons, they didn't use the political process to have each other thrown in prison (Khodorkokvsky) or exiled (Berezovsky). Capitalists usually realize that such measures will always come back to bite them. Perhaps rather than "capitalist" in Russia the word "gangster" would be more appropriate.

Anonymous said...

This is Hector,

Vladimir Putin IS A CAPITALIST! He is part of and represents Russia's bourgeoisie meaning the ruling class. KGB no longer exists, now its the Okhrana wannabe FSB. The evidence is purely logical to anyone with half a brain with political knowledge. No, the U.S rulers haven't thrown each other in prison, they threw others in prison and continue to do so. You obviously haven't the slightest idea of what capitalism is. It is certainly a system that has been known to breed gangsters (in Russia's case they're the ruling class). I ask you again, if Russia isn't capitalist, THEN WHAT IS IT? Its not a workers state. The Soviet workers state fell to capitalist counter-revolution in 1991, led by your drunken buddy Boris Yeltsin and his Russian chauvinistic clique (of which Vladimir Putin is a part of). Boris Berezovsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky are just two more examples of robber barons in Russia, and the amount of corruption that capitalism has spread.

Anonymous said...

elmer here.

Hector, you don't need to get all breathless and start huffing and puffing sovak slogans and propaganda.

Putin and today's Russia have about as much to do with capitalism as Stalin had to do with democracy.

Putin, and today's Russia, are authoritarian in government and in economy. It's corporatism.

Capitalism is not about a "managed" or "guided" democracy.

Capitalism is about free markets. And it functions best where there is above-board accounting, and no governmental gimmicks.

Capitalism is not about the formation of governments.

Democracy is.

The fact that Russia bungled its transformation from communism to democracy is not about capitalism, nor is it the fault of capitalism.

It was a deliberate strategy on the part of Chubais and the other jerks, who thought they knew what they were doing.

You would do well to read this article, rather than spew commie slogans.

"[Viacheslav Igrunov] “These consequences were determined precisely by the activity of the ‘democrats.’ The philosophy behind these processes was formulated by Chubais and Gaidar. These people said that we have to ruin as much as possible so that nothing can be renewed, and the smaller the state the better. These slogans were proclaimed at the government level by people who were implementing these reforms. Furthermore, they also believed that it is crucial to reduce wages to the minimum in order to raise competitiveness, that all property should be concentrated in the hands of a few private businessmen....

Yes, there are robber barons in Russia. That's not capitalism - it's cronyism.

And, by the way, Hector, the sovok union had its own robber barons, complete with dachas, and special privileges, and access to Western culture and consumer goods.

They were called Brezhnev and the rest of the apparatchiks at the top of the shark pool called the sovok union.

They were "more equal" than others.

They had to try and hide their spoils. And they had their own set of thugs to enforce their special privileges - the KGB.

The sicko Russkie robber barons today flaunt their wealth, and they too have their own set of thugs to protect them and their wealth.

So you are complaining about Putin's corporatism - exactly.

Corporatism is neither democracy nor capitalism.

It's just thuggery, of which Putin is a part. And which La Russophobe has consistently pointed out.

Anonymous said...

elmer, if what you write here, is true, then till 1940s USA didn't have capitalism.

Anonymous said...

This is Hector,

The absurdity of Elmer's apologies for capitalism are truly amazing. Elmer, find out what capitalism is and then open your mouth. Obviously capitalism to you means do operating along the same economic model as it is done in the U.S. It doesn't matter how much deluded anti-Russian chauvinists like you try to cover it up, Russia is a capitalism country regardless of what name you give it (in this case corporatism). Corporatism is simply another function of capitalism. In Russia's case a ruling class in power, a privatized economy, slave wages for workers without social benefits. Any country with an economy ran by a privatization of production and businesses by a minority ruling class IS A CAPITALST ECONOMY. Once again, buddy: you have no right to complain about Putin. He is part of that same capitalist clique that destroyed the Soviet Union. Capitalism does NOT mean only a bourgeois democractic system.

As for the "robber barons" in the Soviet Union. This was the Stalinist bureaucratic caste, not the same as a ruling class but a privelaged layer above the working class, i.e "more equal". It was these bureaucrats who sold the Soviet and Eastern European workers to capitalist enslavement when they bankrupted their systems as a result of years of mismanagement and corruption. When a workers state becomes bankrupt the Stalinist bureaucrats are at a moment of truth where they will choose one of two roads. They can go over with the working class fight against both counter-revolution and the bureaucracy. Or they will assist the counter-revolution and become capitalists. The KGB was not a set of thugs like the Okrana wannabe FSB. Their operations were to secure the safety of the workers state. "La Russophobe" has a Paris Hilton brain from the things she's posted. So your reference to her is completely useless to me. "Thuggery" is simple method, not an economic system. Capitalists own the system, and therefore they choose how exactly they intend to run it. You obviously know nothing of economics.