THE PUTIN-EU SUMMIT: 'WHOM OVER WHO'?
Judging from the wire services and the various newspapers (Moscow Times, Financial Times, Novosti) it would appear that in the meetings just concluded in Finland, between the European Union heads of government, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, it was the latter who came out ahead, if not in fact can be said to have ‘triumphed’. Notwithstanding the fact that there were discussions, prior to the summit, that the EU would try to reprimand its Russian guest, particularly over Russian policy vis`a-vis Georgia, and over Russian Energy policy, that was not the outcome of the meetings. Far from it in fact. As one disgruntled EU diplomat complained about French President Jacques Chirac’s failure to tow the pre-arranged line about Georgia with Putin: “Chirac hung Georgia out to dry” (see the article in the Financial Times, in www.ft.com). In addition, to not being lambasted by his EU counterparts over Russian policy over Georgia, which according to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, on Monday, which far from being loosened, was set to continue to apply economic sanctions on Tbilisi (see the report in Novosti in: www.en.rian.ru/russia); Putin was able to announce that he and his European partners were in agreement to open negotiations on a “broad development of a system of sectoral relations”, which would include a free trade agreement, and “Russia’s gradual economic integration into Europe” (see: www.en.rian.ru/russia).
In light of the fact, that both the Americans, over the recent UN resolution over Georgia, and, Georgia’s own allies Ukraine and Moldova, have also recently refused to publicly support Tbilisi, in its clash with Moskva, it is not entirely surprising that the Russian energy dependent, European Union were no more courageous or outspoken (on these two issues see, Molly Corso & Ariel Cohen in www.eurasiannet.org & Sergei Markedonov’s article in www.russianprofile.org). What all this means and portends is that with the Americans bogged down for awhile in Iraq (and it would appear that any thoughts that the Bush regime will vacate that country anytime soon are at this stage, wishful thinking…), and facing a major crisis in North Korea, as well as ongoing problems in the rest of the Near East, especially over Persia’s seeming quest to acquire nuclear weapons, Russia enjoys the luxury of an almost completely free hand. Something which possession of the world’s third largest currency reserves, and, the price of oil at 58 dollars a barrel, effectively means that it is definitely in the driver’s seat diplomatically. So, dear reader the question now becomes: how wisely will Svyatava Russe use this almost unique opportunity? Hopefully, both for its people and Europe in general it will use its strength and its position wisely. In the best traditions of the diplomacy of such figures as Munnich, Ostermann, Nesselrode, Gorchakov, Giers, Witte, Lambsdorf, and Benckendorf. Or in the words of the immortal Goethe: "genius is knowing when to stop!”