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Damage Control: EU Leaders Seek Engagement With Moscow (Op-Ed)

Marie Mendras

Europe faces 4 vital hurdles today: large waves of refugees, creation conflict-resolution in Syria even some-more urgent; militant threats from Islamic State; Russian troops participation and economic pressures on a still frail Ukraine; and the arise of anti-EU, populist sentiments. The four issues are interrelated, as a key actor in all of them is Russia.

Europe — governments and public opinion — connects Moscow’s troops support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and their atmosphere strikes over populated areas, with the recent worsening of the interloper ordeal. To them, the Kremlin has turn a threat to security, fortitude and prosperity on the European continent.

Since the annexation of Crimea and war in eastern Ukraine, Europeans have really small trust in the Russian leadership, and no large expectancy as to what Moscow can deliver. This outlines a radical change from the 2000s, when Russia was reputable and courted as a major partner in trade, mercantile cooperation, and security, and had friends in many capitals.

Now, European leaders work hand-in-hand in tactical repairs control. When they get together, they plead how to deter the Kremlin from making some-more dangerous moves. They no longer disagree about how to actively “engage” with Moscow and repair the relationship: this is too far-off a perspective.

The time setting is brief and the bottom line practical. The European concentration has been on raising the costs for Russia, of military penetration and economic overthrow in Ukraine, and other adjacent countries. The aim is to never leave the Russian boss unattended, that means pestering him with countless phone calls and repeated final to negotiate and let us broach charitable aid. Europe’s core position, together with the United States and allies, is to stay organisation on principles, particularly the fundamental tellurian right to live in peace.

For two years now, a unified position in defense of Ukraine has hold on unexpectedly good among Europeans, and in transatlantic relations, as good as with allies on other continents, like Australia and Japan. Sanctions are usually one aspect of this unity. All governments demonstrate special oneness with the states that feel some-more vulnerable, like the Baltic republics, and NATO is in the routine of reinforcing invulnerability and combat willingness in the East.

Moscow has so distant unsuccessful in its tradgame of divide and rule — even yet several nations, like the Finnish, Latvian, or Slovakian, were harm by sanctions and Russian counter-sanctions.

Against all odds, Putin’s adventurism has strengthened holds between democracies at a time of economic hardship, rising populism, and daunting interloper problems. Putin, probably, did not design Western oneness to be firm, nor did he design to be held in painful, extensive negotiations over Ukraine and Syria.

The resolute Angela Merkel-François Hollande tandem forced Russia-backed rebels in the Donbass to curtail armed combat, and pressured Kiev for political-administrative and economic reforms. The cease-fire agreement, brokered in Minsk, was a true feat for Kiev and for French and German diplomacies, even yet the document is cumbersome, doubtful to be entirely implemented or to give behind to Ukraine the legitimate borders.

Paris and Berlin kept a constant hotline with Moscow and offered face-saving tactics. Hollande even suggested, on several occasions, that sanctions could be eased, as a carrot to draw Putin closer to European positions. But to no avail — all along, the Kremlin has valid reluctant to compromise, and now looks prepared to go for a long-lasting, if low-intensity dispute in Ukraine.

As with the Minsk process, negotiations on Syria have constructed unsuitable papers that do not solve the conflict, though revoke the level of violence and casualties.

It might seem inapt to compare the Donbass and Syria, where the magnitude of violence, casualties, drop and refugees is limitless. Yet, Moscow drew parallels, and in both cases denied the peaceful inlet of political criticism opposite a corrupt government, thereby justifying armed retaliation.

The conflict in Syria started in 2011 as municipal contest, as in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Assad resorted to disproportionate hang-up to crush amicable rebellion, and failed. An all-out inner fight ensued, and, worse still, IS took base in Syria in 2014.

Moscow could have put the weight in a domestic transaction for the tyrant to depart, and stop arms smoothness to Damascus, though chose not to do it. The preference went to a enlarged polite war, even as terrorism spread.

In the autumn of 2015, Russia wanted to win behind some Western respect, generally following the Paris militant acts on Nov. 13. But it unsuccessful to build a coalition, selecting instead to fully side with Assad’s “regular army,” strike rebels and Islamists alike, and antagonize many Western and Arab countries.

In both Ukraine and Syria, Western governments hoped to put an end to the fighting and destruction, though have usually been means to achieve forms of limited truce. On Ukraine, Europeans played the key partial with relations success. On Syria, the United States took the lead in forming an international coalition. Results are even some-more limited, insufficient, though at least civilians gained a respite, and aid is coming.

Constant traffic in favor of peace fortitude is Europe’s elite strategy, simply since the EU can't salary troops conflict, can't means an economy of war, and must understanding with the refugee challenge. Europeans have no other choice though to enforce frail cease-fires since cease-fires save lives, reduce the intensity of fire, and force belligerents to talk and compromise.

When impassioned assault recedes, Russia does not call the shots as straightforwardly as during high power warfare. Some observers investigate Western policies as a failure to stop the Russian military. It is fairer to say that, in the box of European governments, ambitions never went over genuine capabilities always, and the latter were used improved than in previous crises with Russia.

Damage control and unity of purpose are Europe’s best, if insufficient, methods of dealing with Russia today.  

Marie Mendras is a Senior fellow, GMF, highbrow at Sciences Po, and a former executive of policy formulation staff, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/562022.html