Monday, November 03, 2008

Daily Telegraph rant today

Russia, Georgia and the EU: Victory for the Kremlin?

Britain's shameful U-turn on Russia is alarming many in Eastern Europe, says Edward Lucas

So it is business as usual with Russia. And what a bad business it is. Britain's decision to allow France to lead the European Union back into normal relations with Vladimir Putin's ex-KGB regime in Russia is one of the most startling volte-faces in our country's recent diplomatic history. It has left our allies in Eastern Europe – Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – aghast at our duplicity. "Our last European hope just ----ed us. We should have known. For we are but a small faraway country about which they know nothing," a senior official in the region wrote in a despairing email after The Daily Telegraph broke the news on Friday.

European unity after the war in Georgia was never terribly impressive – a mild public rebuke and the suspension of talks on a new "partnership and co-operation agreement" until Russia met the conditions of the loosely worded truce brokered by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Russia has met some of those conditions – but not all. EU monitors are still unable to inspect the war zone properly. If they could, they would see evidence of ethnic cleansing in the two separatist enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They would also see that Russia has increased its military presence. The message to the Kremlin is clear: you can invade a neighbouring country, threaten Europe's energy supplies, and the EU will do nothing serious about it.

The reason is simple: Gordon Brown cares little about foreign affairs, but likes the idea of stitching up deals on the reform of international finance with his new friend Mr Sarkozy. France, which is running the EU until the end of the year, wants a triumph to present to the European summit in Nice this month. Showing that it has repaired relations with Russia is part of that. It will please all the pro-Russian countries in the EU. Russia's energetic cultivation of contacts in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and France has built up a bridgehead of influence. Those in Whitehall who watch with alarm and disgust as parts of our establishment cosy up to rich and powerful Russians have been outmanoeuvred. The idea that the start of talks is balanced by a new, careful scrutiny of EU-Russian relations should fool nobody. This is surrender.

It must be especially humiliating for David Miliband, whose condemnation of Russia's actions, in a speech in the Ukrainian capital Kiev on August 27, inspired hopes from the Baltic to the Black Sea that Britain was now a champion of the ex-communist countries' freedom and security. He excoriated Russia's "unilateral attempt to redraw the map", calling it "the moment when countries are required to set out where they stand". This week's decision casts those words in a bitter light.

It is also part of a wider and gloomier picture. Even before the war in Georgia in August, Russia was bullying its neighbours, stitching up Europe's energy market and turning money into power across the continent. In the old Cold War, the Kremlin was shackled by communism. Now it has been turbo-charged by capitalism, through the boom in oil and gas prices that has brought it 
$1.3 trillion in extra revenues since 2000. That enables it to exercise influence not only on us, but among us, too. It has built up assets, commercial and human, in positions of power across Europe. German industry makes tens of billions of euros in the Russian market; Russia is Germany's main energy supplier. The former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder chairs the consortium building a Russian-German gas pipeline (conceived, in secret, while he was still running Germany).

Even though the EU is far stronger than Russia on paper, three times bigger in population terms, and more than 10 times larger as an economy, it seems unable to stand up to the Kremlin. The financial crisis has hit Russia hard – but it has hit us harder. A few years ago, threatening to freeze dodgy Russian companies out of the developed world's capital markets would have been a real threat. Now, if they find London, New York, and Frankfurt unwelcoming, they can turn to the exchanges in Dubai, Mumbai and Shanghai.

Nor does Russia greatly care if it is excluded from clubs such as the Council of Europe or the G8, or if talks on joining the World Trade Organisation or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are frozen. Such "punishments" may even reinforce the message of the ex-KGB regime to the Russian people: that their country is surrounded by malevolent hypocrites. The Kremlin's message to Europe is cold and confident: you need us more than we need you. President Dmitri Medvedev is proving as tough and tricky as his predecessor, Vladimir Putin. His new security plan is to end the Atlantic alliance, pushing America out of Europe and creating a new security regime in which the continent's biggest countries – chiefly Germany and Russia – will boss everyone else about.

It is not too late to fight back. Nato has already changed its approach. Belatedly, the alliance's top-secret military planning bureaucracy is working out how it could defend the Baltic states and Poland. Nato warplanes last week held air exercises over Estonia, while senior American commanders are paying frequent visits to the Baltic states.

That is encouraging, but it is not enough. There are other matters that need addressing urgently – including Russian spying. This has reached unprecedented levels, and is probably more dangerous and destructive to Western interests than during the old Cold War. A co-ordinated, wholesale expulsion of Russian intelligence officers and their hangers-on from, say, London, Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen and Warsaw would send a powerful message to the Kremlin.

The key to the West's future security is the security of the Baltic states. Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians have thrown in their lot with us and we must not let them down. Consider this scenario. Imagine that Estonian extremists start intimidating local Russians (who amount to around a third of the Estonian population). Russia can easily stoke this covertly, while demanding publicly that Estonia crack down. Then imagine that Russian activists (again, backed, discreetly, by Moscow) set up "self-defence units" which start patrols, and set up checkpoints. When the Estonian authorities try to stop this, the Kremlin complains; Russian military "volunteers" start mustering across the border, proclaiming their intention to defend compatriots from "fascism". The Russian media report this with wild enthusiasm; the Russian authorities say they cannot indefinitely restrain the spontaneous patriotic sentiments of their citizens.

Suppose Estonia requests support under Article IV of the Nato charter. At this point, Russia's cultivation of assets in the West pays off. Germany, Italy and other big European countries tell Estonia to sort out its problems with Russia bilaterally. The result is a worse split in the Alliance even worse than the one over Iraq. Faced with the West's weakness, the Kremlin ups the odds. Estonia tries to restore order; Russia terms that an intolerable provocation and demands a change of government, immediate changes in the language and citizenship laws, and the establishment of what it calls a "Swiss solution": cantons in which Russians will be allowed "to run their own affairs". To back this up, Russian forces start military manoeuvres.

So what does Estonia do then? America may offer moral support, but is it going to risk a Third World War with Russia to protect Estonia? Such a course of events is not inevitable, or even likely. But it is not as preposterous as it should be. Too many of the ingredients are in place and the Kremlin is perfectly capable of cooking them into a dangerous dish. The big question for Estonia and its friends is what can be done to make sure that never happens.

The answer is not to give up on Nato but to complement it with a regional grouping. The existing Nordic ties between Sweden, Norway and Finland, boosted by support from Poland and Denmark, would put this scenario back where it belongs: in the world of geopolitical thrillers. Add in British, Canadian and American involvement and you would have a formidable counterweight to Russian mischief-making in both the Baltic and the Arctic – the likely hotspots of the new Cold War.

Edward Lucas is author of 'The New Cold War: How the Kremlin menaces both Russia and the West' (Bloomsbury). An updated edition is published thismonth.


Colleen said...

A year and a half ago you drew out the west's gameplan and offered these recommendations:

1. Throw Russia out of G8
2. Expand Nato
3. Stop Russian companies from using int'l capital markets
4. Crack down on visas

In this Telegraph article, you explicitly say that Russia doesn't give a hoot about the G8 and can turn to Asia if European fin'l markets are closed.

You also note that Nato expansion, given the solidarity Germany, France, Italy, and others have with Russia, is inconceivable right now.

So, congratulations for abandoning three of your four recommendations.

Additional congratulations for realizing that having a larger population and a larger economy does not necessarily make one stronger.

Maybe you're beginning to come to your senses.

La Russophobe said...

Solidarity? You must be kidding (or smoking something funny and very Russian)! Germany and France have nothing but contempt for Russia, viewing it as an inferior civilization and nothing but trouble. Both showed overwhelming support for Georgia in the recent war, and NOBODY has recognized Ossetia. If you consider that "solidarity" you are truly displaying neo-Soviet desperation.

Massive captial flight is underway and the Russian stock market has been reduced to rubble. Inflation is out of control, unemployment is rising. Germany and France may well have concluded that all they need do is leave the Russians to their own devices and watch their society implode (again, for the third time in a century).

The mere fact that there are some shameless cowards in position of Europe means nothing. So it has always been, so it always shall be. This reality did not stop Europe and its American ally from laying waste to the USSR, nor will it prevent them from doing the same to Russia if the KGB regime refuses to turn away from the abyss.

In Soviet times, crazy reality-denying tirades like yours, Colleen, were heard routinely. It changed nothing. The Emperor had no clothes.

Giustino said...

The answer is not to give up on Nato but to complement it with a regional grouping. The existing Nordic ties between Sweden, Norway and Finland, boosted by support from Poland and Denmark, would put this scenario back where it belongs: in the world of geopolitical thrillers. Add in British, Canadian and American involvement and you would have a formidable counterweight to Russian mischief-making in both the Baltic and the Arctic – the likely hotspots of the new Cold War.

Molto bene!

der unbequeme said...

Russophobia is not better than Anti-Semitism. I would not hesitate to throw people like Edward Lucas and La Russophobe into prison for making mischief between peoples and nations. Calumny is a punishable, after all.

People who make business out of seeding hatred are scum.

La Russophobe said...

hmmm, that's interesting.

so were Russians "seeding hatred" when they crushed Hitler's armies? is that why Stalin threw 20 million of them into the gulag?

with "friends" like you, der unbequeme, russia needs no enemies. in my view, those who "love" and "understand" proud KGB spy Putin hate Russia most of all in the world.

So? said...

Stirring the pot on the continent is an old British tradition. Now also practiced by the US (New Europe and all that). Makes perfect sense of course. You can't have geopolitics without geography, after all. It's like that Offspring song "you've gotta keep them separated".

Giustino said...

So what does Estonia do then? America may offer moral support, but is it going to risk a Third World War with Russia to protect Estonia?

The question should be, is Russia willing to risk a Third World War to invade an adjacent country of 1.3 million people whose chief export is ... wood and paper?

The Russians should ask themselves who would win that war? Who would join it to take advantage of Russian weakness? What position would Russia be in should it lose that war?

Too many of the ingredients are in place and the Kremlin is perfectly capable of cooking them into a dangerous dish.

The Kremlin cooked that dish in 2007 with the aim of removing the elected Estonian government and replacing it with one more to their liking. They failed. Could it happen again? Anything could happen again. But would it happen in Estonia and why? Why not in Latvia? Why not in Lithuania -- which sits aside Kaliningrad. Same ingredients -- if not more.

The big question for Estonia and its friends is what can be done to make sure that never happens.

Two things. First, NATO should show itself to be a real alliance that is capable of defending its members. That's a genuine deterrent. Again, does the RF want to risk a world war over a land of bogs and islands? Probably not.

Second, as you mentioned, the regional defense structures should be better integrated. If the Swedes and Finns wish to integrate their navies, they should make the obvious choice to include the Estonians.

That would add a very strong, southern dimension to their home defense strategies, and let's not pretend like the Swedish and Finnish defense agencies don't prepare for the big "what if" of another Winter War.

Edward Lucas said...

Thanks for the comments

Colleen: Two years ago, the measures I advocated then might have worked better. Now it's too late. I think we can still try to freeze bank accounts and pursue moneylaundering charges. After all, these tens of billions of dollars have been stolen from the Russian people.

Der Unbequeme: vielen Dank: Sie haben ganz klar gemacht, wie schnell Kreml-freunde wie Sie Meinungsfreiheit vergessen. Habe ich nicht das Recht, ueber die korrumpierte revanschiste Politik der ex-KGB Fuehrung in Russland zu schreiben, ohne Gefaengnis zu riskieren? Oder finden Sie es gut, dass Regime-kritiker wie Politkovskaya erschossen wurden?

[just pointing out that Der U doesn't seem to think much of press freedom. Perhaps that's another reason why he likes the regimein Russia so much

LR: I wish I could agree with you. It seems to me that Germany France and Italy have been scandalously wimpish on the Georgia issue. Italy is probably the worst--vetoing Sarko's initial condemnation

Colleen said...

In the past eight years, Russia has:

- Paid back hundreds of billions of dollars in external government debt
- Amassed a $500b reserve fund
- Plus an additional $200b from the stabilization funds
- Increased government spending many times over (for social programs, defense, whatever)

In my opinion, no one can honestly argue that Putin / Medvedev have "stolen from the Russian people" given all of these tangible results.

Saudi Arabia, as an analogy, exports more oil than Russia, doesn't have the world's largest borders to defend, and, yet, hasn't been able to establish a $500 billion reserve fund during the period of high oil prices.

Nigeria is an even more extreme example.

For corruption and theft look at those countries, not Russia.

Giustino said...

I wish I could agree with you. It seems to me that Germany France and Italy have been scandalously wimpish on the Georgia issue. Italy is probably the worst--vetoing Sarko's initial condemnation.

But let's not forget that, save Mr. Sarkozy, all of the leaders are in precarious positions.

Merkel is in a power-sharing agreement with SDP, Schröder's old party. Her foreign minister is Schröder's former chief of staff.
Now take another look at her actions. Compare them to Schröder's official statements. Merkel actually seems quite bold.

Berlusconi is creating an interesting paradigm in Italian politics. He was criticized from the left for his personal connections to the Russian leadership.

The Kremlin's Europe strategy is based on forging close relationships with individual leaders in EU countries. The problem with that strategy is that, unlike in Moscow, these leaders are not political immortals. Berlusconi will eventually leave office and be replaced by someone else.

Finally, in the UK Gordon Brown has never been in a strong position as PM. It seems, at least from outside the country, that he is basically stumbling from leadership crisis to leadership crisis until the Brits make up their mind and choose someone else.

In this mix, Sarkozy is one of the few confident western European leaders.

der unbequeme said...

@ Lucas

"freedom of opinion" has its natural borders. Public Anti-semitism is not freedom of opinion, for example, it is punishable. I consider you a spiritual heir of Joseph Goebbels with the only difference that the Russians have the role of Jews in your scaremongering and agitation.

Russophobia is your profession, you make money by writing books and articles, by visiting events. Extremist anti-Russian position is merely your business brand than a position dictated by common sense. You earn money by creating animosities in this world. I think it's disgusting.

Edward Lucas said...

Dear Unbequeme

If you read my book you will see that I am not anti-Russian, but anti-Kremlin. it is one of the many crimes of the chekist regime that they have blotted out the heroic strand of humanism and dissent in Russian history, elevating instead a grotesque nostalgia for the Soviet (and Stalinist) past. It is as if Germany was run by a bunch of former SS and Gestapo guys who denied the holocaust, claimed that the Netherlands and Denmark were not properly independent countries, and manufactured scare stories about "anti-Germanism" to disguise their incompetence, greed and chauvinism.
Also, anti-semitism is not punishable in the UK or US, where we don't have the tradition of "thought-crimes".

Finally, if you think I have made money from anti-kremlin scaremongering, you are sadly mistaken. I have had a consistent position on this since 1989, and nearly bankrupted myself running a newspaper in Tallinn that tried to get these ideas across to a wider audience. The real money is on the pro-Kremlin side, as your former chancellor Schroeder, or Britain Deripaska-friendly bigwigs, will attest



der unbequeme said...

Being anti-kremlin in Soviet times was not neccessary anti-Russian. But today, when there is a high support for the Kremlin line in the Russian population (you know well it is not a fake), being anti-kremlin is also being anti-Russian.

Your radical views on different international issues involving Russia are not a consequence of some facts. The far-fetched interpretation which you present as facts is merely a consequence of your Russophobia. Don't mix up the reason and the consequence.

And, please, don't compare yourself with Schroeder. Your horizons are quite different. If you had his abilities, experience and connections, who knows who you would work for. It is easy to say "no" if nobody makes an offer, LOL. You work in your small dimension and earn money a according to your humble possibilities in the propaganda sphere. However, it doesn't make you a better person.

So, you understand German? In my blog, I have posted a translation of an interview with Alexei Pushkov. The conversation is also about you, maybe it will be of interest:


Edward Lucas said...

Dear Unbequeme

Pushkov is twisting the facts. I have never compared Putin with Hitler. That would be grotesque. Nor do I say that modern Russia is like the Third Reich. What I do say is that the regime's nostalgia for the Soviet period is as unsettling as it would be if a German government described the collapse of the Third Reich as the "geopolitical catastrophe of the century". Its Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung that is missing in modern Russia.

I am happy to talk on the phone if you want. my skype is edwardlucas


der unbequeme said...

Dear Edward Lucas,

I also wrote already about the "greatest geopolical catastrophe of the century" and how it was meant:

I think that making a cornerstone of propaganda out of this statement is malicios foul play.

Thanks for invitation, I'll think about it!

Der Unbequeme

Giustino said...

Ah, German-Russian rapprochement. That must be the key to a peaceful Europe.

Jonas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonas said...

Firstly, thanks, Mr. Lucas, for another good and sharp piece (as is your 'The New Cold War'...). Can't imagine anyone else taking such a high-minded position regarding Baltic states in our relations with Russia.

It is quite a crucial moment to the Baltic states. Even Russia's military aggression doesn't seem as 'unrealistic' and 'theoretical' as it was, say, in late 90's, despite that today we are members of both NATO and EU. I remember April/May of 2004 as I was cheering in the crowds in Vilnius celebrating the accession to NATO and EU... That time I though that 'finally this is over'. I even gave a short interview to BBC's journalist where apart from other obvious things I also mentioned that our struggles with Russia and its intimidation are over. They for some reason cut it out and didn't show in the actual footage (perhaps because that was 'not necessary' and not enough 'politically correct'). At that time it indeed might have seemed so.

Just a few years later we see Georgia being invaded and talks about threats (including military) to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia taking place even in the most respectable media...

It is good, though, that there is another country, slightly bigger and more influential than us Balts - Poland. No matter how annoying it may seem to some (France and Germany in particular, of course), they have to listen to at least something it says. So, Dziekuje bardzo to Poland for its integrity and clear position on EU-Russia relations.

To those who say that why they should care of some faraway countries (such as Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia) and pay higher gas bills, I would like to remind that it was NOT Russian oil and gas, NOT indulging to Kremlin's will and NOT short-sighted economic benefits which made EU rich, prosperous and respectful.

It was the ability to stand behind common European values, cooperation with allies across the Atlantic and ability to maintain a strict position which made Europe prosperous and stable.

All we can hope is that those principles of cooperation, democracy and well-being will eventually prevail over interests of fast profit of companies making deals with Gazprom and Kremlin... I really wish I could hope so.

akarlin said...

Britain is beginning to realize the necessity of sucking up to Russia like a little bitch because they realized some rather important things - namely, that they are facing an imminent natural gas and more generally energy supply crunch. It has a trade deficit in consumer goods, and since a few years back in energy; it's main export, financial services, has "problems" (e.g. bad lending to east European banks - lol!).

Considering that the trend since 2000 has been rapidly expanding energy prices - a trend which will continue and accelerate as the world encounters increasing shortfalls in oil production - it is not surprising that Britain has seen the folly (or so one hopes) of dealings with certain neo-fascist apartheid and militaristic ultra-nationalistic states in eastern Europe, in favor of a cordial long-term strategic relationship with Russia.

That the latter-day Streichers of this world, echoed their Russophobic crypto-fascist sycophants, should decry this means that sane, moral folks can only welcome this development.

Giustino said...

What the Brits and the French need to understand, is that as long as there is a deterrent, there is no advantage to military solutions in Europe. Brits may ask themselves, will we really go to war over Lithuania? Well, one: you went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And two, you've got it the wrong way around: you should ask yourself, would Russia risk a war with us over Lithuania?

Like Estonia and Latvia and Poland and Finland, Lithuania has always been troublesome for any Russian empire that hopes to stay together.

Only an Russian unfamiliar with history would ever seek to impose direct rule on Baltic rim countries again.

The Lithuanians became part of the Russian empire in the 1790s. And they rebelled in 1831 and 1864 and 1918 and in the 1940s and 1950s and in the 1980s.

A military imposition there would only create more headaches for any Russian leadership. For most of history, there has been a locus of power in Poland and Lithuania. They cannot be kept down.

I don't think the Russian Federation leadership is that stupid. They feared NATO expansion in the Caucasus because it would internationalize the conflict in Chechnya and adjacent regions. Not to mention their evil plan to control all of Europe's energy supplies.

There are political forces in Estonia and other countries that are more that willing to stick their head in the sand and get out of European power politics in return for additional legitimacy and the promise of sustained independence. Russia is waiting and will wait some more for these modern day Kekkonens to win the upper hand. A military scenario, in my mind, seems unlikely.

Nick Clayton said...

Clearly the jury is still out on the war in Georgia. In fact just today, the New York times published a story indicating that the usually pro-Atlantic OSCE will likely conclude that Russia was justified in intervening in South Ossetia.

So how about we wait for some facts before we resort to demagoguery shall we?

La Russophobe said...


Stop lying. The OSCE made NO such conclusion. It simply said, just as HRW has said, that Georgia could have been more careful with its artillery and that the evidence of exactly what occurred is murky.


There's no doubt that they could and should be more courageous, but we must take this rascals as we find them. Given their limitations, they're really not doing all that badly. Hopefully, America will soon begin to provide better leadership, and your continued roasting will keep them on their toes.

akarlin said...

Georgia Claims on Russia War Called Into Question

"During a news broadcast that began at 11 p.m., Georgia announced that Georgian villages were being shelled, and declared an operation “to restore constitutional order” in South Ossetia. The bombardment of Tskhinvali started soon after the broadcast.

According to the monitors, however, no shelling of Georgian villages could be heard in the hours before the Georgian bombardment. At least two of the four villages that Georgia has since said were under fire were near the observers’ office in Tskhinvali, and the monitors there likely would have heard artillery fire nearby."

Georgia's last argument for its military aggression against civilians and peacekeepers, that its villages were being bombarded, is debunked. They declared a ceasefire, then started a murderous campaign of annihilation without provocation or justification. Thus, OSCE monitors are in agreement with what Russian "propaganda" has been saying all along!

The contempt for reality of folks like LR and Lucas are superseded only by their contempt for the lives and well-being of independent non-Westerners.

dimitrios said...

Unfortunately this article is somewhat economical with the truth and rather similar to the clumsy examples of paranoid propaganda of the failed neo-con policies - despite La Russophobe's best efforts to put a spin on it.

Their narrow minded "we're number one" mentality has long reached it's sell by date, with the national and international mess they are largely responsible for clearly crying out for a real world change in attitude and policy.

The American people have responded with their resounding voting for that change as 85% believed the US was on the wrong track. Hopefully President Obama and a change of administration will help bring about a more realistic approach to the very real world social-economic and environmental problems we ALL face. We - and the media - mustn't shirk our responsibilities and miss this opportunity!

La Russophobe said...

The shameless lying by commenters on this thread should be embarrassing to Edward, and I'm sure it is.

The NYT report CLEARLY states that the the OSCE observers had NO systemmatic opportunity to observe the shelling. It is FULL of repeated statements that no conclusions can be drawn, and the source material is merely leaked statements, not an official OSCE report.

Meanwhile, Russia's "friends" choose to ignore all the findings, including by the OSCE, that Russia butchered civilians, and the NYT's own editorial clearly stating that the allegations reported in the article were "not surprising" and NO justification for Russia's invasion of Georgia proper.

The pathetic mendacity of Russia's defenders in their abject panic over Russia's repudiation by the entire planet and the collapse of its economy would be amusing if not that so many Russians will suffer so much because of it, just as in Soviet times.

As always, with "friends" like these Russia needs no enemies.

Grigol said...

I think dying out of the international enthusiasm for an independent investigation after Georgia's evidence was published in NYT is a great symptom of the desparation in western Europe to blame Georgia for getting invaded.

IMagine western leaders saying in 1939 Finland was guilty for getting invaded by the Soviet Union. Indeed, back then Russians had their own story that Finland bombarded Russian village of Mainila at the border. The difference is that few were reluctant to close eyes to the clear truth: RUssians bombed that village themselves to justify their invasion...

aa said...

Michael Oakeshott once wrote about E.H. Carr that his interest in his subject-matter (Communist Russia) was so intense that in the end he came to identify himself way too strongly it, to the extent that his position as an historian was compromised.
I am afraid your position as an analyst is similarly compromised by your interest in the CEE states (the Baltics in particular).
Just two points:
1. Whose responsibility are the 'Estonian extremists' in your scenario? Russia's? EU? Or Estonian authorities' after all? If they choose placating these very extremists over controlling them (as it happened in the course of the 'Bronze soldier' crisis? perhaps they are living up to their obligations (explicit but also implicit) with regard to the Article 5 deal.
In any way, speaking strictly pragmatically, whom is easier for the EU to influence in this case: the Kremlin or Tallinn? Would 'forcing' Tallinn to sort out its own stuff be such a bad idea in this particular case? I don't think so...
2. You seem to be arguing on the 'domino theory' premise. "Appease Russia in Georgia and it will go for the Baltics" (strange that you do not mention Ukraine in this context).
The problem here is not that we cannot know for sure.
The problem is: whatever we know for sure is enough to lay bare the differences between today's Russia and Nazi Germany, so as to make 'appeasement argument' completely irrelevant.
Unlike Hitler's Germany Putin's Russia is NOT even trying to pretend that it is pursuing objectives legitimate from the standpoint of the current order. Therefore it makes little sense for the EU to meet Russia's legitimate demands so sas to prevent it from pursuing illegitimate ones (This was the true meaning of appeasement).
Russia does not like the current order as such and makes no secret of this.
Now, Russia's anti-status quo posture has been supported so far not so much by 'old' Europe's 'appeasement' as by US unconcealed scorn for international law and norms generally.
If we accept further that, unlike 'bewildered linguistic communities' of CEE (Kennan's phrase), EU has global responsibilities, we can ask the following question: IN a world where even the British Tories seem to prefer Obama to US neocons, is it not one of Europe's responsibilities to send signals not only to Russia but also to those who seem to believe that the louder you preach democracy (without actually practicing it) the more security guaranties you get?

Edward Lucas said...

Dear aa

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I am not sure that coverage of CEE is improved by the author being ignorant. If that's your taste, you can find plenty of news outlets where the articles are written by people with no specialist knowledge. The responsibility for the "extremists" is clearly with Estonia which will--given time--be able to catch and prosecute them. I would not say that the government "placated" these extremists in the Bronze soldier crisis and I would not say that the Estonian extreme right now is financed by Russia (and people are keeping a close eye on it to make sure).

I don't understand what you mean about the estonian govt living up to their obligations under article V?

I do think that things can wrong in Ukraine too, and it is more plausible in some respects than in the Baltic. But Russia may be wary of enraging Ukraine because it is a big country (remember the row over the Tuzla island a few years back). I am not saying that my Baltic scenario is likely; the point of the article is to argue that NATO needs to do more in the Baltic (and since that article was written, it has).

I am not saying that today's Russia is like Nazi Germany

I agree (and argue in my book) that the West's loss of moral authority makes life much easier for the Chekisty and the Kremlin.

happy to continue this offline if you want to email me (edwardlucas[at]