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The Europeans placed before their responsibilities. A Russian Dilemma

(BRUSSELS2) With the successive and growing crises in Ukraine, the Middle East, Syria, Iraq and Libya, in the Central African Republic and Nigeria, Europeans are today faced with their responsibilities. At the time of the return to politics - the Ministers of Foreign Affairs begin their traditional biannual informal meeting in Milan and the Heads of State and Government will meet on Saturday in Brussels - a new reflection must be made.

The time for responsibilities has come

Europeans can no longer clear customs over a multinational angel or an American umbrella. The policy of the checkbook and humanitarian aid, of (beautiful) speech based solely on the statement of (good) principles, or even of participation in an international operation, under more or less direct cover of the UN, seems insufficient today. Europe and its member states are now being asked directly by governments – kyiv, Kurds, Central African Republic, Mali – to provide them with financial support and/or direct military equipment. The time has come to choose. A choice that is not without risk or without asking many questions.

What to do in the face of state no mans land: intervene or let it happen?

Military or political intervention is, in fact, not a panacea. Looking at some of the current crises – Iraq, Libya, Ukraine – we can clearly see that they result, at least indirectly, from intervention decisions followed (Iraq 2003) or taken in part by the Europeans (Libya 2011, Ukraine 2014). The Iraq War in 2003, like the intervention in Libya in 2011, certainly destroyed tyrannical powers. They were not followed by the hoped-for effects, in particular the advent of a democratic, stable and peaceful power. Conversely, non-intervention harbors different but equally important dangers. The Syrian example proves it. By allowing a conflict to persist, bloody but apparently limited within the borders, Syria has today become an abscess for the fixation of a new generation of terrorists who have a desire to export their fight outside the Syrian borders. The victories of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS according to the English acronym) prove this. The number of European fighters in Syria and Iraq is worrying. Well Named.

Facing Russia, confrontation or partnership?

Faced with what must be called “a war” in Ukraine, and the involvement of Russia, European states are divided. A division which is not only one of circumstance or interest and which resurfaces regularly. Because there are clearly different objectives, two antagonistic strategic lines for Europe vis-à-vis Russia.

One of them wants to push back Russian power, as much as possible, by continuing the policy begun in 1990, which coincided with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the alignment with Moscow of the countries of the Pact of Warsaw and the collapse of the USSR. It is no longer a question of containing Moscow but of regaining room for maneuver, of “liberating” the countries and populations which are in Moscow's orbit, or even of achieving a shift of power in Russia. This trend is embodied by the countries of northern Europe – from east to west – Baltics, Sweden, Poland and the United Kingdom.

The other line considers Russia as a neighbor, not very pleasant, but with whom we must put up with, a world power which must not be underestimated and is sometimes useful, a country with which we must maintain political, economic, commercial ties. notable. The idea of ​​a change of power, of the functioning of Russia is not envisaged, except in the longer term, and without offending what is considered to be “the Russian soul”. This line is represented by the south-central states – Germany, France, Italy, in particular, but also Belgium, Finland, Austria, etc. It is between these two visions that Europe must decide and arbitrate in fact.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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