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Eastern Promises

0,,2109816_4,00 russia EU.jpgOf all the doomsday scenarios Europe fears in its increasingly complicated relationship with Russia, the notion of the economic crisis weakening Democratic and economic advances in Eastern Europe, and particularly in ex-Soviet states, surely ranks high on the list. Not a day goes by, it seems, without troubling news about these states’ fragile governments and economies, which The Telegraph recently called “a debacle big enough to shatter the fragile banking systems of Western Europe and set off round two of our financial Götterdämmerung.”

Enter the EU’s so-called eastern partnership deal, which EU foreign ministers debated today. As The Financial Times reported recently, “This is an initiative designed to draw six post-Soviet states – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – closer to the EU, without holding out an explicit promise of membership at some future date.”

From the FT:

“As for the Eastern Partnership, it seems another example of how the EU often has its heart in the right place, while lacking the power, conceptual vision and unity of purpose to do what it aspires to do. If the partnership had been in place a year ago, it wouldn’t have done much to affect the course of last August’s Russian-Georgian war, or January’s Russian-Ukrainian gas crisis, or Ukraine’s present economic meltdown.

“All six states covered by the Eastern Partnership exist in theshadow of Russia, some more comfortably than others. The EU’s offer offree trade deals, visa facilitation arrangements and seminarsto improve understanding of EU laws simply does not match the military,political and economic influence that Russia can wield in theregion. After all, one of the favoured six – Georgia – was in effectpartitioned by Russia a mere six months ago, in spite of all the EU’sprotests, after Moscow’s recognition of the independence of Abkhaziaand South Ossetia.”