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Jörg Reckmann: From Moscow with Love

We’re pleased to offer an exclusive translation of an article written this week by Jörg Reckmann in the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau.

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Art: Peter Schrank, Economist

From Moscow with Love (Liebesgrüße aus Moskau) By Jörg Reckmann, Frankfurter Rundschau, April 2, 2007 From Soviet Beelzebub to an overbearing great power whose energy giant Gazprom is at least just as dangerous as the Red Army once was. Today’s Russia once again scares Europeans. The loser of the Cold War has again grown into a position of power which frightens not only many of those East European states which suffered over generations under Russian hegemony and dictatorship and believed they had put this trauma behind them by means of EU and NATO accession. However, Russia is already there, with outstretched hand, but as a demanding partner of both organisations. This breeds fear, lays doubts about future European policy at the EU’s doorstep and so weakens the ability to shape of the Union, which needs nothing more than a new eastern policy. Not as a substitute for, but as a complement to the transatlantic bound with the United States, a power which has been discredited to a destabilising extent as a leading power in military, political and moral terms. What was frightening about the Kremlin’s harsh criticism of the missile defence which the United States seeks to build on Russia’s border was less Moscow’s clear no but the ease with which Vladimir Putin was able to divide the Europeans in NATO and the EU. This was only possible, because a serious, new orientation in policy vis-à-vis Moscow is still lacking. During the Cold War, the key to solving problems – as it was put with resignation back then – lay in Moscow. And that meant unreachably far away. But this is exactly what has changed, the keys lie within reach: Russia itself is offering its services to the Europeans as a strategic partner with which a balance of interests is possible. And Moscow is serious. In the Iran crisis, the Russian position has moved closer to the European one; in the Middle East, Russia is a constructive part within the Western negotiating quartet; on the missile question, Moscow is insisting more on equal status in the decision-making process than on a veto against any kind of missile defence. Moscow’s negative position on the independence of Kosovo is also not to be explained simply by imperial affectations of power. Even in the EU, there is considerable doubt about the future ability of an entity which would be more similar to an EU protectorate than even an only partially sovereign state. More time is necessary, says Moscow; it is right to say so; and at the same time, it represents its own interests. This still seems to be difficult for the Europeans to accept, as if they themselves, or even the United States, acted out of altruism. The United States, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the countries of South America, the aspiring economic giants China and India, and not least the EU are striving for power and influence. To seek to exclude Russia from this game would be absurd. Instead, in the increasingly complex power structure of the globalised world, it is important to state one’s own interests clearly and, by means of discussions with all partners, to organise this worldwide living arrangement, which not even North Korea can really bid farewell. In this new world order, crucial importance is to be accorded the EU and its relations with Russia. However, it does not look as if all Europeans have grasped this. There is no other way of explaining why negotiations on the new EU partnership with Moscow are being blocked. There is no other way of explaining why the salvation of the constitutional treaty is still being hampered. Those who seek to act as a self-confident partner for Russia must have some notion of a common European foreign policy. But this is exactly what is lacking, and it is to be feared that Europe will squander its chance. Russia – uncomfortable, overbearing, and far-removed from a flawless democracy – is offering its services as a partner but with a clear interest in its large neighbour, the EU. The chancellor and her foreign minister have understood this. It would be the greatest success of their EU presidency if they were to succeed in allaying the fears of those partners who are reluctant to accept Moscow’s advances. Without a unified foreign policy, the EU cannot be a self-confident partner for Russia.