Rise of Russia as a Raison d’etre for the West

French academic Francois Heisbourg sees the latest hostile confrontation between Russia and the various governments of North America and the European Union over the invasion of Georgia as a cohesive force which will do much to help mend frayed ties among the West.

“There’s a strong element of paradox,” he said. “The one thing that could re-create the West is Russia acting in opposition to the West. . . . NATO had lost its way. The Russians have created a situation which gives NATO a raison d’etre again: to contain Russia.” Few observers characterize the Western reaction to the Georgia crisis, which caught Europe in its August vacation slumber, as united or vigorous. The disarray in European capitals and Washington no doubt reaffirmed Russia’s “dim view of our ability to act coherently,” Heisbourg said. “The immediate response was pathetic,” he said. “There was no NATO meeting, no EU meeting. . . . The Russians assume there are divisions, and they are right.” (…) And the West has shown signs of closing ranks after its initial stumbles, Heisbourg said. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, which is the biggest European economy and a major recipient of Russian fuels, sounded hawkish recently when she said she favored Georgia’s eventual admission into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “That’s not what the Russians were bargaining for,” Heisbourg said. “The way it unfolds in Germany will be tremendously important because Germany is an in-between country.”