The Finlandization of Europe


Marcel H. Van Herpen, who heads up the Cicero Foundation, has released a new paper entitled “Russia, Georgia and the European Union: The Creeping Finlandization of Europe.”  As one can observe from the opening allegory in the paper about Europe’s soft post-invasion response to Russia’s military actions in Georgia, Van Herpen intends to pull no punches in his condemnation of European sycophancy:

It is as if suddenly a wolf had broken into a henhouse and the chickens run in all directions in a desperate sauve qui peut. After the first shock the chickens start to accuse each other: whose fault was it that the wolf came in? And they come up with different reasons. Maybe we spoke too loud, or the wolf has been humiliated. Maybe we provoked the wolf or did not treat him with the necessary respect. Thereupon they decide not to provoke him, to treat him gently and with more respect than ever. The wolf, however, knows very well why he came: he simply had hunger…

The paper, written in what even I would call an angry tone, calls European leaders to task for having put their trust into the Russian explanations for war, and subsequently debunks some of the common myths.  Much of what is argued in this short report was also discussed in much greater (even excruciating) detail at a recent conference at the Hudson Institute featuring Andrei Illarionov and Svante Cornell (watch the video of the event here).

Is this just a minor backlash to Russia owning the news cycle last month, or will it be an all out blowback?

I don’t think that even a supporter of the Russian case for war woulddispute that Europe handled the situation with visible weakness ofprinciple – after all, they unilaterally decided to hold the PCA talksdespite Russia not fulfilling the terms of the ceasefire, which theyhad previously stipulated would be a conditional requirement for theresumption of negotiations. 

Yes, the PCA is relatively meaningless atthis current juncture, but it is still an astonishing message being sent from French President Nicholas Sarkozy on behalf of Europe; that it is perfectly OK to ignore what we say, because we will give you what you want anyways.

In all the debates I read about the war, I think we still have a tremendous gap in the discussion between the two sides.  It’s either all about Russia’s nostalgia for empire, and its willingness to seize back land and knock over governments at any cost, or, on the other side, it’s all about a feisty, immature president of a tiny country, who thought he could continue provoking Russia (and personally insulting its leaders) without punishment because of his relationship with the United States.  I don’t even bother considering all that garbage about Russia trying to frame the issue as a humanitarian intervention in the exact same language as Kosovo – there’s no need to export the “doppelgänger effect” and abuse the language of human rights.  Both sides are fond of presenting the war as an inevitable outcome – but that’s about as close to agreement as exists (read both Medvedev and Saakashvili).

The central question that needs to be discussed is whether or not Moscow’s claim to have entered into war on the basis of greater geopolitical security concerns is legitimate and credible.  This is more convincing with regard to the missile shield issue, but much less convincing with regard to NATO enlargement – which is a brand new grievance.

And with regard to the “Finlandization” of Europe, what no one seems to be addressing is why they have chosen such a path to surrender nations bordering Russia to Moscow’s sphere of influence.  According to the Van Herpen paper, it seemed as though many European leaders were simply hard pressed to do something, anything, that would clearly establish them as independent of the United States.  But why not also mention the sizable Russian business lobbies in these countries, which for years has been eating away at these administrations for high political access.

Until we begin to talk about what are and what aren’t Moscow’s legitimate security concerns, and what motivates French, German, and Italian leaders to side with the authoritarians over their distasteful outgoing counterpart in Washington, we will just keep going in circles.