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Turning a Page: How EuroSkeptics May Change the EU

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An Election Poster in UK, supporting the UK Independence Party

 

Two days ago, a political earthquake rocked the foundation of the European Establishment, according to French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls. His description is not far off the mark. For the first time in the twenty-five year history of the European Parliament, the EuroSkeptics on the Far Right have not only won nearly 25% of seats in the in supranational parliament, but have also managed to defeat many of the establishment parties in their own countries. This does not just apply to countries that have fallen on hard times, like Greece, Spain, and Portugal, but also to traditional supporters of European integration, like France and Spain. The wave populism and anti-EU feelings regarding what scholars and political leaders have called the “Democratic Deficit” have reached a boiling point, while creating an even greater crisis for the establishment. While much can change over the coming years, there is for the first time a Populist EuroRight Movement to challenge not only the Leftist parties, but the traditional conservatives as well.

The French National Front Leader Marine Le Pen, her British counterpart, Nigel Farage, and other EuroSkeptic leaders would like to characterize this victory as ordinary citizens standing up to an unresponsive institution, united by the common cause to fight the encroaching power of the EU. However, the EuroRight movement is a very splintered one. It does not yet have the legitimacy to call itself the voice of all European conservatives who would like to turn back time to before the EuroZone. Instead, the EuroRight can be divided into two groups of EuroCons: parties drawing their strength from Economic woes, and those from traditional establishment that are Social Conservatives. While they play on similar slogans, they represent two different kinds of European who feel increasingly disenfranchised by their own governments and EU. For an American, this may bring memories of the Tea Party Movement that emerged within the U.S. Republican Party during the 2010 Mid-term elections, responding to big, and unresponsive government and the wave of social change being sparked by Barack Obama and “Big-Tent” politics.

Why the South and East Symbolize Lessons of Integration

IF we view the EuroRight as a response to perceived loss of economic and social rights among EuroSkeptics, its not hard to realize they come from countries that the EU bears the greatest burden of supporting. The EuroDebt Crisis inspired Germany and others to look for stronger fiscal responsibility among members. That rhetoric from Bonn, Vienna, and Paris coincided with harsh economic measures to curb government spending and halt slipping economic gains among Europe’s most needy countries. The dominoes fell across Southern Europe. Spain and Portugal have been victims of economic stagnation for years, including a “brain-drain” in both countries. These parties defeated traditional socialist and conservatives on platforms highlighting the economic woes brought on by austerity, pointing the finger of blame at Bonn, Paris, and Brussels. The conflict and rhetoric became further tied to issues of Eurobonds, banking reform, and strong immigration controls.

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Data demonstrating how Spending and Receiving of funds takes place in the EU.

Greece itself has been the poster boy for EuroSkeptics lashing out against economic austerity. While a base for the EuroLeft, Greek establishment parties hoped to discredit the forces of the Far Right by making a good showing in these elections. They failed. Instead, parties like Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi movement, managed to obtain a seat alongside their conservative partners in the Euro Parliament, sending shockwaves across the continent. But like Germany in the 1930s, harsh economic times have given weapons of rhetoric to both extremes, and Greece has certainly endured the harshest economic crisis since the 1970s (which ultimately brought down its military government).

The economic nationalism of the Far Right is not just contained in the South, but has spread to newer members in Eastern Europe, including Poland and Hungary. It is a product of self-inflicted wounds, from policies for rapid integration of EU states before Maastricht (1996) that did not place emphasis on economic standards for membership. Data collected by various European news and research groups show spending that not only shows disproportionate spending and growth. Countries that take the most money have seen a stronger backlash by EuroSkeptics on the Right than others, though their are exceptions. Because of the lack of common fiscal policy to accompany common monetary policies, the European Community is now fighting with economic nationalists who are determined at all costs to stop the conversation altogether.

Just Kick’em All Out

This goes without saying such conversations about economic nationalism are being driven by an identity crisis never before in history. “What does it mean to be European?” “What is the European Identity?” The EU has never been able to answer that question. It is not a superstate nor does it have the ability to make laws like Germany or France can within its own jurisdiction. It also cannot identify with a core constituency yet, since most see themselves as German, Frenchmen, Greeks, and Poles (among others). This is the argument of Social EuroCons, who have created messages to feed on people’s xenophobia and ignorance of why unity has been so stabilizing for Europe since the Second World War. While they may be motivated by economic factors, they are concerned with protecting national identity, and promoting a traditional European identity that rejects Muslims, Aethism, and foreign influences that challenge it.

Many the SocialCon groups are in establishment EU countries, notably France, Great Britain, and Germany. France has been center stage for EuroSkepticism, mobilized by the Front National and Le Pen. They have also played on France’s identity crisis, arguing consistently that the ideal of “French citizenship” is under attack by overseas immigrants. This rhetoric plays on a long history of cultural conflict in French society that Le Pen and others ont he Far Right have capitalized on in the past two elections. In return, it has damaged the moderate positions of the Socialists and UMP that French citizenship does not emphasize cultural differences, but advances social energy towards the traditional national identity.

A similar case played out in Spain, where neither major party obtained even 50% of the vote. The remainder of the electorate voted for other parties that were either calling for changes in the EU or withdrawing altogether from institution. While surprising rhetoric from a state that has benefited greatly from EU membership, below the surface shows a country that is challenged by political nationalists, calling for greater national autonomy for their individual groups, or those who think Spain would be better off on its own. But as history has shown in these types of elections, most of the rhetoric reflects people’s fears of insecurity, that the economic opportunities promised by EU membership have not lived up to their muster.

Europe’s Neo-Right

When the new parliament takes over, the EuroRight will face its first challenge of organizing itself into a Pan-European Party. It will face a daunting challenge or recognizing the need for strength in numbers while not sacrificing what has made it most effective, the appeal to popular, anti-EU voters. Like the American Tea Party, the EuroRight will need to prove it was not swept into the ranks of parliament just simply on a protest, but of a legitimate and long-lasting desire to change the institutions to its liking. In five years, both Europe and the International Community will judge and the Marine Le Pens and Nigel Farages will have to make that convincing argument, not as outsiders, but as establishment.

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The EuroRight came together, but can it stay together?

The movement is not united, but will have to overcome their own differences. The views of EuroSkeptics from Spain will be very different from the French, as will Greeks to British. The greatest challenge they face is the democratic deficit. They are the product of arguments made by old skeptics like Thatcher and De Gaulle who believed the EU as only a forum for European cooperation, not a ruling government disconnected from the true people of Europe. However, they will also be working with parties and EU Commissioners who denounced them as dangerous and without solutions to the problems created by the EuroDebt Crisis and even Ukraine. They have earned their chance to sit at the table, but now they have to get along with attendants who are ready to get back to the business of Europe. They will now face the test for all political movements: the ability to sustain themselves on messages of protest.

 

 

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EuroScepticism and the New EuroRight

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Disillusionment


 

Euroscepticism has long been a word synonymous with governments and leaders who hold the European Union experiment as an ineffective institution for resolving European matters. While Jacques Delors preached European unity through EU participation, Margaret Thatcher described the Union as just a cooperative forum for the individual states to discuss cooperation on important matters.  This friction between skeptics and Unionists was a largely political battle between governments, particularly the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

But while the conversation is the same, the people involved have changed, and participation has widened. Now, ordinary citizens and political parties are weighing into the debate, lobbying governments for or against the Union on issues ranging from the Euro, immigration and even Islamaphobia. It has further empower the Far Right, who believe the answer to Europe’s problems is to abandon the Union and retreat behind the old national borders. The affairs of Europe are too broad and diverse for anyone body to make decisions on their behalf, they have said. It has also galvanized the Far Right into action with a level of influence that has not been witnessed since the 1930s.

The tone has changed, but the motivations are differing. The gradual democratization of the EU, starting with parliament and now the EuroCommission Presidency, is shifting the level of politics to parties and individuals, not just states. In response, the Unionists have managed to organize successfully alliances of political parties across Europe, representing socialists, liberals, conservative centrists, and even Communists. Instead, regional and national anti-Euro groups work in relative isolation to each other, driven by entirely local, regional or national interests, lobbying their individual governments. Their motives, while numerous and latent, include predominantly nationalist and economic concerns, triggered by the larger economic crisis, and magnified by electronic media.

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Marine Le Pen (Photo courtesy: Reuters)

The group that has most made the headlines abroad is the controversial Front Nationale (FN) in France. Once considered a severe fringe group, it’s leader Marine Le Pen has turned into a growing force on the Right on social issues advocating protectionism, and fighting the rise of Islam in France. The FN, the leftover of neo-fascist groups that emerged during the final years of the Algerian Independence War, made a strong name for advocating deportation of illegal immigrants. Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father, was arrested for denying the Holocaust, a very sensitive issue that comes from guilt over holocaust involvement and the torture scandals during the Algerian War.In 1979, the FN attempted to form a EuroRight Movement of Far-Right groups, though it ultimately failed. For two decades, they remained marginalized by the tradition conservatives in the Union Party (UMP) and the Socialist Party.

Only in the last two decades has the party finally managed to have a meaningful impact in French politics, causing even the moderate UMP to echo statements made by Le Pen and her supporters. This acknowledgement of the Far Right’s ideas have created consternation among Unionists, especially as the economic crisis created causes for criticism of the EU. “By repeating these slogans they give them real strength,” said Ska Keller, the sponsored candidate of the European Green Party for Commission President. “We need to stand up to their rhetoric… taking our democracy and using it as we should not allow.” Le Pen remains the most popularized figure of the Far Right, though even they still cannot a continent wide formation of a EuroRight Movement.

Government leaders are still playing the game as well, resorting to protectionism or maintaining their distance from Union. Hungary’s Victor Orban resorted to protectionist policies after his policy of economic enrichment through joining the Eurozone failed. His domestic policies aside, he has retained his presidency through consistent changes int he Constitution and disengaging from the EU’s own policies about democratization of the press and other essential democratic institutions. Orban’s rebuking of the EU may be seen as a rallying point by smaller and more vulnerable states to pursue leaving the EU. Hungary has thus become a sore point for the EU’s ability to enforce its own values and treaties, fuel for eurosceptics’ fears of a Europe that has lost touch with Europeans and infringing on national values.

Economic woes part of protests in UK

In the context the times, the 2014 Euro Election will mark the first occasion where EuroSkeptic groups will control nearly  71 seats (25%) in the European Parliament, according to the Telegraph. Martin Schulz (EPP) expressed his need to hear proposals and extremists skeptics have no solutions. These skeptics have manifested their strength through preaching a language of nationalism, xenophobia, and protectionism. “Many people don’t take the Euro Parliament seriously,” said Schulz, who said such attitudes lead to groups, like the Nazi Party, being an elected participant in EU policies. Guy Verhofstedt (ALDE) emphasized the no-solution stance, saying states cannot just hide behind borders to escape the issues.

The major factor in the growth of the EuroRight is the lack any leader to unify the far right parties and eurosceptic leaders into a singular force. They are reduced to advocating at national level and below, where their interests remain local. That may change as more Eurosceptics get elected to the Parliament and they become more coordinated. While leaders like Le Pen and Geert Wilders from the Netherlands show potential, and are drawing more populist groups into the alliance. this alliance will not be strong enough if either the three major parties (EPP, ALDE or SLP) or the Greens form a coalition to govern. Though real political power lies with the national governments on the most important questions, this may have strong implications for the Parliament and Commission’s ability to address the economic crisis.

A reality of governance is that the Far Right may demonstrate the first beginnings of popular, loyal opposition to the EU, especially if it continues this movement towards democratization and integration. However, it may also be observed to be just another part of the process by which we create effective democracy. the next president and the various national leaders should be careful about empowering the Far Right, but also excluding them if their movement gets larger. Keller’s strongest point when addressing the Far Right was the need to stand up to them, while others shy away. Standing up to them maybe the strongest weapon to disarm them.

Europe in Transition: What the EU Presidential 2014 Debates Tell Us

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Candidates shown from Left to Right Jean Claude Juncker (EPP), Martin Schulz (SLP), Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE) and Ska Keller (Greens)


Nine days ago, a truly extraordinary event took place in the modern history of Europe. Four European political leaders stood on a single stage, making the case for why they should be the next President of the European Union. This first debate, the first time a Presidential debate was held on live television for all Europeans to watch, also marks an important point of transition for the European Union as it makes the leap from dominated by purely European Governments to sharing power with its own citizens.

In a debate dominated by the European economy, international security, energy and Euroscepticism, these four represent the diverse interests of 28 different countries and the values of a diverse European community. Jean-Claude Juncker, representing the European People’s Party (EPP), Martin Schulz from the Socialist and Labor Parties (SLP), Guy Verhofstedt of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), and Ska Keller for the European Green Party created a lively evening that, while filled with light humor and political drama, brought the discussions of everyday jobless youth, stagnate economies and uncertain futures to the forefront a crucial election that, for many, is a referendum on the Union’s future.

[Click the following link: As it Happened to view the entire debate]

The Euro Economy: Jobs and Bonds

At the top of the agenda, the economy was a soar subject for each of the candidates. Each was asked by the moderator and by members of the audience about the debt crisis, along with Eurobonds. Martin Schulz (SLP) claimed Europe faced the greatest credit crisis since the 1980’s. He iterated the need for a united European banking and fiscal policy, that can invest in businesses, create jobs and jumpstart the economy. Schulz, along with Jean-Claude Juncker (EPP), were heavily supportive of the Eurobond idea, though rejected it without these strong reforms around European fiscal policy. There conversations in this debate are part of the ongoing, but stalemated discussions over how to facilitate a true push for economic accountability in Europe

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The Debate

Yet economic accountability also brings political accountability and a different of focus on what is most important in regulation. Guy Verhofstedt (ALDE) called for closer relations of European states and creation of common policies for growth and sound public finance. In response to critics of his “European Federalism” idea, Verhofstadt said Europe needed more Common Policies on markets like energy while reducing while reducing internal regulations. “Europe needs a new leap forward in integration,” Verhofstadt claims in order to create new jobs and inspire confidence among people and states. Such considerations have traditionally required healthy relationships between key economic powers, principally France and Germany. The paralysis over closer fiscal union comes from an insecurity by states to hand over coveted national powers, even while they have ceded these authorities overtime to the greater benefit of economic growth, for which the Euro is the defining achievement.

Insecurity is Not Just Economics, its also Guns and Oil

The economic crisis is also related to a question of European insecurity over its own sovereignty in the 21st century. This debate is not only about a transition to popular democracy, but one of how Europe will work with its neighbors, such as resurgent Russia, the Post-Arab Spring Middle East, and the United States. Ukraine was the highlight of the discussion, where critics on all sides claim Europe has been indecisive and weak. Juncker pointed out that “Europe’s strength is in it’s soft power, and we need to pressure Russia through dialogue.” Furthermore it’s linked to a stronger need for Europe to achieve energy independence, an anxiety voiced by Ska Keller when talking about jobs and the looming problems of climate change.

However, the positions expressed by these candidates created the perfect forum for Verhofstadt’s own unique position: restarting discussions on the European Defense Initiative. This issue has been a dead letter since Bosnia and has been addressed through NATO. The Ukrainian crisis may be a signal of a changing shift of attitudes. “If Europe can create a strong security pillar, the European Pillar of NATO, then we can have a stronger, coordinated response rather than a three pronged response to outside issues,” said Verhofstadt. There was division on the issue, with Juncker claiming we need to use the instruments of soft power, such as foreign aid. Yet, each one is appealing to constituencies for a more coordinated European reaction to today’s challenges, and through the EU more frequently than individual member states.

The Greatest Challenge: “The European Solution”

This transition displays one important challenge that the new EU President will face: how to balance the aspirations of EuroDemocracy with the interests of European States. The candidates were each asked how they would balance the conflict between the EuroCouncil and the Commission. Juncker told skeptics that “real power lies with the People and people go to the polls to impose their power.” When asked if the EuroCouncil interferes, Schulz claimed “that we need a strong majority in parliament” to advocate for the people and Europe as a whole, not just governments. His commitment was to become President of all Europeans through election rather than a closed doors election by member states. All candidates did more than demonstrate their qualifications. They expressed their independence with a desire to work towards common positions on important issues.

Whether on fiscal and banking unions, federalism, united foreign policy, Europe has to grapple with the need to balance states’ interest with those of a popularly legitimized Presidency. While Euroscepticism was not addressed directly here, we will pursue it in a future publication, as it deals with with the more personal anxieties of Europeans and the emergence of more volatile local politics surrounding EU integration. Guy Verhofstadt claimed the current EU fulfills the dream of a past president, Jacque Delors, who saw the institution as a future voice of Europe. His closing remarks give tribute to Delors and the spirit of this unique movement:

“I think that what we need to understand that instead of the old recipes we have for the last five years, lets try a new Europe, one that is integrating more. I have one name for that, and it is Jacque Delors.”

It's a crucial year for Europe, as this debate demonstrates

It’s a crucial year for Europe, as this debate demonstrates

 

The Atlantic or the Pacific? How the Pivot to Asia May Hinder NATO

100415a-HQ28-007 NATO Headquarters Brussels.

The Flag of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)


 

“So I think that is one of the reasons we can face some regional problems, which are very difficult, very dramatic and is necessary to have instruments to solve these problems. NATO is such instrument.” -Aleksander Kwasniewski

When Barack Obama toured the Far East, his challenge was sticking to the script while balancing calls for U.S. attention back to Europe. The Ukrainian Crisis exposed how the Pivot to Asia has created a new foreign policy question: What future awaits the U.S. partnership in the Atlantic, vis-a-vis NATO. Even as the country has attempted to shift its attention to neglected Asian allies, it is being pulled back by countries that have shared strong security commitments in the post Cold War era. “The United States will always be a Pacific country,” stated the President when announcing the strategy to counteract China. Though if we look back at the history of U.S. foreign policy, a different narrative is present and new challenges may present themselves in denying the roots of our history as an Atlantic nation.

The Vital Institution

The last 60 years of U.S. foreign policy, in the spirit of containing global communism, has been focused on Europe and the Atlantic. The North Atlantic Security treaty of 1948 that founded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded as a regional alliance to maintain the peace and security of Europe and as a shield against the Soviet Union and its allies. It remained a silent guardian against the Warsaw Pact and a strong deterrent for military action in Europe following the Second World War. When the walls came down, it even became a medium to integrate the former communist states into peaceful coexistence with the rest of Europe.

The Atlantic Alliance, as NATO has been referred to at times, has been a substitute for the lack of common security policies among the European powers. This large gap in European unity has been filled by the United States, which boasted the economic and military power to initiate the rebuilding of the post-Second World War economy and keep the peace. The alliance allowed European states to focus inwardly, creating the economic community that laid the foundation for the European Community and the future European Union.

Finally, with leadership from the US, it has united European security interests without having to sacrifice national sovereignty over national security. While the European Union and its members have achieved the strongest level of economic integration, they have been slow and ineffective in crafting a Euro-specific security arrangement. The breakup of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian Genocide confirmed these inadequacies in European policymaking, requiring the United States, through NATO, to force a resolution to the conflict. John Mearsheimer said in a 2010 article that:

“I believe that the explanation lies in Europe’s relationship with the United States, which has changed surprisingly little since the Cold War ended. Indeed, one might argue that the trans-Atlantic relationship has grown stronger since the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

NATO has been a powerful shield of states, ready to police conflicts around the world and preserve both commerce and security beyond Europe. NATO’s Article 4 responsibility to protect each other in response to attacks was used for the first time when the U.S., after 9/11, pursued a military response to Al Qaeda and Afghanistan. The U.S. also used NATO to spearhead the humanitarian intervention in Libya durng the Arab Spring (2011).

The Pivot Away for Europe

But as times change, politics changes and interests change with new priorities. George Washington, the first U.S. President, said when speaking of the U.S.-French alliance during the outbreak of the French Revolution, that “nations are bound by interests, not friendship.”NATO has come to symbolize not only a security alliance, but a commitment to common friendship and trust in the peace of the Atlantic. But with the U.S. Pivot to Asia and the increasing emphasis of Washington on containing and balancing China as a regional power, many skeptics in Europe believe it is signal of future neglect of this vital institution.

With Russia resurgent as a major regional power, it has created anxiety amongst the eastern members, whose memories of communist rule are fresh in mind. Their call for American troops is born out of this renewed insecurity that has been present, but appeased by an attentive United States and its western allies. These countries, specifically Poland and the Baltic States, were certainly more secure when the missile shield was being installed in their borders. Even now, many western members have grown increasingly skeptical of the alliance’s effectiveness. France has been cynical

Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkal Announce Possible Sanctions against Russia (Picture Courtesy of WBJ)

Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkal Announce Possible Sanctions against Russia (Picture Courtesy of WBJ)

towards NATO since the 1960s and the UK is wary to involve itself in adventures abroad. Germany has only recently began placing harsh sanctions on the table against Russia. The U.S. has a lot to lose if the Pivot overtakes the important implications of Russian victory or even stalemate in Ukraine and the future of Eastern Europe.

A Future Without “Uncle Sam”

Looking at the record, NATO has been the strongest deterrent for major conflicts due to the close cooperation of the US and its European allies. If the Pivot should leave the alliance in a state of salutary neglect, it provides Russia with opportunities to swallow Ukraine’s eastern region and enforce its authority across Eastern Europe. In this game of great power politics, Europe will have to develop a security alternative without the U.S. It will involve a strong Germany and French cooperation, made possible, though strenuous, by the economic future of the EU. But unlike Bosnia, its not a far cry now, especially given Germany’s increased influence in the Union.

This is many years down the road and requires a stronger and more assertive Russia with a less attentive U.S. But American foreign policy is not as strong as it used to be, with one enemy and one priority. Many priorities exist, but Europe should remain at the top. NATO is the crucial link in Atlantic cooperation on security and can still be an effective peacemaker in a world that is more nebulous, dangerous and uncertain than before the Iron Curtain came down.

 

 

Geopolitical Mistake: US Troops to Poland

Chuck Hagel and Tomasz Simoniak at the Pentagon

Chuck Hagel and Tomasz Simoniak at the Pentagon


 

Yesterday, Secretary John Kerry and Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov signed an agreement to resolve the Ukrainian Crisis, through de-escalation of the conflict. But today, an announcement from the Pentagon demonstrated U.S. willingness to send troops to Poland and Estonia. In a press conference, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak claimed the move to be a necessary response to the still tense situation in Eastern Europe. “The idea until recently was that there were no more threats in Europe and no need for a US presence in Europe anymore. Events show that what is needed is a re-pivot, and that Europe was safe and secure because America was in Europe.” Similar rhetoric was used in Lithuania, a former Soviet Republic that quickly joined NATO upon their independence twenty years ago. President Dalia Grybauskaitė issued a statement, after meetingU.S. Senator John McCain, that “Russia’s actions in Ukraine pose a threat to the security system of… Europe.”

The message being posed by Washington, is to deter Russia from breaking the Geneva Declaration through military show of force. No statement has been made yet that U.S. troops will be deployed to the Baltic. However, the arrival of U.S. troops in Poland maybe seen as expanding the current theatre of conflict. Sure, Putin still has made statements about Novorussiya or New Russia. However, Russian forces massed on the Ukrainian border have not made moves to cross into Eastern Ukraine. While rebels still hold out, the situation is calmer. A shift in stance by Washington could create a larger foreign policy crisis throughout Eastern Europe, and bring greater danger to our NATO allies, including Poland and Lithuania.

A Ukrainian Issue is Now about NATO

Remember that a resurgent Russia has not taken lightly to NATO expansion in the former Soviet Republics. The Georgian Intervention was in part caused by the Bush policy of creating a Missile Defense Shield (MDS) in Eastern Europe. The problems in Ukraine are partially caused by the West’s interest for Ukraine to join the European Community. Russia is also fault for trying make Ukraine a satellite state. Putin’s insistence on incorporating the Russian speaking sections of the country has placed a road block in the path to further negotiation, along with the refusal of protestors in Donetsk to disarm. A local show of military force by the US, such as a naval exercise in Black Sea, would be considered a reasonable response to show the U.S. is not afraid, if military action was needed.

That can hardly still be the case if Russia responds to U.S. troop deployments by moving its own armies to the Baltic or along the Belorussian border with Belarus. It is now an issue of NATO and Russia’s role in policing and protecting those states in Eastern Europe. The geographical scope of the conflict changes, bringing us closer to igniting regional conflicts that were originally thought to happen in a cold war setting in central Europe. It is essentially restarting the Cold War over a local issue that should stay local.

The economic costs are also high. An unfortunate reality for Europe is that most of its energy supplies (oil and natural gas) comes from Russia via Eastern Europe. While war is extreme and hopefully farther off, any escalation that includes NATO could precipitate Russia’s retaliation via cutting off energy. By “flipping the switch” on energy supplies, the European economies will be strained. Attach that to potential demands from Moscow for the withdrawal of troops, the credibility of NATO is at risk when dealing with potential Russian aggression.

The Endgoal

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissenger is arguably the foremost expert on US foreign policy alive today, especially on Russia. When asked in the Washington Post his thoughts on Ukraine, Kissenger has this to say: “Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations… [and] should be free to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people.” As part of that, he urged the United States and the West needs to develop an effective policy on Putin, rather than demonizing him. The US, throughout the Cold War and now, has never been able to connect Russian history and mindset to the actions of its leaders. this in turn leads to turbulent politics and even reliance on our own allies (who are equally belligerent and ignorant) to deal with Russia. Now, Warsaw, Vilnius and Kiev are framing the issue in their terms, threatening the US’ ability to stay true to its own interests.

“Foreign Policy is the art of establishing priorities,” says Kissenger. Moving troops to Poland and Lithuania, at the insistence of our allies, is not the priority. Rather, it is detracting from the main goal of diffusing the Ukrainian Crisis and encouraging reconciliation between parties. It is avoiding the Novorossiya Policy challenge issued by Moscow and setting up a new Cold War scenario. The former Soviet Republics of Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova (even the Baltic states) are the 21st century “Cordon Sanitaire” that keeps Russia divided from the West. That is the direction the current policies are taking the US and our allies.

 

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