Sunday, December 18, 2016

PETER KORZUN -- EU Confused About Its Future: Mulling Cooperation with Moscow to Counter Trump

EU Confused About Its Future: Mulling Cooperation with Moscow to Counter Trump
PETER KORZUN | 18.12.2016 | WORLD

EU Confused About Its Future: Mulling Cooperation with Moscow to Counter Trump

The European Union is prepared for a more deal-oriented relationship with the United States once President-elect Donald Trump takes office, said Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission on December 3.
According to the top EU diplomat, a more independent EU might line up with Russia against any efforts on the Trump administration’s part to scuttle the Iran accord, shake up Middle East policy, or reduce the role of the United Nations. «In a transactional manner…case by case, you will find issues where I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Europeans and the Russians on the same side — Iran deal, Middle East peace process, possibly the role of the UN», she said.
She also expressed concern over the possibility of Russia-US rapprochement at the expense of Europe.

The statement shows how deeply the EU is disoriented after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States under the «America First» slogan. Unlike national governments desperately trying to protect their interests while maneuvering between various poles of power, Brussels has been overtly pro-American, from supporting foreign military adventures to promoting the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The EU leadership’s apprehensions appear to be justified. Donald Trump stands for the priority of national interests over globalization. In a way, it’s an isolationist approach. His attacks against China and Iran, the nomination of the «pro-Russian» candidate for the position of state secretary and the calls to reform NATO – it all goes to show that the EU will have to adapt to new reality. With its future uncertain, Brussels has to find its place in the changing environment. Making advances to Moscow mirrors the process of looking for new foreign policy orientations amid growing confusion in the EU leadership’s ranks.
Mogherini believes that the common points with Moscow are «Iran deal, Middle East peace process, possibly the role of the UN». But the European Union is not a UN member; it’s not clear what is actually meant. It’s also hard to understand how Russia and the EU could join together to counter the US in Syria with all the ballyhoo raised in Europe about Russia’s «atrocities» in Aleppo. Brussels has never launched any initiatives of its own to manage the crisis in the war-torn country.
The Iran deal is an issue to talk about. Indeed, Donald Trump has said many times he opposed the agreement and wanted it to be renegotiated. This policy is in contrast with the Russia-Iran rapprochement taking place but it’s too early to talk about Iran as a dividing issue in the Russia-US relationship after Mr. Trump takes office.
The conjectures that these issues could bring Russia and the EU closer to each other while opposing the United States are baseless. The very idea is a sign of desperation. No doubt, the EU is going through hard times and this is the wrong moment for opposing Moscow. But nobody stands in the way of lifting the anti-Russia sanctions as the first step in the direction of normalizing the Moscow-Brussels relationship. The restrictive measures are useless anyway.
But despite what Ms. Mogherini said about possible Russia-EU cooperation, the bloc extended its economic sanctions against Russia by six months on December 15 to greatly complicate the relations. With the sanctions in place, all these vaguely formulated proposals about Moscow and Brussels coordinating foreign policy efforts, including the US policy which is yet to take shape, is a waste of time.
Russia launches initiatives of its own but it prefers the proposals to be clearly defined. Here is an example. In his interview with German Die Welt on December 14, Vladimir Chizhov, the Permanent Representative of Russia to the European Union, made a proposal to launch military cooperation between Russia and the EU.
Russia and the EU have experience of joint military operations in Chad, the Balkans and fighting pirates near Somalia’s coast. According to the diplomat, Moscow is ready to conclude an agreement and provide a legal basis for such joint activities. Russia and the EU could take command of joint forces in turn or conduct them under the UN command. Putting the existing differences aside and cooperating on security issues could change the entire pattern of the bilateral relations encompassing other areas of the relationship. The ball is in the EU court.

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