February 27, 2009
This post was first published in TH!NK ABOUT IT site 25th February 2009.
During last twenty years war for humanitarian reasons has came quite popular in political vocabulary e.g. in Balkans and now with Georgia case. The ideal to use power in the service of ethics is good. The problem is the low level of ethics when US is using her power in world. EU has been mostly economical union without any significant military muscle – U.S. lead Nato has had that role.
As economical – if not military – power EU’s influence to conflicts is sc. soft power. Should EU take more distance to U.S. foreign policy? I think yes, an independent 3rd way should be taken into consideration.
Balkans and Caucasus are suffering about US Cowboy policy
United States Foreign policy during last decades could be described as series of strategical errors. When Soviet Union splintered, the US saw possibility to widen its influence through breakaway republics and former satellites, do whatever want in the rest of world and feed her powerful military-industrial complex. Supporting on one hand nationalist/populist leaders (Georgia, Ukraine, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo) and with one hand elsewhere dictatorships (Asia, South & Middle America); making alliances with terrorist groups (Al Quida, KLA) shows that the aim was only reach short term tactical gain. Attacks to Serbia and Iraq were made on base of fabricated information/propaganda and probably also the intelligence from Afghanistan was not better.
Georgia was one again failed example about US Foreign policy which aims to create classical “banana republic” to Eastern Europe where US controls crucial foreign and/or domestic policies of another nation through ties with its military and intelligence institutions. EU’s military, political, and corporate elites have already increasingly become dependents or confederates of the US military-industrial complex. While Russia wishes to safe its “inner courtyard” – sc “Russian World” US is doing the same with its MacWorld. However today it seems that those two worlds have more and more common zone: Many ex Soviet republics have joined or are dreaming of joining NATO, missiles and radars are coming closer and closer Moscow – it feels that new cold war, old polarization/confrontation, is coming.
All above mentioned has now leaded to polarization of world and confrontation between Russia and the US. When the US has acted (lunatic style) as one’s own discretion one effect is that UNSC has been guided to sidetrack. United States policy in the Balkans has been dysfunctional, characterized by cynicism, duplicity and short term tactical gain and at world level as series of strategic errors. Let’s hope that those errors are not duplicated any more in Caucasus or elsewhere.
The bluff of US Foreign Policy has normally been “western democracy” etc. However the record in Georgia was questionable. In one report, Human Rights Watch asserted that “the fragility of Georgia’s commitment to human rights and the rule of law were revealed on Nov. 7, 2007, when government forces used violent and excessive force to disperse a series of largely peaceful demonstrations in the capital, Tbilisi.” In the other report even (the Western nearly governmental elite lobby group) International Crisis Group warned of a creeping authoritarianism in Georgia and urged Western governments to pressure the regime in Tbilisi to respect democratic principles.
To show his admiration for the U.S. president, Saakashvili even renamed the main road to Tbilisi’s airport George W. Bush Street. The same was made earlier in Kosovo. It is good to think globally but better act locally. Like in Balkans before Caucasia is today suffering US cowboy policy which is creating unnecessary confrontation with Russia. There is maybe way out from banana republic status when local governments start to develop their policies more from domestic needs without too much adoring transatlantic short term games.
3rd Way out
As a Finn I would like to ask if third way could be possible also elsewhere. Finland has over 1000 km common border with Russia, number of wars has been between us and Russia/USSR but also lot of good times like Autonomy time 1806-1917 as well last decades with increasing economic cooperation. With this background today more Finns are against than pro to join NATO and our dear neighbours in Sweden have similar results in opinion pools.
This neutral – unallied – position makes it possible to approach world politics, human rights, economical issues etc with critical way be that critics to east or west. I do not mean that critics should be end in itself or the top priority for e.g. Caucasian countries. However I am from old school and believe that real progress can be made only after fresh debate, dialogue or at least tolerance between local stakeholders not copying values or practices e.g. from Washington nor Brussels bureaucrats.
The unallied position is same time open to all kind of cooperation to all directions. The statements about world events are our own; they are not coming from Washington or Moscow. Personally I like this third way, is it possible also for Caucasus – I hope local stakeholders can decide.
I see that the only way out from today’s confrontation is that the Great Powers start dialogue from empty table with equal basis, one output could be the restoration of UNSC as a forum for global conflicts. The global challenges e.g. environment, poverty, 3rd world conflicts etc are so big that no individual power can solve them. These challenges should be top priority, not short term wins of private armies, military industry and short-sighted politicians.
Could EU lead the 3rd Way?
In Europe the Kosovo question highlights the core problem of EU – uncritical following of US foreign (cowboy) policy . Some times I ask if it is EU, only UK or ex-Sovjet lapdogs the 51st state of USA. To me it is alarming, that this US policy has been made both during democratic and republican US presidents. Future shows if the change will come with new president – I admit to have some doubts because he didn’t changed the old advisers. And will US succeed to gain support for these actions either through the use of NATO or by persuading the European Community or the newly emerging states of Central and Eastern Europe to get on side. I hope that change will come and different actors both sides of Atlantic could have debate from more equal base than before.
For economical development EU has e.g. its Neighbourhood programmes for non-member states. EU can also make any kind of individual agreements such as customs, visa regime etc with non-members so they can enjoy many EU benefits without membership.
Questions to answer for adopting 3rd way in EU
- Does EU or the majority of its member states want more independence from U.S.foreign policy?
- Can EU’s Nato members and partners change Nato or challenge U.S. superiority in Nato?
- Can EU find a common vision, strategy and position with its external relations?
I do not know if my proposal is realistic. I know that my mother was fleeing from home when USSR occupied that part of Finland during WWII. I also know that I have found some of my best friends from Russia. Lesson learned – one can forget past wrongdoings and look forward. Dialogue and tolerance at local level is in my opinion the best guarantee for sustainable solutions. Collecting guns on the borders is from my point of view the worst scenario excluding use of them.
Note: While speaking above about 3rd way I have used term only as such. There is no direct connection to sc. Third Way philosophy designed by U.S. Democratic Leadership Council some 10 years ago. That philosophy rests on three cornerstones: the idea that government should promote equal opportunity for all while granting special privilege for none; an ethic of mutual responsibility that equally rejects the politics of entitlement and the politics of social abandonment; and, a new approach to governing that empowers citizens to act for themselves. Also term 3rd way is now used in EU describing the efforts to find a privileged partnership for Turkey instead of normal membership.
More my views in my Archives:Blog!