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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN But first, here’s my take. Some of President Obama’s critics have an alternative policy toward Russia that they propose. The president, they say, should call Vladimir Putin a thug. OK, but the fact is that what Putin is going to worry about these days are not American words but European actions.

The European Union is by far Russia’s largest trading partner. The EU buys much of Russia’s energy. It is the major investor in Russian companies and the single-largest destination for Russian capital. In fact, the Ukrainian crisis has shown a spotlight on one of the great gaps in the world right now. The lack of a strategic and purposeful Europe. Consider how Europe has dealt with Ukraine from the start. It could not really decide whether it wanted to encourage Ukrainian membership in the EU so it sent mixed signals to Kiev which had the initial effect of disappointing pro-European Ukrainians, angering the Russians nevertheless, and confusing everyone else.

Things began to stir after Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008. In the wake of that event, the EU promised an eastern partnership to the countries along Europe’s eastern fringe, including Ukraine. European leaders were now beginning to woo Ukraine, but without recognizing how this would be perceived in Russia.

The EU did eventually offer Ukraine a deal but it was a bad one. It was full of demands for reform and restructuring of Ukraine’s admittedly corrupt economy but with few offers in the way of aid to soften the blows or sweeten the pot.

When then-President Yanokovych rejected Europe’s offer and sided with Moscow, he set in motion a high-speed, high-stakes game that Europe was utterly unprepared for and could not respond to.

On Ukraine Europe has always been a step behind, internally conflicted and unwilling to assert itself clearly and quickly. Those same qualities have been on display ever since the shoot down of Flight 17. The your European Union still has a chance to send a much clearer signal to Ukraine, Russia and the world. It is debating sanctions this week. It could ask that Russia pressure the pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine to cooperate fully with the investigation of Flight 17.

It could ask that the Ukrainian government, which Moscow recognizes, be allowed to take control of its own territory in eastern Ukraine. It could put forward a list of specific sanctions that would be implemented, were its conditions not met within two weeks.

In addition Europe should announce longer jump plans on two fronts, first to gain greater energy independence from Russian oil and gas. European nations must also reverse a two decades-long downward spiral in defense spending that has made Europe a paper tiger in geopolitical terms.

Germany, for example, spends only around 1.5 percent of its GDP on defense, among the lowest levels in Europe, much below the United States and well under the 2 percent which is the target for all NATO members.

It’s really difficult to have your voice heard and feared when you both speak softly and carry a twig. The problem is now being described by some as European cowardice and appeasement. It is better explained by an absence of coherence among 28 very different countries, a lack of strategic direction, and a parochial inward orientation that hopes the world’s problems will go away.

The result, nevertheless, is a great vacuum in international life with terrible consequences. If we look back years for now and wonder why the liberal open rule-based international order weakened and eroded over the years, we might well note that a crucial problem was that the world’s most powerful political and economic unit, the European Union, with a population and economy larger than America’s, was the great no- show on the international stage.



Posted July 28, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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