Archive for February, 2009

Ukraine’s collapse

Ukraine’s economic crisis could have profound (geo)political consequences for European security. A default in Ukraine could lead to higher unemployment, a drastic fall in governance standards, a rise in emigration, organised crime, and an even deeper political crisis. Or these might happen even without a formal default, but with a seriously ill economy for the next few years. A failed economy in Ukraine will hit hard Belarus and Moldova (and Transnistria) putting under strain all of EU’s immediate Eastern neighbours. It will also affect some EU member states, including Austria whose banks have lend heavily in Ukraine. Any of these developments will affect the EU and could lead to a significant throw back to its anyway-unimpressive European neighbourhood policy.

Ukraine might be about to collapse economically. It is unable to meet the conditions of the International Monetary Fund to qualify for a USD 16 billion bail-out. Because it will face presidential elections in a year from now – a divided government in Ukraine is not able to meet the IMF’s condition on cutting (to zero) the budget deficit. Ukraine’s political mess was sustainable in times of economic growth, but not during the global economic crisis.

A failed economy is not yet a failed state. But the big question is what will Russia do. Read the rest of this entry »

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Russia’s neighbourhood policy in times of crisis

For the last two months, at every single conference I have been to, I saw experts or officials who start to be dismissive about Russia again. Many start assuming that after a few years of powerful and assertive foreign policy, Russia will again turn into a weaker and more compliant partner for the EU. A bit like in the 90s. With a fall of some 80%, Russia’s stock market was one of the worst hit in the world (worse than US, EU, China, Brazil, India and you name it); its total external debt is now bigger than its financial reserves; its pipeline ambitions and shopping spree of European assets undermined by lack of access to credits from Western banks. All this will undoubtedly affect Russian foreign policy, and it will change the rules of the game in the shared  neighbourhood that comprises Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and the South Caucasus states. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is the EU a mistake of history?

The EU likes to think of itself as post-modern. The superior embodiment of soft-power and post-national politics, where interdependence and the pooling of sovereignty makes it possible to move beyond decades and centuries of animosities, conflicts, and narrow state interests. The EU clearly achieved that. But the bigger question is whether the EU as an experiment is indeed a qualitative change of international politics that will affect the course of history, or just a temporary experiment.

Many Russians I spoke to think the EU is only a temporary phenomenon. L’exception qui fait la règle. When this experiment will fail, everything  will return to “normal”: power politics, “concert of europe”-style diplomacy, inequality of states, spheres of influence, and interests, not values, as the  driving forces behind international politics. Their relations with many EU member states only reinforce this belief.

I also assume that such scepticism is quite wide-spread throughout the world. The EU as a project has to unconfirm history. I am sure the EU, as such, is a temporary phenomenon. It will dissapear – in 50 or 300 years. The bigger question is whether the “EU way of doing things”, its “post-modernity” as a successful experiment will survive, be exported to other regions and change international politics as we knew it. Will EU’s post-modernity survive beyond the EU, a bit like ancient greek philosophy, or roman law survived ancient greece and the roman empire. No one knows whether the EU will change the course of history and the way international politics will be done in the future, but we better realise it is an uphill struggle.

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Interdependent neighbours

In many ways, the EU and its neighbours are deeply interdependent. What is happening in the neighbourhood affects a quite a few core aspects of the European project: from vague things such as EU solidarity and mutual (dis)trust between EU member  states, to more palpable things such as EU’s energy security, the single market, climate change goals, and needless to say, the EU-Russia partnership. Many aspects of intra-EU politics such as Lithuanian-German relations, Polish attitudes to climate change goals, Finnish foreign policy or the fact that Cyprus is a huge source of foreign investments cannot be understood without understanding the eastern neighbourhood. Therefore, this will be a blog about the EU as a project, as much as about its neighbours.

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