The Soviet Union was dissolved 23 years ago. The experiment of exporting and imposing the Russian vision of socialism on 14 other countries had collapsed in spectacular fashion. It was a resounding victory for Ronald Reagan, Rambo, Capitalism, Democracy and “Western” values – in that order. The 15 post Soviet countries were then Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Countries within their influence but not part of the Soviet Union broke free and looked to find a new place in the growing and expansionist European Union. Czechoslavakia split. Yugoslavia fractured into many pieces. And Europe picked up the pieces. On the back of their economic problems and the dissolution of their Empire, Russia had no diplomatic clout left to speak of. They did inherit the Soviet seat on the Security Council along with its veto and that kept them at the big table if rather ineffective.
But all that is beginning to change. There is a long way to go but with its wealth of resources the Russian economy is beginning to recover. There is a resurgence of Russian diplomacy. Russian diplomats are beginning to have opinions on all matters of substance. They are aided and abeted by a muddled and meddlesome EU together with an indecisive and risk-averse President in the US.
In foreign as with economic policy the EU is a place of very many voices. Some members are looking to create a successor to the Holy Roman Empire with a Holy European Empire. Others are looking to create the United States of Europe. Some want in for the benefits but want out of the costs. But rather than being a place for the dissemination of best practices it has become a hodge-podge where the lowest common denominator applies. They claim to share the same “values” of equality and freedom but none of them like dirty gypsies from Romania. The European Parliament and the European commission add layers of fairly useless politicians and bureaucrats. If only there had been a rule that every sinecure created at the European level would have been accompanied by a reduction at a country level! Radicalised youth in the EU now provide cannon fodder for many conflicts around the world. On all possible sides. The UK and France provide psychopathic young muslims to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa. French and German and Swedish skinheads travel to the Ukraine to support the neo-nazi Right Sector.
With so many countries in the EU it is not too surprising that they get confused. A referendum in the Crimea is illegal but a referendum in Scotland is OK. They have been fooled into supporting miltant islamists in Syria and have handed the opposition into the control of Al Qaida. They have tried to meddle in the Ukraine and only succeeded in building up the neo-nazi Right Sector and in provoking Russia to enter the Crimea ostensibly to support the Russian origin population. One Swedish politician today suggested implementing a fast track entry for the Ukraine into the EU “as a signal to the Russians”. Little people trying to be politicians on the world stage. With 28 member states and 8 more in the wings, with a full range of political opinions in each country, it is hardly surprising that what emerges as policy, from the attempt to be balanced, borders on idiocy. Meanwhile the US is tired of its expensive adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan which have achieved very little. President Obama is looking to disengage wherever he can. To take on new risk is anathema. In Syria, Obama kept re-drawing red lines, and kept retreating behind them. That proxy war is being won by the Assad regime supported by Russia. The US and the EU no longer know who they support – or should support – in Syria.
Syria and the Ukraine are just examples. A confused EU together with an indecisive US are providing the Russians with opportunities to test their diplomatic skills and to test the resolve of the EU and the US.
And judging by the results so far, neither the US nor the EU has a sticking point. There is not a leader in sight.