quinta-feira, 16 de junho de 2016

Europe´s challenges in putting "Putin in his place"

(Former prime minister of Belgium, Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party MEP and leader of liberals of European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt)

Two articles written by former prime minister of Belgium (1999-2008), Guy Verhofstadt, try to find reasons why Europe should act firmly against Kremlin´s action in the continent.

In the first article of Freburary this year entitled Putting Putin in his Place, Verhofstadt lists six crises that are shaking Europe in 2016: the regional caos caused by war in Syria, the possible departure of United Kingdom from EU, the increased refugees flux since World War II, economic challenges still unresolved, Russian expansionism and return of nationalism to the political agenda.

Author comments Putin has exarcebated at least for of these crises, with the exception of the war in Syria and economic problems in Europe. It isn´t surprise for Europeans that there is a penetration estrategy of Russia on the continent. This strategy has sought to coopt political allies from far-right, far-left and extreme nationalists with their anti-UE and pro-Russia agenda, mantaining the flow of easy money to seduce politicians and businessmen, supporting campaign for departure of UK from the bloc and more recently increasing the refugees flow through campaign in Syria. According to a NATO high-ranking general, Russians bombed civil areas with deliberated intention of leaving them no place of residence and increase the mass scape. The arrival of these imigrants heats up the debate on refugee crisis and reinforces the support of the electorate to European anti-imigrantion nationalists and Putin´s allies.

(Tensions and desagreement between Europe and Rússia: a complicated relationship.)

In the second article from June entitled Don´t Appeaze Putin, the former prime minister don´t ask only that Europe will not loosen economic sanctions againt Russia in the context of the crisis in Ukraine, but increase them. The redution of sanctions would be conditional on the withdrawal of Russin troops from Ukraine as the first Minsk Agreement in 2014. But the agreement wasn´t fulfilled. Moreover, somes Europeans diplomats and leaders from Italy, Hungary, Greece, Cyprus and Germany prefer to loosen the sanctions. The article also says that Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and the President of European Commision, Jean-Claude Juncker, will be present as guests at the International Economic Forum of Saint Petersburg, a Russian version of World Economic Forum in Davos. It would be a Russia´s strategy to show to the world the diplomatic and less agressive side of the country while it acts militarily in eastern Ukraine. About continental diplomacy, Verhofstadt says that EU expansion policy have failed. It´s soft-power hasn´t been sufficient strong enough to compete with the Kremlin assertive stance.

Verhofstadt also warned about the difficulty for Europeans to establish a common defense policy, he said a mistake. In NATO some coutries are spending less than 2% of the GDP in defense, minimun ratio requered by it´s members. The author sees a potential government of Donald Trump in US as a problem for defense of the continent, since the Republican presidential candidate have criticized the lack of financial commitment of members to the NATO, relapsing costs over Americans.

(Putin´s strategy: penetration and desintegration of Europe for a pro-Russia and anti-US alliance.)

The Kremlin´s strategy of penetration, weakening and even desintegration of EU isn´t surprise for European scholars and journalists. It´s goal is to link the continent to it´s sphere of influence in an anti-US alliance. It seems that Guy Verhofstadt managed cover in few lines all Russian strategy for achiving this goal. But I believe that mantaining or increasing sanctions against Russia are needed, not so much for it´s effectivness, but above all as a strong political position to try to put "Putin in his place". Buy the dispute is much longer and complicated: permeates the fight against financial channels to allies, Russian official propaganda through media and, above all, grooming of political leaders, intelectuals, ideologists and militants capable of reversing the Europe´s geopolitical axis from Atlantic to Eurasia. The sanctions are just a small part of this history.

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