The text contains no word “sanctions”. It should be mentioned that before the summit no European leaders, including malevolent Britons, Poles, Scandinavians and Baltic States – no one had been talking of sanctions. It had been Russian TV stations to speak about that most of all, probably, preparing the home informational market for the comments about some “failed attempts”. In reality we were just scolded, but not beaten and not taken anything away. And here we are, triumphant. Instead of friendship and partnership we can be offered commodity-money relations that were flourishing between the West and the USSR even during the worst years of the cold war. The Europeans, though, do not want returning to that point.
”We want modern partnership with Russia, however, after what has happened we cannot deal with her like nothing has happened.” Such was warning by the chair of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso. The EU has made the future relations with Russia conditional on how she fulfils the peaceful plan containing 6 clauses arranged between Moscow and Tbilisi by the French President Nicolas Sarkosy. The heads of states and governments of 27 countries gathering for special meeting in Brussels (such a thing had happened only once before, in 2003, in relation to the war in Iraq), have condemned disproportionate use of force by Russia against Georgia and delay of withdrawal the Russian troops from Georgian interior districts, also unarranged with the international community recognition of independence of breakaway territories of Abkhazia and the South Ossetia. The EU appealed to other countries not to follow the model given by Russia.
The decision by Brussels is not final, though. This is just verification of positions, statement of unanimity of the EU and warning intended for the Kremlin. The decisive meeting will be held on 14 November in Nice at the Russia-EU summit, where advocates and adversaries of the tough policy towards Russia will establish who of them is right and what further steps should be taken. Before the Nice, they have agreed not to suspend the standing cooperation programs and at the same time to abstain from starting new ones.
There will be landmarks before meeting with Dmitry Medvedev at the Cote d’Azur. The discussion will be continued at an informal meeting of foreign ministers in Avignon on 5 and 6 September. And on 8 September the EU leadership, represented by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and the chief Representative for foreign policy Javier Solana will be visiting Moscow and Tbilisi. It is expected that by that time Russia will have fulfilled the plan consisting of 6 points and would have withdrawn her troops from the Georgian territory.
The EU countries have decided to postpone the planned for 15 September the second round of talks dedicated to the new Russia-EU partnership agreement till the moment the Russian troops get withdrawn from the Georgian territory. Great Britain, Poland and some other countries have been insisting that no talks in general about such an agreement should be held while Moscow is carrying out such a foreign policy. Poland even put under the question the suitability of summit in Nice. On the contrary, France, Germany and Italy consider that quitting the dialog with Russia, and other tough measures, would be premature.
The Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, when speaking for a pragmatic course towards Russia, made a backhanded compliment saying that “she still has a nuclear potential capable of ten-time destruction of the Earth population. Her economy grows for 7-8% a year, and this is the country where there is a lot of oil and gas”.
The decision of suspending the talks was taken after Sergei Lavrov called Russian intrusion on Georgia to be a new standard of protection her national interests. If this is really the new standard of the Russian foreign policy, then it does not fit the ideology of the new partnership agreement. Sarkozy reminded that returning of the spheres of influence is unacceptable.
Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian representative in the EU and the head of delegation at the talks, is not complimentary about the summit’s decision. However, he sees no tragedy in it. “We need these talks no more than the EU does. It rather punishes itself, as that does not improve its image as a reliable partner” he said. Whatever happened in the near future perspective about the Russia-EU relations, the Caucasian crisis has anyway undermined the mutual trust. It is significant that the problem of energy has been mentioned separately in the summit’s resolution. The leading idea is the wish for lessening the energy dependence of the West on Russia. The sources and routes of the oil and gas supplies will be diversified. There will be no hasty actions, and yet the general course has been defined.
Before the summit, it had been talked much about disagreement among the EU countries. That was really noticeable, though, not as much as it was in 2003 on the occasion of war in Iraq. This time the “old” and “new” Europe turned out to be more compliant. The French President even announced solemnly that the Caucasian crisis had promoted the consolidation of the European unity.
At the press conference Mr. Sarkozy got mostly tricky questions from the French journalists. They reproached him acrimoniously that he is a bad diplomat and that his peaceful plan turned out to be unclear, incomplete, and somewhat ambiguous. Mr. Sarkozy gave some details of the mission that gave birth to that “imperfect” document. During the very first talk the Russian leaders required that Mikhail Saakashvili’s regime be replaced. “I stated to that that it’s no their business to replace the legally elected authority in a foreign country” narrated Sarkozy.
The French President, who is commonly considered to be a pro-American politician, dissociated himself from Americans, saying that the EU proved to be strong enough to stop war in Georgia, but it does not want return of the cold war. The EU has acted using political methods and did not threat with sanctions, did not flex its biceps and did not send its ships to the Black Sea. However, smooth attitude by the EU and tough approach by the US turned out to be complementary. Defending himself against accusations of being too mild towards the “Russian bear”, Sarkozy promised to take upon the responsibility when it is time to act toughly. And what is needed now, is coolness and dialog. In case the dialog with Russia proves ineffective, then the leaders of 27 states have other measures in stock.
Sarkozy informed journalists that Dmitry Medvedev promised to secure for return of all the refugees in the zone of conflict in Abkhazia and South Ossetia since 1990’s, and not only those who had to flee as a result of the recent battles. “It is unacceptable to strengthen the results of the ethnic cleanses from any side” he stressed. Of course, it’s not everyone who might want to return, but anyone must have this opportunity, no matter Georgians, Ossetians or Abkhazians.
Right after the summit the discussion moved to the amphitheater if the European Parliament. There reporting to the journalists was the French foreign minister Bernard Couchner. The spectrum of positions was even wider than that of the top of the executive power: from appeals to oppose the restoration of the Russian imperialism to condemnation of pro-American course and criminal policy by Saakashvili.
The French foreign minister told about the details of mission to Moscow and Tbilisi. He and Sarkozy had been seriously afraid that the purpose of the Russian troops was to take Tbilisi and bring a marionette government to power. This is why they saw their task as to cease fire as soon as possible.
The condemnation of disproportionate use of force by Russia was a result of argument. However, major part of the European Parliament deputies agreed that there is no justification for decision by the Georgian leadership to shoot at Tskhinvali.
”By no means sleeping cities can be shot at” said the French foreign minister.
At the same time, the Europeans were shocked with published by the Russian side figure of 2,000 of casualties in Tskhinavli. Later it turned out that the figure was just made up and was not confirmed by independent observers.
While the Brussel’s summit did not take final decisions about Russia, the support of Georgia was confirmed definitely. The EU will render her humanitarian aid and will take part in restoration of the ruined infrastructure. The EU does not possess sufficient budget means for that, and this is why an international conference of the donors will be mustered.
The crisis prompted Russia’s neighbors to get closer to the EU. The summit’s resolution provides for measures of accelerated involvement of Georgia and Ukraine in the European orbit, also development of the “eastern partnership” of the EU that is to embrace all the former Soviet republics. Georgia was promised strengthening relations with the EU, including making the free trade area and simplification of the visa system.
The Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze, who was in Brussels on that day and had a meeting with Javier Solana, hailed the EU resolution as “firm and based on principle”.