Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The more things change... 

The Old Europe/New Europe division lives on, Iraq or no Iraq. I read this article by Steven Paulikas of "Newsweek" in hard copy yesterday but Dan Foty has beat me to finding a link (so, a hat tip). It's the best exposition of how the European landscape looks like after the Ukrainian storm. The money quote:
"Officially, Old Europe's leaders have welcomed the changes in Ukraine. Behind the scenes, the rhetoric has been very different. 'I've never seen anything like it,' says a U.S. official just back from Warsaw and Kiev. 'They're really beating up on Poland,' as well as other new members [for their support for the Ukrainian opposition]."
Everyone in Europe remains obsessed with Russia, but the obsession manifests itself in different tactics according to where exactly in Europe you live. Central and Eastern Europe which has been under the Soviet/Russian domination for decades, and in many cases centuries, is terrified of the powerful, expansionist Russian bear. Hence the driving desire to build a stronger, democratic buffer separating Mittleuropa from the Muscovy, using countries like Ukraine and, hopefully in the future, Belarus. Ideally, of course, Poland & Co would also like to see a democratic, stable and peaceful Russia herself, but failing that a Russia surrounded by a cordon sanitaire of democratic, stable and peaceful former Soviet republics will do.

Western Europe, which has never been dominated but merely threatened and menaced by Russia in her Tsarist and communist imperial guises, is more interested in a stable and friendly Russia. For the West, Ukraine is not the buffer, it's the whole of the Eastern and Central Europe. It doesn't matter if the buffer itself is democratic or autocratic, content or sullen; Russia trumps all. If she's happy, then the West is happy, if she burps, the West gets indigestion, too. The New Europe doesn't think much of the West's stability fetish, mostly because historically it was her who had to pay the price for it with her enslavement. The Old Europe is just happy to keep feeding the bear as long as it is with somebody else.

And at the moment, as Paulikas's article clearly illustrates, the Old Europe is mighty annoyed with the New European upstarts for rocking the boat, humiliating, and needlessly antagonizing Russia. There must be many an old European hands in Brussels right now regretting the EU expansion and fondly remembering the good old days of the Coal & Steel Community when only respectable Western European states needed to apply.

If anything, it just goes to show that even if the United States and its foreign policy were to disappear overnight from the face of the Earth, all parts of the world would wake up in the morning still facing the same problems - but no Uncle Sam to blame them on.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?