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Europe and Russia

Without the European Union's intervention and rapid reaction on the part of the French president the Russians would already have made Tbilisi theirs. Four days after the launch of an unprecedented attack and in want of a reaction on the part of the Americans a European peace plan was put forward and accepted. For the time being it is the only guarantee that the young Georgian democracy can rely on. With Germany and Britain's aid France has shown that we did learn something from the Balkan wars of the 90's and we should be pleased this is so.

However the Russian question will keep the international community busy for a while, especially the European Union, its main neighbour. How can we work with a Russia which is so undemocratic, which is undergoing reconstruction and which refuses to accept that it has chosen the Western role model, except when it comes to the villas on the Côte d'Azur and the millionaires' yachts? How can we work with a country that cannot break away from its imperialist outmoded vision of international relations?

Will its totalitarian past, its present economic interests and its great future potential be enough to convince it that it is has a real place in the world as a peaceful or at least pacified power? Can it be persuaded that it has more to gain from settling its relations with its neighbours than from destabilizing them, to surround itself with grey areas plagued by conflicts that belong to another era? None of this can be guaranteed! The USA is in a poor position to help. And so this is a real task for the European Union.

It has to extend a frank, firm hand to Russia; no concessions should be made as far as its principles are concerned but we should extend a hand void of ulterior motives. For this we need neither vilification, insults nor threats.We need to have a true independent European strategy, which is united and shared by all and which pursues precise political goals; this notably includes helping Russia to become a stable, peaceful player in international relations - a reliable partner who respects his commitments and which puts an end to its cynical brutality which is no longer acceptable. It is true that we still have a long way to go! But if we do not do it, who will?