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Cold War II

Russian lessons for Europe

Rather than focus on the causes of the Ukrainian crisis, which has now become the Russian crisis, we should look into the effects this will have on Europe.

In Europe a permanent member of the UN Security Council has repeatedly breached the UN Charter, likewise all of the regional treaties that it has signed (CFCE-OSCE, Council of Europe, CIS), as well as the promise given to Ukraine as it signed the Budapest Memorandum in 1994 (denuclearisation of Ukraine in exchange for the guarantee of its borders) and the friendship treaty (1997). This changes matters a great deal.

The European Union now has an unpredictable neighbour, the borders of which are not all recognised -  it has implemented military force, and is still threatening to continue, which it almost certainly will do.

Whilst Europe wanted to establish a stable, long term cooperation relationship with Russia in the obvious interest of both parties it now faces a player whose aim it is to become the major power it was once more via the terrible oppression of its people and a communist dictatorship, in spite of its shrinking demography, a political and social structure which forces its citizens, capital and wealth to flee elsewhere. In addition to this in the space of six years it has deployed its military force twice.

This is endangering Eurpoe's enlargement and neighbourhood policy long term.

The Union's generous hand, extended to neighbouring peoples - who have been attracted by its freedom and living standards, has to relinquish its place to a true foreign policy that privileges alliances.

Europe, which is a symbol of the strength of law, the peaceful settlement of differences, of multilateralism and dialogue, had no enemies. Now it has one. Not the Russian people but a regime that is terrorised by the idea of granting freedom and which pulls on the old strings of nationalism. Europe has to learn from this.

The establishment of a zone of stability and prosperity in Europe, the goal of the Founding Fathers, is under threat today and demands further effort.

From an internal point of view 2014 marks the end of the crisis. The Member States who were in difficulty are all back on the road to growth; common economic governance has really moved forward, as illustrated by the establishment and approval of banking union. The comparison with the emerging countries, over which clouds are now gathering, highlights the resilience of European economic integration and the pertinence of the euro. This year might herald Europe's return to strength, as it elects afresh all of its institutions and that a consensus is forming on the reform of their functioning and the revision of some of its policies.

But challenges are now coming from the outside. Europeans have cashed in - more than amply - on the "dividends of peace", to the point of weakening their foreign policy. Because there has been no progress towards a common defence policy which has always privileged external intervention we now have to focus on protecting our borders and those of our European allies. The alliance in NATO, which is the only guarantee for our security, should not distract them from seeking autonomy of thought and policy. The Member States of the Union must now focus all of their strength on drafting a true external policy, notably on the borders of Europe.

Their initial response bears witness to renewed determination. Their steadfastness in the face any further provocation will be decisive for the continent's peaceful future. They should now decide together to bring the constant reduction in their defence spending to an end and, on the contrary, toughen up their common diplomacy.

Europe, which is the leading economic and commercial power on the planet must also be aware that it is "everyone's neighbour", in other words its interests are global. It has to understand that in answer to the brutal use of force we cannot just respond with dialogue; we have to understand that diplomacy is only credible when it is backed by resolute determination, which is lent credibility by a strong military machine in order to guarantee peace.