But first: we have yet another agreement between Ukraine, Russia and, to represent the EU and the West in general, Germany and France (I'll come to that later on). The agreement, though arrived at after an all-night sitting, does not seem to be that different from the one signed in September, which was broken within hours.
As Baroness Falkner of Margravine said in the debate that followed the Statement on Ukraine in the House of Lords, also on Tuesday:
Does my noble friend accept that in the unlikely circumstance that we have progress in Minsk tomorrow and that Mr Putin sticks to his word perhaps for more than an hour or two, or even a day or week or two, the holding of any ceasefire is contingent on the verifiable force of peacekeepers?Indeed, that debate showed that few of the peers, interested enough in the subject to participate, had any illusions about the Russian President (who continues to look ever less like a human being and ever more like somebody who could be put next to the Lenin wax work in the Mausoleum).
One of the participants in the FPC discussion was Edward Lucas of the Economist, a man who is very knowledgeable about Russia and other countries that had formerly been either in the Soviet Union or the European Communist sphere but whose great fault is inability to look beyond the European Union even though he spends a great deal of his time rightly criticizing its activity and non-achievement.
It was he who made the obvious comment that the whole idea of an Eastern Partnership was deeply flawed as it involved treating very different countries, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus as being essentially similar and homogenous. This is, undoubtedly, true but the problem is that this is the only way the EU can create policies. Mr Lucas also added that "we" presumably the West but mostly "Europe", a concept that was mentioned frequently throughout the evening, have no Russia policy. Indeed not. The EU has no Russia policy just as it has no Ukraine or any other policy because it cannot have one.
This goes back to the whole problem of common foreign policy on which I have written so often that it would be impossible to link to the various postings here or on my erstwhile blogging home, EUReferendum. Foreign policy has to grow out of some definition of interest and the European Union's member states have no common interests while the Union's own interests do not extend much beyond survival and ever closer integration. (In fact, one of the member states, Greece, is an ally of the Putin government and has always been pro-Russian, regardless of what was going on.)
When I first started writing about the common foreign policy and its non-viabiltiy, all those years ago, I compared the EU to an amoeba in that its survival depended on shape changing and swallowing of organisms close to it. At the time the nascent common foreign policy consisted largely of efforts to make the neighbouring countries into member states. There could be no question of policies or relationships. If a country could not become a member then we did not know what to do with it and that, obviously, applied to Russia.
The fall of the Soviet empire presented the EU with various problems, some of which it could solve to its own temporary satisfaction by taking the Central and East European countries in, even though at least two of them, Romania and Bulgaria, remain problematic. The Balkans were and continue to be a mess despite the fact that two of the former Yugoslav republics are now within the EU and little attention was paid to the former Soviet republics except for the Baltic ones that are, as agreed by all, in a different category.
No optimistic or pessimistic analysis can possibly postulate EU membership for any of the countries in question. Therefore, they will remain near (or relatively near) neighbours and some sort of a relationship needs to be established with them. But, not having any particular interests only general, ill-defined "values" the EU cannot do so. Therefore, it has fallen back on its past method of treating all the countries as one region and dealing with them as such. The fact that this method has been unsuccessful in the past does not seem to bother anybody. After all, argue the officials involved, what is successful? We have structures, we have conferences, committees, reports and funds for managing certain problems. What else do we need for success? The fact that we cannot cope and are not set up to cope with the huge crises in the various countries, let alone the war/civil war that is going on in parts of the Ukraine remains a detail.
Mr Lucas is right to point out the faults with this sort of policy but wrong in that he cannot see that it is endemic to the political construct he has (still) such high hopes for.
[I was hoping to cover the subject in just one posting but find that it is not possible. Therefore, I shall put this up on the blog and continue in a second installment.]