Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (1948- ), Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
On Saturday, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Secretary General of NATO, said that strengthening Russia’s ties with the West is vital and the NATO-Russia Council can play an important role. Speaking at the 45th Munich Conference on Security Policy, Mr de Hoop Scheffer identified two partnerships that need fundamentally strengthening, the second being the one between Europe and the United States.
He said that the NATO-Russia Council had great potential, but, warned there was a long way to go, expressing doubts about President Dmitri Medvedev’s proposals for a new European security structure in the wake of Russia’s recognition of and cooperation with the separatist republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. “I cannot see how we can have such a serious discussion of such a new architecture, in which President Medvedev himself says territorial integrity is a primary element, when Russia is building bases inside Georgia, a country that doesn’t want those bases. That cannot be ignored and it cannot be the foundation of a new European security architecture”, he said.
On Europe’s relations with the United States, the NATO head said coming together must be a “two-way street” and singled out Afghanistan as a potential litmus test. “I’m frankly concerned when I hear the United States is planning a major commitment for Afghanistan, but, other allies are already ruling out doing more. That is not good for the political balance. The Obama administration has already done a lot of what Europeans have asked for, including announcing the closure of Guantánamo and a serious focus on climate change. When the United States asks for a serious partner, it does not just want advice, it wants and deserves someone to share the heavy lifting”.
French President Nicholas Sarkozy (1955- )
French President Nicholas Sarkozy told the conference that Russia is not the main military threat for NATO and the EU. “Russia today does not constitute a military threat to the European Union and NATO. I don’t think that the highest threat facing NATO and the European Union is military aggression from Russia”. He said that Russia is not a threat to Europe because of many internal challenges and demographic problems it currently has to deal with. Relations between the EU, NATO and Russia remain strained following a brief armed conflict with Georgia in August last year and Russia’s subsequent recognition of the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Relations were further marred by a Ukrainian-Russian gas row in January. M Sarkozy, who was heavily involved in the diplomatic resolution to the conflict over South Ossetia, stressed the necessity of confidence-building measures between Russia and the EU.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (1954- )
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia must be included in European security structures. Frau Merkel said it was in the general interest to involve Russia in Europe’s future security structures, adding that attention should be paid to the initiative of President Dmitri Medvedev on discussing a new security set-up for the continent. Relations with Russia play a key role in European security as Russia is a part of Europe, Frau Merkel said. She added that the new NATO security approach should be all-encompassing.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk (1957- )
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that Poland will follow through with the deployment of US missile shield elements on its territory. Mr Tusk said the missile defence system was a preventative measure and would play an important role in Europe’s security. “We are willing to participate in difficult projects because we believe this will underscore our ability to defend ourselves, but also the preventative capabilities of the transatlantic community”, he told the conference. The Polish prime minister also expressed support for countries who wished to join NATO. Russia’s relations with the military alliance have been strained by its eastward expansion, and Moscow vehemently opposes membership for Ukraine and Georgia.
Before leaving Warsaw for the conference, Mr Tusk said the ultimate decision on the missile shield lay with the United States. Russia objects to the system as a threat to its national security, but, top officials in Moscow have repeatedly expressed hopes that the new US administration will reconsider the plans. “We are a very honest partner of the United States, and if we agree something with the Americans we always keep our word”, he said at a news briefing on Friday. “We are ready to participate in this project, but the decision, of course, is with the American side”. Washington agreed with Warsaw and Prague on plans to deploy 10 interceptor missile silos in Poland and a radar site in the Czech Republic by 2013. The United States says the defences are needed to deter possible strikes from “rogue states” such as Iran. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said at the conference on Friday that the shield is aimed at Russia’s nuclear deterrent.
US Vice President Joseph Biden (1942- ). According to Mark Halperin, he has shown “a persistent tendency to say silly, offensive, and off-putting things”. Indeed… well-said.
US Vice President Joseph Biden said that the United States will continue to work on a planned missile defence system in Central Europe, but, it will consult Russia. “We will continue to develop missile defences to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven to work and cost-effective”, Mr Biden said, adding, “We will do so in consultation with our NATO allies and Russia”. Russia has consistently opposed the missile shield as a threat to its national security and officials have repeatedly expressed the hope that President Barack Obama would not follow through with his predecessor’s missile defence plans.
On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said at the conference that the shield is aimed at Russia’s nuclear deterrent, but, he added that Moscow would not follow through with its threat to deploy Iskander missile systems in Kaliningrad oblast if the United States gave up its missile shield plans. Mr Biden’s message to Russia was mixed, suggesting more effort at engagement, but, giving little sign of movement on the core issues, such as the missile shield and NATO expansion. “It is time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should work together”, he said, identifying Afghanistan as an area for greater cooperation between NATO and Russia. Vice President Biden said the United States was willing to receive “ideas and consultations” from foreign partners during the conference about how to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan.
Mr Biden was unequivocal on the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two separatist republics recognised by Russia following a five-day war with Georgia sparked by Tbilisi’s invasion of South Ossetia. “The United States will not recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. We will not recognise a sphere of influence. It will remain our view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances”. Under President George Bush, Washington was a staunch supporter of Georgia and the Ukraine in their bids to join NATO, which was vehemently opposed by Moscow.
7 February 2009
Instead of five little pieces, as they were all interconnected, I conflated the articles into one easy-to-access report. This does deserve a second read, if I may say so. Look at what Merkel and Sarkozy are saying and what Biden and Tusk are saying. To put it simply, M Sarkozy and Frau Merkel have spat on the Looney-Tunes assertions of the US neocons and are willing to have Russia as an integral part of Europe. Were this to happen, there would be no need of an American presence in Europe, and it could be the very reason that these two leaders are advocating such. Do not forget that Frau Merkel grew up in the DDR, not the BRD, and she speaks fluent Russian…
De Hoop Scheffer slavishly toed the American line, but, he was unsupported by the French and German leaders. “Russia is building bases inside Georgia, a country that doesn’t want those bases”, he said. As the Rt Honourable Bugs Bunny would say, “What a maroon!” Abkhazia and South Ossetia were never part of the post-Soviet Georgian state, despite many violent attempts on the part of the Georgians to seize the areas. Without French and German support, de Hoop Scheffer was left hanging in the wind. Were Germany and France to leave NATO (not a far-fetched possibility)… hmm…
Tusk said nothing that wasn’t expected, although some of his words lead one to suspect that he fears that the US could renege on the missile shield deal. “We are a very honest partner of the United States, and if we agree something with the Americans we always keep our word”. Hmm… looks like there are doubts in Warsaw.
As for Joe Biden, he was his doltish and loudmouthed self. Do not forget that one of his formative influences was a Croatian RC priest who defended the murder of 600,000 Orthodox Serbs by the Ustashi bandits in World War II. His Russophobia is well-known, indeed, one wonders why Mrs Clinton was not here… “The United States will not recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. We will not recognise a sphere of influence. It will remain our view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances”. Is that so, Joe? Cock-a-doodle-doo! That is what that is worth, Mr Biden!
Guess what, Joe? You said, “Sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances”. That means that South Ossetia and Abkhazia have the right to decide on their freedom from the Georgians and ally themselves with the Russians. You are hoist on your own petard! POW! I would advise Mr Obama not to send this loudmouthed and ignorant cretin anywhere as a representative of the USA. He failed the test here, sir, and he shan’t get any better, things being what they are.
Besides, Mr Obama should mark well another loose-cannon statement of Biden the Brain, “We will not recognise a sphere of influence”. Izzat so? Go back to rear of the class and put on the dunce’s hat, Biden! The Monroe Doctrine has been an integral part of US foreign policy since the 19th century. That is a “sphere of influence” if there ever was one. We would have hoped that you had paid attention in class instead of throwing spitballs, sir…