Monday, April 20, 2015

Last Day of Canada-Germany Conference: Remaining Thoughts

Because of Chatham House rule, I cannot say what each person said, but it was very interesting to hear directly from Helga Schmid, who is the EU's negotiator at the Iran talks.  She also looked like my aunt, but that is neither here nor there.

Alas, she did not answer my question--she got a ton of them and didn't address my concern: what are the EU and Germany doing in the Baltics?  Given the threat of hybrid warfare--that Putin would stir up trouble in the Russian-speaking populations of Estonia and Latvia--shouldn't the folks with the biggest bags of cash be throwing some of it at the Russian speakers?  That is, give them a clearer/better stake in the status quo, reduce the resentment, and encourage the locals to report to their governments if there is any shenanigans going on. 

Thus far, the answer I can only infer is that the EU and Germany are not doing this.  It is bad enough that some folks are still abiding by the NATO-Russia Founding Act (that created a new council in which Russia could participate in exchange for NATO not basing troops in the east) even though that act is, how shall I say it, ....


Indeed, one of my greatest frustrations in my short time in Europe this week is that there seem to be plenty of people who think not much has changed.  Well, they are right for the wrong reasons--Russia has been futzing around in neighboring states at the expense of the sovereignty/human rights/etc of those places since .... 1991.  I was pleased and surprised that one of the speakers this week started with Nagorno Karabak, which was taken by Armenia in a fit of irredentism but abetted by Russia.  Transnistria came a bit later and then Abkhazia, South Ossetia and now Crimea and Ukraine. 

Perhaps Germans don't mind Russia's tossing out the Helsinki Accords (no violent border changes in Europe) since German irredentism reunification was somewhat counter to the intent of Helsinki.  Anyhow, in conversations at the conference and at NATO, it has become clear that concern with Russia is curvilinear--those closest and furthest (US/Canada) are far more serious than those in between (Germany, France). 

I have some ideas about what we should do, but I don't want to spoil a potential op-ed.  If it does not get published, I will post it here.  But the basic idea is that if multilateralism does not work, then let's try some minilateralism.

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