Learning Lessons

by Nathan Hamm on 1/9/2006 · 3 comments

MosNews reports that some in Europe are calling on Europe to draw lessons from the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute.

“Europe has to recalibrate itself, not to the idea of a growing, democratic Russia, but to a Russia that is behaving according to its sense of its national interests,” New York Times quoted John C. Kornblum, a former American ambassador to Germany who is now a banker in Berlin, as saying. “It is not concerned about winning prizes in the West.”

But the new lessons for Europe mean that the European countries should expect Russia to put political spin on an economic policy and should be ready to resist, if necessary. Experts say Europe should feel free to link politics to its own economic bargaining — for example, prodding Russia on human rights or democracy as part of the price of remaining a customer. Lecturing Russia on the evils of using energy as a political weapon makes little sense, given that it derives so much of its hard currency from oil and gas, and Europe’s dependence is only likely to increase.

While not a particularly close follower of European foreign policy, I do notice a tendency for Europe to hold fantastical views of the intentions and behaviors of certain states with which it is forced to deal. Optimism has its place, but it sometimes seems as if “unwarranted optimism” and “European optimism” are interchangeable terms. Despite the fact that some folks in Europe obviously do think seriously about international politics, the political class seems immune to lesson learning and allergic to action.

(As an aside, the US made one of the mistakes the article says Europe should avoid. Though I agree with the content of the criticism, it’s ultimately a pointless one. The situation did a fine job of resolving itself on its own. Additionally, though we do have many differences with Russia, we need not publicly air our grievances over every single one.)

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Jonathan P January 9, 2006 at 6:23 pm

This from the International Herald Tribune’s story of today:

“Turkmenistan’s secrecy clouds gas deal”

“The resolution of the dispute over natural gas between Russia and Ukraine last week increased Kiev’s reliance on fuel from Central Asia, a deal that will now entangle Ukraine in the complex oil and gas politics of Central Asia.”

more here:


Nathan January 9, 2006 at 6:38 pm

Ya, I say this and thought “moment of truth time.”

Kuda January 11, 2006 at 10:59 pm

Europe crying foul play to Putin, really they should know better. Of course politics was involved – Byelorussia, Georgia etc. getting more favorable deals (or more phased) – but all countries help out cooperative friends and hey, the market is still the market.

Aren’t the real big baddies though the (US) advisors who ‘opened up’ Russia to the markets in the ’90s?

One interesting thing I read was that the Ukrainians did themselves no favors my initially sending their first delegation with a Ukrainian/Russian translator – I bet Putin loved that little (& stupid) snub.

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