Spotlight on Geopolitics

Slowly but surely, EU leaders are waking up to the fact that they should take regional security into their own hands and promote a neighbourhood diplomacy which would eventually have to exclude NATO or the United States, but would be inclusive of Russia and Turkey.

This is the new geostrategic context in which the Sarkozy-Merkel-Medvedev meeting has taken place last week in Deauville. As the leaders of the two most powerful EU countries, Sarkozy and Merkel could no longer overlook the adverse consequences for the Union of the US’ involvement in promoting the Orange revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia and Romania. The two previous winters beset by gas supply interruptions, as well as the Georgian war were alarming enough events for France and Germany to take action. Now that a pro-Russian president is again in power in Kiev, and that the Georgian conflict is largely frozen even if not solved, Merkel and Sarkozy can concentrate on the future relationship with Russia and, to a lesser extent, with Turkey.

Since 2008, president Medvedev has advanced a common Russia-EU security architecture project, which until recently has received the cold shoulder from Paris or Berlin. Far from trying to divide the NATO alliance, as American pundits claim, the Russians feel that regional security would be better served if Russia and the EU adapted to the new geopolitical landscape and built a regional security organisation. Indeed, as the EU is one of Russia’s largest customers for oil and gas, it makes sense for both supplier and end-user to join forces in ensuring the security of supply routes and – it goes without saying – in preventing the US from interfering again in each other’s “spheres of influence”. The pay-off, especially during these tight economic times, could be huge, as this way both EU and Russia would save tens of billions of euros earmarked for the construction of undersea pipelines, originally planned to bypass problem-countries like the Ukraine.

Further afield, the European Union has to compete for Central Asian oil & gas with a turbo-charged China and with a burgeoning India. By comparison, Russia’s cooperation with China is functioning smoothly : oil & gas pipelines have been built, from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to China, and more are planned and paid for. To date, the Europeans haven’t been successful in completing more than one such project with Russia, namely the North Stream pipeline. That brings it into the same leagues with India, which experiences similar difficulties in securing its energy supplies. In both cases, the negative outcome is the direct result of the US’ involvement in regional security matters and trade options, from Eastern Europe to the Persian Gulf.

Russia’s frustration with US-supported revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia, and the disruptions of gas supplies that affected Gazprom’s earnings, have determined Moscow to shift its geopolitical agenda towards China, taking its Central Asian allies along with her. Thus since 2001, Russia and China have established the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), designed to deal with security threats affecting Russia, China and Central Asia. The SCO is the first working example of a regional security organisation which will become the hallmark of the security arrangements of the evolving multipolar world. Similarly, the ASEAN countries have this year started working on their own collective security architecture, and across the Atlantic, a group of Latin American countries have established Unasur as of 2008.

As a consequence, the European Union, will have to compete for the natural resources it needs and for political influence with a player like China. The latter was quicker off the mark and better at developing a brisk raw materials and energy trade with Russia, Central Asia and Latin America, as well as in reaching cooperative security arrangements with Russia.

Coming just weeks before the Lisbon NATO summit, the Deauville summit has given a clear indication of where the immediate security interests of the European Union lie. These, to be sure, are not global, but regional in scope and would have to involve Russia and Turkey. As for NATO, the outdated organisation is still in search of an elusive enemy, which will probably have to be found in outer space, in partnership with NASA. (sources: EurActiv, Presseurop, SME.sk, BBC)

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