Saturday, December 12, 2015

New Calls for Dialogue with Moscow Show West has Learned Nothing from Past Russian Actions, Linkevicius Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 12 – Once again as so often after Moscow has behaved badly, voices in the West are again calling for a return to “’normal dialogue’” with the Kremlin, arguing that “’isolating Russia [is] counterproductive’” and that the West must conduct itself “‘pragmatically and responsibly,’” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Lina Linkevicius says.

            Indeed, such people are “assuming the blame for the worsening of relations, working as advocates of the Kremlin more often than it does so itself, and constantly seeking ‘channels of additional ties,’” actions Moscow views as signs of Western weakness and thus a reason to press harder (

            In short, the Lithuanian diplomat says, the West has learned nothing from Moscow’s aggression in Georgia and Ukraine and that in seeking cooperation with Russia in Syria is “again beginning the ancient game of ‘reconciliation’ and ‘a warming of relations,’” even as the Russian government continues to act as it pleases.

            Whenever Moscow violates the international order, Linkevicius continues, “the protests of the international community, NATO, the EU and harsh demands after a few months are forgotten and the ‘pragmatic and responsible’ position triumphs and there is a return to regular cooperation.”

            What is especially appalling, he suggests, is that Russia doesn’t ask for this; instead, Western leaders do as if they were responsible for what had happened and the deterioration of relations.  And because this pattern is so predictable, the Russian leadership simply continues to violate international norms because it knows that the West will return to it in this way.

            Indeed, the Kremlin “takes this as a sign of weakness, as an additional opportunity or even stimulus to act still more energetically and to conduct negotiations” not about what its violations but from the position of its “new ‘conquests.’ Such a tactic of testing and probing is methodically used in all crises that, one must note,” the Kremlin itself created.

            In Georgia, and then in Transdniestria, and then in Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk and “even in a definite sense in Syria,” that is how Moscow has acted and how the West has responded. In Syria, Moscow is allied with the enemies of the West, with Iran, Asad and the terrorist Hezbollah.

            But “what have we learned?” Linkevicius asks rhetorically. “Again calls are heard to return to ‘normal dialogue,’ not to isolate Russia because this is unproductive, and to conduct oneself ‘pragmatically and responsibly.’ And they seek ways in this situation to ‘save the face’ of Russia,” or more precisely of the Kremlin and its head.

            There have rarely been “so many meetings of ministers, summits, telephone calls, and various Normandy and other formats and other ‘contact’ formats with Russia” as at the present time, even though the Kremlin, the author of the problems, “doesn’t ask for them” because it doesn’t have to: there are so many “colleagues in the West” who do that for it.

            We are told again and again that “we will not solve any crisis” without Russia’s involvement or by sacrificing one to win in the other, “but all the same we hope for constructive cooperation [with Russia] in Syria despite the fact that we are in different coalitions, understand differently the means of resolving it and what should be the future development of Syria.”

            Moreover, the Lithuanian diplomat says, now some in the West are talking about restoring Russia’s membership in the G8 “although Russia hasn’t asked for that.” Now, some are talking about “investing in economic projects harmful for the unity of Europe” but useful for Russia. And now when Russia is challenging the West, the West wants to cooperate.

            In sum, Linkevicius says, the West is playing one game but Russia is playing another; and instead of insisting on its own rules of the game, the West is “’pragmatically and responsibly’” adapting itself to what Moscow wants and thus sacrificing the chance for achieving the West’s own goals.

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