JOE BIDEN AND US NEW POLICY TOWARDS EASTERN EUROPE by Anton Caragea PhD, MA, FINS
On 17 of July at European Council on International Relations was published a letter signed by 22 former presidents, intellectual and policy makers from Central and Eastern Europe announcing their mistrust in the new rapprochement policy with Russia . Regarding the abandon of the missile shield in Poland and Czech Republic the letter pointed out: “Abandoning the program entirely or involving Russia too deeply in it without consulting Poland or the Czech Republic can undermine the credibility of the United States across the whole region”. Now Joseph Biden has toured the region proclaiming the US new vision for Eastern Europe.
End of confrontational vision.
First announcement made in the visits in Ukraine and Georgia between 20 and 24 July was the end of the confrontational vision at Black Sea that G. Bush has supported. Even the visit in those two countries was left to Joe Biden, vice-president while Barack Obama has selected Moscow as the main step on his diplomatic journey. This was a gesture never made by previous administration which only visits Moscow after visiting Romania, Poland or Baltic states in order to send an unambiguous signal that relations with Russia are determined by Russia policy in Eastern Europe. No such signal come from Obama administration, sending the vice-president was itself a sign of downgrading relations with the region. Joe Biden also announced the policymakers in Tbilisi and Kiev that now is the time to have better relations with Russia and pressured US allies like Georgia’s Saakashvili to open society and to embrace democracy reform, which was seen as a favorable moved toward pro-Russian opposition which is regularly accusing President Saakashvili of dictatorial ambition. Also in Kiev Biden didn’t missed the opportunity to meet Victor Janucovici the Kremlin backed main contender for president Victor Yushcenko for presidential bid in 2010 Ukrainian elections. A striking difference form previously US unwavering support to orange revolution leaders in Ukraine and Georgia.
Yushcenko a leader of orange revolution now abandoned ?
End of the missile shield.
Now between 20 and 23 of October vice-president Biden was in a new diplomatic journey to Eastern Europe visiting Poland, Romania and Czech Republic in order to officially announce the US redraw from the Missile Shield Plan. Announced in 2007 by Bush administration, the Missile shield was seen by many as a continuation of Reagan Star Wars, that help bring down Soviet Union economy and communism system. This time the shield, publicly oriented against Iran, was universally regarded as a pressure against Putin`s Russia. All the leaders of the region have seen this sign of US commitment to the Eastern Europe in the face of a new assertive Russian power. The Obama administration decision to build a small shield, really dedicated counter Iran ballistic system, on Black Sea in Turkey and Israel and maybe Azerbaijan, was looked as a further signed of US disengagement in the region. Joe Biden visit was projected with the purpose of calming eastern European fears and to build a new relation between US and Eastern Europe.
A new U.S. strategic vision.
Joe Biden explained in Warsaw, Bucharest and Prague that: US is not seeing Russia as an enemy and the Cold War perception of Moscow as a foe that must be isolated under an Iron Curtain is over . The result of this assertion was that US will not tolerate and support rebellious actions as Georgian-Russian war in summer of 2008 or Ukraine pressure on Russian navy or Romanian plans to counter Russian influence at Black sea and Polish pressure in Belarus. All this actions of harassment backed by previous US administration must end.
Also US is ready to sponsor a detente in the Eastern Europe- Russia relations based on economic and cultural relations and on a new vision of a common economic space between Russia and Europe. This vision of peaceful cooperation is not shared in the region , the 22 former leaders wanted a tougher stance on Kremlin: “When it comes to Russia, our experience has been that a more determined and principled policy toward Moscow will not only strengthen the West’s security but will ultimately lead Moscow to follow a more cooperative policy as well”. The US response is a startling: No! to this vision.
Saakashvili sacrified on the altar of a new US-Russia relationship ?
A space of economic cooperation.
Instead of political confrontation from Baltic to Black Sea Joe Biden is wanting to see economic cooperation and more precisely: energy cooperation. In Poland he was spoken about energy routes in the Baltic linking Russia and Europe closer, in Romania was speaking about Trieste- Constanta gas pipeline and a liquid gas terminal at Constanta, based on Qatari gas transported to Romania and from here to Western Europe. Also Biden expressed support not for EU backed Nabucco pipeline, destined to override Russia as a gas supplier to Europe but to South Line, a Russian sponsored gas pipeline. To measure what a disappointment this speech will be for Eastern Europe leaders I quote one more time from there letter: „Central and Eastern European countries should lobby harder … for diversification of the energy mix, suppliers, and transit routes, as well as for tough legal scrutiny of Russia’s abuse of its monopoly and cartel-like power inside the EU. But American political support on this will play a crucial role. Similarly, the United States can play an important role in solidifying further its support for the Nabucco pipeline”.
Finaly Joe Biden signaled in all the capitals his wish for a new generation of leaders in Eastern Europe capable to understand the necessity of a new policy towards Russia, in Bucharest, he was paying a lot of attention to opposition leaders in order to signal the US disinterest in the fate of Romanian president Traian Basescu, a former darling of Bush administration, and the play was repeated over and over in Warsaw and Prague.
Lessons of Joe Biden visits.
First it is interest to point out that Biden avoid going to Baltic States , shattered by economic crisis , isolated in EU and pressured by Russia, a sign that Baltic States must first end there anti-Russian stance and normalize relations with Kremlin. Also Biden didn’t visit Bulgaria that already switch to a more conciliatory stance with Russia accepting Russian pipelines on his territory, supporting Russia in Kosovo, Serbia and Balkans relation and opened for strategic business partnership with Russia. Also Hungary that signed 10 billion agreement on gas, energy and oil with Russia accepting to become Russia`s main energy partner in the region was avoided. For Bulgaria and Hungary the new Washington vision was already in place; make business not war was the tune form White House. This was a visit to last remaining pro-Bush strongholds: Poland, Romania and Czech Republic destined to signal that US is redrawing support for confrontational vision. Cohabitation with Russia is a must for the new leaders of the region.
Professor Anton Caragea PhD ,MA, FINS