Europe, not the US, can get Russia to behave
Europe must take advantage of its special pull on Russians.
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The EU should develop more traction with Russia so as to capitalize fully on its advantage. The EU should devise ways for Georgia and Ukraine to participate in an association with step-by-step integration, free trade arrangements, and a road map for eventual EU membership. The road map should be accompanied by an intensified EU-Russian dialogue that would underscore the benefits of cooperation for all parties.Skip to next paragraph
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If Russia treats its neighbors and economic partners fairly, an enhanced EU-Russia partnership should be on the table. Incentives work best when combined with clear expectations. Mistreating energy investors, such as BP, or undermining the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe should have well- understood consequences.
These steps would better anchor Russia and its interested neighbors in Europe's architecture, enhance democratic gains and political stability, and build a stronger foundation for prosperity. Then, further democratic and economic reforms would make those countries more attractive partners to the EU.
Closer linkages with the EU would also discourage Russia from picking fights with neighbors for fear of diminishing its own European relations.
The West should adopt a long-haul strategy with South Ossetia and Abkhazia akin to nonrecognition of the forcible incorporation of the Baltic countries into the USSR in 1940. This policy allowed the West to pursue high priorities with Moscow, such as nuclear arms control. Likewise, today a formula needs to be found which will permit negotiations for a new EU-Russia partnership agreement.
In addressing the UN General Assembly this fall, French President Sarkozy suggested a good way forward, "Why not build across the whole Continent a common economic space which would unite Russia and Europe?"
He is on the mark. Isolating Russia or keeping it permanently at arm's length would be a historic error. Eventually, Russia will awake from its tragic history of authoritarianism and imperialism. Europe and the EU can hasten this by offering the prospect of closer integration if Russia respects the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of its neighbors. When president, Obama can reinforce this course, but America cannot substitute for Europe.
• Denis Corboy is director of the Caucasus Policy Institute at King's College London and a former European Commission ambassador to Georgia. William Courtney and Kenneth Yalowitz are former US ambassadors to Georgia. Mr. Yalowitz directs the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College.