Diplomacy, not dogmatism

By Alexis Papachelas

A friend who moves comfortably within the circles of the European establishment recently described a particularly interesting experience when he found himself in a discussion behind closed doors with leading officials and analysts regarding the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Everyone at the meeting, he said, was rehashing the European Union’s official position and expressing heavy criticism about the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The discussion took a different turn, however, when someone dared to express a different point of view. This person more or less spoke of the fiasco of European policy vis-a-vis Russia and Ukraine, while admitting that Poland and the Baltic states had dragged Europe into a dangerous situation with no planning or clear strategic target.

The unnamed individual also expressed concern with regard to an eventual war of escalating sanctions that would prove disastrous not just for Moscow but for the European Union as well.

The fact that it only took one person to bring up the subject before everybody else followed suit by essentially reversing their previous politically correct talk in its entirety was nothing short of impressive.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a great supporter of realpolitik, recently expressed a similar point of view.

The senior American politician invited Europeans to take a look at the map and consider what they would do if they were to find themselves in Russia’s and Putin’s shoes with regard to Ukraine.

Kissinger even took a step further by suggesting that the only feasible and sensible solution in this case would be Ukraine’s Finlandization and argued that European interests dictated working together with Russia. Instability within Russia and the country’s unforeseen intentions were not in Europe’s interests, Kissinger concluded.

Obviously there is a counterargument to all this. No country can violate another country’s internationally recognized borders.

On the other hand, we live in the real world and we all realize that foreign policy based solely on good intentions never works.

This is the case in Syria, for instance, where, all of a sudden, Washington is unofficially allying itself with Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the face of a rapidly rising threat from Islamist militants.

The world today has become a very complicated place, a place where there is no room left for experimentation, naivete or dogmatism.