Dezember 02, 2010

How will WikiLeaks affect European Diplomacy with Eastern Partner Countries?

WikiLeaks and the "leaked cables"

In his post "How will WikiLeaks affect diplomacy?" Jovan Kurbalija made some interesting conclusions of how will WikiLeaks affect diplomacy as a whole: "Probably the only positive impact WikiLeaks will have is that it will demystify diplomacy. (...) The global diplomatic plane has to be fixed while it is flying. It is very likely that diplomatic services will immediately react by increasing security, becoming more exclusive, and even more secretive. It will, at least temporarily, discourage those who argue for having more engaging and inclusive global diplomacy. The exact opposite, in fact, to what, at least declaratively, WikiLeaks wanted to achieve."

In advance I wish to give a short overview on the importance of the released US government documents. A comment for Stratfor, republished by EurasiaNet.org, focused on the following points:
  • no sensitive information: "This information also will not contain the most sensitive diplomatic information passed between State Department headquarters in Washington and its constellation of diplomatic posts overseas."
  • damage for the US Foreign policy: "In fact, it is quite possible that these documents will do far more to damage U.S. foreign relations than the last two batches of documents released by WikiLeaks."
  • information about stances of foreign leaders: "Some of the documents reportedly contain the minutes from meetings held with foreign leaders. Such reports may contain gossip, opinion and even evaluations of the intellect and mental state of foreign leaders by U.S. diplomats."
  • short-term policy changes: "The releases may also go deeper than that, revealing that some negotiations were not carried out by the United States in good faith, or lend support to the idea that the United States was supporting anti-government factions in some countries."
  • domestic political impact in the affected countries: "Each country’s media will look through these documents to see how the leaders and the country are characterized, and at that point, the reaction by their political elites to the leaks becomes shaped and constrained by that country’s domestic politics. Depending on the nature of the information disclosed, domestic politics may demand the type of reaction that political leaders would otherwise be reluctant to make."
But how will WikiLeaks affect diplomacy with countries involved in the Eastern Partnership initiative of the European Union? The Eastern Partnership was launched by the European Union in May 2009 to address deeper relations with the Eastern neighbouring countries Armenia, Azerbaidshan, Belarus, Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova. The leaked cables affect mostly US diplomacy and place US diplomacy onto extremly muddled situation. The leaked cables contains some analysis of diplomacy affecting European and Eastern policy makers. However, much of the information is not entirely new.

When the conflict between Russia and Georgia escalated in August 2008 over the secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the danger for the style of European leadership was already factored in. In this crucially importnat point for EU-Russia-Eastern partners relations diplomacy was needed more than even before. But the leaked cables pointed out some of the basic sentiment that will even perhaps characterise the future diplomacy system in EU-Eastern partners relations.

German Foreign policy: Angela 'Teflon' Merkel and her European diplomacy

Angela Merkel, G8 Summit, June 2010
(Archiv). Foto: Credit © European Union, 2010 
The USA critically review German Foreign policy and especially Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel. She is supposed to be "risk aversive". Chancellor approachess in international diplomacy are determinated with the aim of how Angela Merkel can profit from it domestically. She is "known for her reticence to engage in aggressive politics, preferring to stay in the background until the 'correlation of forces' is clear and then engaging to nudge the debate in her preferred direction." In the reports the Chancellor is referred to several times as Angela 'Teflon' Merkel, apparently because so little sticks to her, Spiegel Online reported. By contrast, from 2007 till 2009 Angela Merkel is seen by US diplomacy as the "only leader man enough to 'rule' Europe," The Telegraph noted. "Angela Merkel's role as Germany's and Europe's leader is undisputed. No other leader of a large member state is politically fit enough to offer himself up as a leader," The Telegraph cited confidential cable from April 2007. US diplomacy pictured the German Chancellor very controversive: So little sticks to Angela Merkel as European leader.

What is Germany's track record on leading European diplomacy, which involves support for the Eastern partner countries? It should be stated that German Foreign policy in terms of worldwide economic and financial crisis and increased importance of Russian and Asian (Chinese and Indian) markets becomes, first, more risik aversive (no guarantee for European integration at any price), and second, more open for closer cooperation with Russia on European issues with some restrictions (see German-Russian "Change through Rapprochement or just Free Trade")They are all complex issues that will continue to play an important part in all aspects of modern German Foreign policy, but there was "nothing new under the sun".

Germany has to some extent a sense of a kind of fatigue for guiding Europe. One may consider that Germany now faces the political and social challenge of turning the sequence of leading and supporting the European Union integration process into a kind of computer system which should be resetted or upgraded.
"Germany is becoming more “normal”, meaning more willing to use its strength and to accept responsibilities that go along with it. That looks to America like a good thing. But can Europe afford a more normal Germany?" (The Economist)
Such negative assessment in Germany can surely be made of the activities initiated in the meantime at all levels of foreign relations, especially with the Eastern neighbours. Asian and Russian emerging markets have already attracted German Foreign (Economic) policy. Foreign policy is strongly orientated to the engagement of Russia in European, mostly security matters.

Since Deauville, the Transnistrian issue was revived. German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested "that Russia, along with Ukraine, Moldova, Transnistria, the O.S.C.E, the European Union and the United States, revive the so-called 5+2 talks. (...) Germany also wants Russia to eventually withdraw its troops from Transnistria so that Moldova can regain full control of the country. At the same time, Transnistria could be granted some degree of autonomy. In return, Mrs. Merkel is offering Russia something it has long sought: the establishment of an E.U.-Russian Political and Security Committee where Europe and Russia would work closely together in civil and military crisis management operations. Russian diplomats have made it clear they see such a committee as a chance to influence Europe’s security policy," The New York Times reported. The Transnistrian issue (and other security aspects) arised in Angela Merkel's speech at the 7th OSCE Summit in Astana (Kazakhstan), on 1 December 2010. "Thus, Moldova emerges as a pilot project and a litmus test for budding EU-Russian security collaboration." (Dmitri Trenin in a commentary for the National Interest)

Whereas Germany must, in compliance with European common norms and, where appropriate, in close collaboration with EU Memeber states, ensure that more balanced and successful European Foreign policy those responsible for common European acting are allowed to carry out European tasks in the best possible conditions.

WikiLeaks and the troubled Eastern neighbourhood

GAERC-Extraordinary Session on Georgia (13 August 2008)
Archiv: Bernard Kouchner, Radoslaw Sikorski, Petras Vaitienkunas.
Foto: Photographic service of the Council
of the EU © European Communities
The leaked US diplomatic correspondence by the internet platform WikiLeaks and the new circumstances cast a different, but no really new light on the European stance towards some Eastern neighbouring countries. The most prominent example is the most debated topic in EU-Russia-Eastern partners relations, namely the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and the visible facets of drift apart, among the EU Member states.

The US diplomacy "paints a vivid picture of how EU was split into 'Russia-friendly' and 'Russia-hostile' cluns, with German diplomats 'parroting' Russian arguments and Latvia suggesting that NATO should consider sending arms to Georgia," Andrew Rettman reported for EUobserver.com. "One camp's overriding priority is to stop the suffering and ensure the cease-fire is respected, that it is too early to judge or blame and the EU cannot appear biased. Members include Malta, Cyprus, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. The other camp says Georgia made mistakes, but the overriding concern is that Russia launched a full-scale invasion of a sovereign nation in violation of international commitments ... Members include England, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, the Baltic states, Slovenia, Slovakia and Bulgaria," told a Swedish diplomat to his US counterpart, cited by EUobserver.com.

What is more important is that Poland "has taken on a surprisingly forceful leadership role during the Georgia conflict.' The Polish foreign ministry 'overcame significant opposition within the EU' to call an EU ministerial on the crisis and suggested energy sector sanctions against Russia." EUobserver.com continued.

The drift apart among the EU Member states was a stance that suggested a certain degree of independence of some Eastern Member states. Once more it should be stated: There was nothing new under the sun! This stance has its roots in the late 2005 as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria founded the "New Group of Friends of Georgia" on 4 February 2005 in Tbilisi to give a straight answer to the old "Group of Friends of Georgia," originally comprised of the United States, Germany, Britain, and France, and to a Russia-First approach in Berlin and Paris. The Group pursues the aim of co-coordinating activities supporting Georgia in its striving to integrate with the EU and NATO. Its meetings take place annually at the level of foreign ministers.

Another important issue leaked by the US department documents is on the democratic, or to be more precise, the undemocratic development in the neighbouring countries. Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia and Russia "are already or are swiftly becoming 'mafia states' according to a senior Spanish prosecutor cited in US diplomatic cables," Andrew Rettman reported for EUobserver.com on 2 December 2010. Organised crime, mafia spread and illegal smuggling shape the domestic development of the mentioned countries. It should be ensured that the European Union and its action programs of involving neighbouring countries, which are geared to the deepening of the EU-Neighbours relations in different topics (free-trade area, visa liberalisation), are constantly questioning the democratic development in theEastern Partner countries. The only difference to the released US documents is that official European judgements at least significantly mitigate the democratic development in the neighbouring countries. There are commitments, but there is nothing steady inside them.

Summary: Nothing new under the sun! Or is there?

Before reading the cables and watching the first top story on TV I have been inclined to see the release of state secrets with consequences for the Global Diplomacy. It is clear that most of the information, and especially the information on European diplomacy with Eastern Partner countries has been spectacular but foreseeable.

Negotiations with the neighbouring countries on Association Agreements ensuring deeper relations with the European Union on high topics such as free-trade cooperation and visa liberalisation are entering the next round but are they anywhere near the completition in a such international environment? Two aspects may play a crucial role in affecting European Diplomacy with Eastern Partner countries:
  1. In the short and medium term, relations between EU Member states and neighbouring countries may become more reluctant.
  2. The statements made by European officials may imply domestic impact on high-ranking officials in the neighbouring countries by taking decisions on ongoing activities with the European Union.
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Kommentare:

Isha Shiri hat gesagt…

Excellent analysis, congratulations.

I think that Europe is a heap of interest, but still leaks WikiLeaks not is important, in fact the world is taking an importance that Wikileaks no has. In fact, the Europe is still the same patchwork of nations, wealth and ethnic groups, mainly Eastern Europe. The financial crisis in Europe, and other movements in the former Soviet republic still weigh like a shadow on diplomacy and economic interests outweigh the frontiers and the social issues.

This is my simple opinion.
Isha Shiri

EU21Global hat gesagt…

Hey Isha,

you are absolutely right!

Hristofor

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