In the aftermath of the Russia-Georgia conflict, the authors of a new report published by the European Council on Foreign Relations urge the 27-member European Union to stand united and act to prevent wider political fallout on the continent.
“The EU should help forge a positive peace from a war which threatens the foundations of the European security order, and should actively engage with its Eastern neighbourhood to resolve ‘frozen conflicts’ and avert new crisis,” authors Nicu Popescu, Mark Leonard and Andrew Wilson argue.
The conflict has sent shockwaves across the post-Soviet space – yet short-term sanctions and punitive action against Russia would be counterproductive. Instead, the paper argues that the EU should follow up the six-point peace agreement with a comprehensive regional strategy for Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus.
The EU has established itself as the main diplomatic broker in the conflict between Russia and Georgia. It should use this position to help forge a positive peace from a war which threatens the foundations of the European security order. Russia has used its conflict with Georgia to display its military power, reclaim a sphere of influence and frighten its neighbours. Rather than looking for punitive measures, the EU should respond to Russia’s demonstration of force with much stronger engagement for democracy, prosperity and security in the broader region - keeping tough measures towards Moscow on the table if Russia resists.
This war was caused in part by the dysfunctionality of the previous ‘peace-keeping’ process in Georgia. The EU must work hard towards ensuring that any new arrangements are not unilateral and do not merely legitimate Russia’s de facto control. The EU should promote an international peace-keeping mission and offer to deploy a civilian reconstruction mission dealing with development, building confidence and security between both sides, and tackling wider political issues. It should also encourage the United Nations to set up a commission of enquiry to help establish the truth on the causes and conduct of the war.
Instead of focusing on short-term sanctions against Russia, the EU should move quickly to raise its profile in the Eastern Neighbourhood and to help stabilise other conflict regions - paying attention both to old ‘frozen’ conflicts and potential new flashpoints. The EU should also make a special commitment to Ukraine: It should recognise its right to EU membership in the future, agree to a more liberal visa regime, offer a solidarity clause backing Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and move to integrate Ukraine into the EU’s energy market.