Denis MacShane: The mood has darkened across the whole of Europe

Related Topics

After eight years of division within Europe on geo-political strategy, is the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, building a new sense of purpose in Europe and between the EU and the US?

Yesterday's Nato meeting saw the hitherto pro-Russian German foreign minister agreeing with the firm line taken by Britain's David Miliband about Russian behaviour both in launching the land, sea and air assault of Georgia and the cynicism with which the Kremlin has ignored its pledges to pull out its tanks and troops.

Far from being a chess match in which the Russian grandmaster knocks a pawn off the board, all of Europe is looking hard at what the Putin doctrine means and it does not like what it sees. Last week, President Sarkozy was patting himself on the back after his high-speed shuttle between Moscow and Tbilisi, while Berlin believed its decision to block Georgia's access to Nato was the correct policy.

Today the mood has darkened. Mr Sarkozy now says Russia must withdraw completely from all of Georgia. Mrs Merkel says Georgia can join Nato. Poland rushes to sign a deal with America on missile defence. Ukraine now moves to the frontline as Kiev looks west to Nato and the EU in Brussels for support, rather than north to Moscow for orders.

The Putin doctrine was summed up avant la lettre by America's post-war expert on Russia, George Kennan. He noted that Russia sees its neighbours as vassals or enemies. Neither Ukraine nor Georgia will accept vassal status. When Poland and the Baltic states sought to join Nato, they were told it might make life awkward for relations with Russia. They joined Nato, then the EU, and have never looked back.

Putin apologists in the West like to blame America and the Bush-Cheney years for worsening relations with Russia. Yet Senator Obama will not allow himself to be outflanked with accusations of being soft on the Kremlin. Putin has given the American arms industry and Democratic as well as Republican neo-cons a perfect opening to launch a new Cold War.

The Kremlin wants to drive a wedge between its neighbours and other European states, and between America and Europe. And in its version of Euroscepticism, Moscow wants to disaggregate EU member states into competing nations that reject EU unity.

How should Europe and Britain respond? David Miliband is seen on the Continent as leader of the EU nations that want firm language. He should now take a lead in forging EU unity on the basis of a policy that could be called Kennan-plus. George Kennan developed the concept of containment in place of the confrontation and "roll-back" advocated by hardliners after the Soviet occupation of half of Europe.

Today we need a containment and co-operation policy with Russia. As Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform points out, Russia is weaker than Putin's rhetoric implies. It has an unhealthy shrinking population the size of Bangladesh and a GDP per capita lower than Equatorial Guinea.

To be sure, Europe needs Russian oil and gas and Russia needs European investment under FDI. So co-operation aimed at drawing Russia closer to European norms of an open market economy should remain policy. David Cameron is wrong to say visa restrictions should be enforced against Russian businessmen.

But on the political front, it is time to admit that efforts since the early 1990s to be friendly to Russia have failed. Far from the West seeking to humiliate Russia, the doors of every western institution have been opened to Moscow. Her generals sit as observers at Nato meetings. Russians have been made welcome at the Council of Europe.

Russia is European by culture and it is in Europe that the bulk of Russians live. It took many patient years of containment before Sovietism expired. Sadly, Russia has refused the chance to become a full, open, partner of Europe on the basis of democracy, rule of law and respect for European norms and values. A new policy based on as much containment as necessary and as much co-operation as possible is needed.

Conservative neo-con language is as useless as those who find excuses for Putin's doctrine of anti-West aggression. Russia has insisted on asserting national interests and defied international institutions and rules. Britain should fashion a containment-cooperation policy but do so as part of Europe. If not, the sabre-rattlers in both Moscow and Washington will resume their old game.

The writer is a Labour MP and Europe minister, 2002-05

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next

In Sickness and in Health: 'I'm really happy to be alive and to see Rebecca'

Rebecca Armstrong
Supporters in favour of same-sex marriage pose for a photograph as thousands gather in Dublin Castle  

The lessons we can learn from Ireland's gay marriage referendum

Stefano Hatfield
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?