Europe is really having very short memory. After the Russian aggression against Georgia on 8.august 2008 European leaders stand up and promised to make to Russia absolutely clear, that such of behavior could not be tolerated in Europe. To demonstrate that they are serious with this message, Europe decided to cancel – or postpone as it was officially said – the negotiations with Moscow on a new “Partnership and Cooperation Agreement”. Europe insisted that Russia must obey a six-point ceasefire deal, which ended the Georgia war on Aug 12, before any talks on the partnership agreement can start again. The restart of negotiations depended on Russian compliance with those commitments that it made in August.
Unfortunately the Russia has not done this. It has actually broken most of points of the ceasefire deal by failing by example to withdraw its forces to their pre-war positions. Russian troops have left most of the so called buffer-zone, but is still occupying parts of territories controlled by Georgia till the start of the military conflict. European observers are not having access to the territories of South-Ossetia and Abkhazia, as a result of this the provocations, bombings and conflicts are continuing in the border area. Russia is having significantly more troops on the territory as before the conflict.
Some European leaders have nevertheless decided to close their eyes to all this. They say that Russia is doing everything it´s supposed to do, so it is time to restart the negotiations. This would amount to a return to “business as usual” and sends a signal that Russia had escaped any lasting diplomatic penalty for invading Georgia. Such of decision would show Russia that aggression pays off, that Europe is incapable of holding a firm line against aggression and that Russia’s neighbors cannot rely on the EU to protect them from Russian bullying. Even as Moscow has declared that it is actually “not so interested” on these negotiations, the restart of the talks would be an important symbol. Russia would claim a victory if they started, getting signal: “We did it!”
This is very bad message not only for Europe but for Russia itself. The war with Georgia has been for Russia both geopolitically and economically very costly. Economist Andrey Illarionov, a former adviser to Vladimir Putin and now an outspoken critic of the Russian authorities, has described the conflict with Georgia as a “geopolitical catastrophe for Russia” since it destroyed the delicate geopolitical balance that Russia established in the South Caucasus over two centuries in alliance with Georgia. It turned Russia also to the conflict with CIS members and Asian countries. Collapse of the Russian stocks after the invasion was dramatic, helping Russia to become “worst performer” during world-wide economic crises. “Victory” over small Georgia has helped Putin to bolster support to its totalitarian policies inside of Russia. When West now accepts such behavior and returns to “business as usual” the democratic forces, protesting against the invasion, would get another hit. These are reasons why Poland, Baltic and most of Nordic countries with Great Britain have opposed the proposal to restart negotiations with Russia. How long they can resist the pressure of “old Europe” will be seen. In this moment it is nevertheless necessary to look back to the history, which teach us that appeasement of aggressor never pays off.