World News: Belarus Crisis Forces European Union to Choose Power or Partner

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The Belarusian crisis reveals in filigree all the limits of the European Union's diplomacy against Russia, an unwavering supporter of Alexander Lukashenko. It is up to the European Union to become a power and no longer a partner sometimes heard.

The diplomatic agitation that has prevailed in recent days following the hijacking of a Ryan Air aircraft by Belarus on the grounds that it housed an opponent of the regime of President Lukashenko highlights the ambiguity of Western Europeans and the European Union in particular with regard to Russia.

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For if it was the Belarusian President who pushed the hijacking of the Irish aircraft, we must see in Alexander Lukashenko's boldness the invisible hand of Vladimir Putin to happy to be able, once again, to annoy Europeans still so embarrassed against him. This embarrassment can be explained by a complex diplomatic and economic situation linking Russia with Western Europe.

First of all, because, once the Cold War was over, Moscow and the European Union began a policy of rapprochement aimed at re-establishing long-strained relations. This rapprochement had proved necessary and, moreover, allowed the integration of former Eastern countries, the satellite countries of the disappeared USSR, into the European Union.

This integration, which Moscow saw as the creation of a form of sanitary cordon, proved problematic for   the Kremlin in the long run, especially with the integration of Poland, which put the European Union at Russia's doorstep.

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Tolerance and Human Rights

This proximity was also at the origin of Russia's intervention, albeit underlying, in Ukraine a few years later, in order to integrate the Union. However, Vladimir Putin's Russia or Dmitry Medvedev has been tolerant as long as the European Union does not meddling in its internal affairs where human rights abuses are legion.

This diplomatic cohabitation concerned Russia but also the vassal countries of the Kremlin, including Belarus, which was very much suited to a West that was deliberately blind to the attacks on individual and political freedoms, frightened that it was by the susceptibility and, nevertheless, by the military might of the Russian bear.

Economically because Russia remains a partner of significant weight. Thus, the European Union is Russia's most active economic partner (52.3% of all Russian foreign trade in 2008). At the same time, 75% of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Russia also comes from the European Union.

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It exported 105 billion euros of food to Russia in2008 when Moscow exported 173.2 billion euros to the European Union. However, the main economic relationship between the European Union and Russia remains the export of hydrocarbons (gas and oil) qui represent 68.2% of Russian exports to the EU.

Prudence and Influence

The energy issue is central to this diplomatic crisis because it obliges the European Union to be very careful not to offend Moscow, which could, by means of mutual retaliation deemed too severe, cut off the supply of raw materials.

Through this crisis, the European Union is thus reaching the limits of its diplomatic action and geopolitical influence. The Belarusian crisis illustrates all the extent of this despite a common and unanimous position on the part of the twenty-seven.

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But now we have to ask ourselves in Brussels, as in many Of the Member States of the Union, how political Europe can weigh on a European and continental scale, how can it overcome its dependence on Russia and no longer be dependent on it, if not frightened? Finally, it appears that the Belarusian crisis is questioning the European Union about its future and its ability to live in power and no longer as a partner.



Bio: Olivier Longhi an opinion columnist for, has extensive experience in European history. A seasoned journalist with fifteen years of experience, he is currently professor of history and geography in the Toulouse region of France. He has held a variety of publishing positions, including Head of Agency and Chief of Publishing. A journalist, recognized blogger, editor, and editorial project manager, he has trained and managed editorial teams, worked as a journalist for various local radio stations, a press and publishing consultant, and a communications consultant.

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