Friday, January 06, 2006

Standing Or Falling

Maidan has the transcription of a BBC World Service interview with former European Commissioner Chris Patten. Interestingly, the transcription failed to appear on the World Service's website, and Maidan have decided to "fill the gap". From the interview:
Chris Patten: I think that Russia has on the whole behaved a bit like a bully with its energy pricing and attitude to sphere of influence in those former members of the Soviet Union which are now independent nation states, like Moldova, like Georgia, and of course, most recently, Ukraine. Because the European Union hasn’t been firm with Russia, because rather pathetically people have taken the view that the fact that we purchase so much energy from Russia, about 25 percent of our natural gas, that gives Russia the upper hand. Actually the Russians have to sell their energy to someone, and they haven’t got anything else to sell the world other than their energy, and we should have been much tougher and firmer with the Russians on political issues. It’s extraordinary, of course, that they’ve taken over the chairmanship of the G8, even when they’re going backwards on democracy and have an economy which certainly wouldn’t qualify them for membership of the G8 in terms of GDP. So there are a lot of political things that we could have done in relation to Russia which we haven’t done, instead Mr Schröder has gone off to be chairman of the new “Gazprom” pipeline to Germany.

BBC: Yet as a counter-argument to this the suggestion is often made that good relations with Russia are in keeping with the long-term interests of Europe itself, as are promoting the building of democracy in Russia and ensuring that its political and commercial interests are closely connected with those of its western neighbours. Surely if we use the more hard-line measures you are suggesting, this will be impossible to achieve?

Chris Patten: Well, what is actually happening is we say all this about wanting Russia as a strategic partner, and in the meantime Russia behaves badly over democratic issues, it’s gone backwards on democracy, it’s been responsible for some terrible swindles in relation to Yukos and other private enterprise companies, so the fact that we’ve been very warm and cordial to Russia hasn’t exactly meant that Russia has moved in the right direction. I’m not in favour of trying to restart the Cold War. What I am in favour of is standing up for what we believe is right in relation to Russia, and being much more cordial to Ukraine which has the aspiration to become a member of the European Union. At present what is happening is that partly because of that, Mr Putin is putting pressure on Ukraine and he’s able to show the Ukraine that the European Union’s been pretty pathetic in standing alongside the Ukraine.
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