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    Posted March 27, 2014 by
    New York & Athens
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Ukraine unrest

    mariosef and 14 other iReporters contributed to Open Story: Ukraine crisis as it unfolds
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    EU – US Partnership and the Reemerging Norms of Fait Accompli

    Kostas A. Lavdas and Marios P. Efthymiopoulos

    Kostas A. Lavdas, Professor of Political Science & Director of KEPET, University of Crete
    Email: klavdas@alum.mit.edu

    Marios P. Efthymiopoulos, Scholar Columbia University Harriman Institute, CEO & Founder Strategy International
    Email: me2519@columbia.edu

    The 2014 EU - US Summit on March 26th has been an opportunity for serious exchanges and real brain storming. Ahead of the Summit, EU Commission President Barroso said it represented “an excellent occasion to take stock of our relations, map the way ahead and highlight the strengths of the transatlantic relationship [including] the significant contributions that the EU-US strategic partnership makes to transatlantic and global peace and prosperity.” Indeed, summit discussions addressed the economy, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, global challenges and foreign policy cooperation. It appears as if the meeting went well but nothing earth-shattering came out of it. As predicted, the summit statement had something to say about energy security and the diversification of Europe’s energy sources and suppliers: “The situation in Ukraine proves the need to reinforce energy security in Europe and we are considering new collaborative efforts to achieve this goal. We welcome the prospect of US liquid natural gas exports in the future since additional global supplies will benefit Europe and other strategic partners”. But there was little of any consequence with regard to the future of EU – US strategic partnership, especially in view of the fact that President Obama insisted Europe should open up to fracking to develop its own gas supply.

    Yet it is the broader context that matters. Talking to The Guardian (London), a senior US official was right to point out that “[Europe] ultimately has been an anchor of the international system that we've spent decades to build, and it's that international system that has been put at risk by Russia's recent actions”. So the time is ripe for out-of-the-box thinking. It is important at this juncture that we interrogate the concept of EU-US partnership a little more closely. And that we begin to reassess the strategic application of the EU-US partnership in practice, drawing lessons for its design and possible improvement.

    In fact, the crisis in Ukraine is but a symptom of regression to a world governed at least in part by the force of fait accompli. It now appears as if the fate of Ukrainian sovereignty was not decided in 1994 (when the country signed an agreement with the U.S., the UK and Russia under which it gave up its nuclear arsenal in return for assurances and guarantees) but in 2014 (as an assertive Russian leadership was able to redefine Ukrainian borders, while setting in motion a process of extensive future buffer zone creation). Following the events in the Crimea region, other regions in the southern part of Ukraine starting from the city of Donetsk, request equal actions. At the same time the region of Trans-Dniester, in neighboring Moldova, now raises the issue of unification with Russia. It appears as if developments based on a domino effect cannot be ruled out in the region today, in other regions tomorrow.

    Of course, trade, investment, and – more controversially – energy and energy security constitute areas that can help forge stronger partnerships. But this will happen only if it is based on straightforward strategic thinking on a renewed Washington – Brussels approach. For if we are to acknowledge the legitimacy of a new status quo, say in Crimea, we would be better off doing so in terms of a pragmatism that openly recognizes its strictly contextual validity. And plans ahead in order to avoid having to accept again the apparent “finality” of similar developments. Remember that we inhabit a world of states, institutions, and norms. The way these interact can have profound implications on how we distill our experiences and act on the conclusions we draw. In recent decades, the relevance of Europe lay in its ability to redefine what can be “normal” in international relations, as Ian Manners argued several years ago. A deepening US-EU understanding on international normativity appears now to be a sine qua non for a continuing peace in Eurasia.

    In an international and inter-connected environment with continued and emerging challenges and threats, in times of economic austerity and historical-geographical political changes, a new smart strategic approach is needed. It includes the need to project anew the Euro-Atlantic strategic partnership and its commitment to stability and negotiated change. The need for the renewed Euro-Atlantic strategic partnership is more acutely felt at the periphery of the “West” in today’s Europe. Nothing less than a “political epiphany” for a comprehensive transatlantic strategic cooperation is needed. A new and smart strategic partnership should be created, encompassing a longer-term cultural and political comprehension and generating renewed capabilities at multiple levels.

    Pace President Putin, the kind of public argument required for international action need not proceed from the clash of national viewpoints, but from the commitment to the possibility of forging common norms for avoiding such viewpoints resulting in unmitigated conflict. Otherwise, we will be entering a phase in which the international community will succumb, each and every time a powerful state acts in a drastic manner, to recognizing the results. After repetition, such practices will even appear to possess, in Henry James’s immortal words, “the equanimity of a result”. Yet this will be an illusory quality: it will, in fact, rest on time-old practices of forceful imposition. In short, the international system that will gradually take shape from such “results” will be a system we will come to regret.

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