Ukraine, Russia and European stability
Europe also must re-balance the energy relationship with Russia. Europe needs to invest in storing gas to deal with interruptions. More interconnections between countries and properly functioning internal markets will increase resilience...
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has seemed that new rules were being established for the conduct of international relations in central and eastern Europe and central Asia. The watchwords were independence and interdependence; sovereignty and mutual responsibility; cooperation and common interests. They are good words that need to be defended.
The Georgia crisis provided a rude awakening. The sight of Russian tanks in a neighbouring country on the 40th anniversary of the crushing of the Prague Spring has shown that the temptations of power politics remain. The old sores and divisions fester. Russia remains unreconciled to the new map of Europe.
Yesterday`s unilateral attempt to redraw the map marks not just the end of the post-cold war period, but is also the moment when countries are required to set out where they stand on the significant issues of nationhood and international law.
The Russian president says he is not afraid of a new cold war. We don`t want one. He has a big responsibility not to start one.
Ukraine is a leading example of the benefits that accrue when a country takes charge of its own destiny, and seeks alliances with other countries.
Its choices should not be seen as a threat to Russia or an act of hostility. Equally its independence does demand a new relationship with Russia – a partnership of equals, not the relationship of master and servant.
Russia must not learn the wrong lessons from the Georgia crisis: there can be no going back on fundamental principles of territorial integrity, democratic governance and international law. It has shown in the last two weeks what anyone could have foretold: that it can defeat Georgia`s army. But today Russia is more isolated, less trusted and less respected than two weeks ago. It has made military gains in the short term. But over time it will feel the economic and political losses. If Russia truly wants respect and influence, and the benefits that flow from it, Russia needs to change course.
Prime Minister Putin has described the collapse of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century. I don`t see it that way. Most people of the former Soviet bloc or Warsaw Pact don`t see it that way. It will be a tragedy for Russia if it spends the next 20 years believing it to be the case.
Indeed, since 1991 there has been no "stab in the back" of Russia. In fact, we have offered Russia extensive cooperation with the EU and Nato; membership of the council of Europe and the G8. Summits, mechanisms and meetings have been developed by the EU and Nato not to humiliate or threaten Russia, but to engage with it. The EU and the United States provided critical support for the Russian economy when it was needed, and western companies have invested heavily. And Russia has made substantial gains from its reintegration into the global economy.
These are actions that seek to promote prosperity and respect for Russia. But they have recently been met with scorn. Indeed, the record from suspension of Russian participation in the conventional armed forces to harassment of business people and cyber attacks on neighbours is not a good one. Now we have Georgia.
People often talk and ask about unity in Europe. Russian action has produced unity in Europe. Unity in demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops to their August 7 positions; unity in rejecting the use of force as the basis for redrawing the map of the Caucasus; unity in support of the democratically elected government of Georgia.
Of course Russia can and should have interests in its neighbours, but like everyone else, it must earn that influence. Indeed, they do not make up the "post-Soviet space" to which Prime Minister Putin often refers. The collapse of the Soviet Union created a new reality – sovereign, independent countries with minds of their own and rights to defend.
Russia also needs to clarify its attitude to the use of force to solve disputes. Some argue that Russia has done nothing not previously done by Nato in Kosovo in 1999. But this comparison does not bear serious examination.
Leave to one side that Russia spends a lot of time arguing in the UN and elsewhere against "interference" in internal affairs, whether in Zimbabwe or Burma. Nato`s actions in Kosovo followed dramatic and systematic abuse of human rights, culminating in ethnic cleansing on a scale not seen in Europe since the second world war. Nato acted over Kosovo only after intensive negotiations in the UN security council and determined efforts at peace talks. Special envoys were sent to warn Milosevic in person of the consequences of his actions. None of this can be said for Russia`s use of force in Georgia.
The decision to recognise Kosovo`s independence came only after Russia made clear it would veto the deal proposed by the UN secretary general`s special envoy, former Finnish President Ahtisaari. Even then we agreed to a further four months of negotiations by an EU-US-Russia troika in order to ensure that no stone was left unturned in the search for a mutually acceptable compromise.
Over Georgia, Russia moved from support for territorial integrity to breaking up the country in three weeks and relied entirely on military force to do so.
Russia must now ask itself about the relationship between short-term military victories and long-term economic prosperity. At the time of the Soviet Union`s invasion of Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968, no one asked what impact its actions had on the Russian stock market. There was no Russian stock market.
Now, the conflict in Georgia has been associated with a sharp decline in investor confidence. Russia`s foreign exchange reserves fell in one week by $16bn. In one day the value of Gazprom fell by the same amount. Risk premia in Russia have sky-rocketed.
Isolation of Russia is not feasible. It would be counter-productive because Russia`s economic integration is the best discipline on its politics. It would only strengthen the sense of victimhood that fuels intolerant nationalism. And it would compromise the world`s interests in tackling nuclear proliferation, addressing climate change or stabilising Afghanistan.
But the international community is not impotent. Europeans need Russian gas, but Gazprom needs European consumers and investment. The reality of interdependence is that both sides have leverage; both sides can change the terms of trade.
Our approach must be hard-headed-engagement. That means bolstering allies, rebalancing the energy relationship with Russia, defending the rules of international institutions, and renewing efforts to tackle "unresolved conflicts".
Here, Ukraine is key. It has strong links to Russia and this is firmly in both countries` interests. But Ukraine is also a European country. Ukrainian leaders have spoken of their aspiration to see their country become a member of the EU. Article 49 of the EU treaty gives all European countries the right to apply. The prospect and reality of EU membership has been a force for stability, prosperity and democracy across eastern Europe and it should remain so beyond. Once Ukraine fulfils EU criteria, it should be accepted as a full member.
As for Ukraine`s relationship with Nato, it does not pose a threat to Russia. It is about strengthening Ukraine`s democratic institutions and independence – things that will benefit Russia in the long term.
Europe also must re-balance the energy relationship with Russia. Europe needs to invest in storing gas to deal with interruptions. More interconnections between countries and properly functioning internal markets will increase resilience. It needs diverse, secure and resilient gas supplies.
Europe needs to act as one when dealing with third parties like Russia. And we will be reducing our dependence on gas altogether: increasing energy efficiency, investing in carbon capture and storage technology for coal, and in renewables and nuclear power.
In all international institutions, we will need to review our relations with Russia. I do not apologise for rejecting kneejerk calls for Russia to be expelled from the G8, or for EU-Russia or Nato-Russia relations to be broken. But we do need to examine the nature, depth and breadth of relations with Russia.
In Nato, we will stand by our commitments to existing members, and there will be renewed determination that there should be no Russian veto on the future direction of Nato.
Fourth, the unresolved conflicts that mark the end of empire should not be ignored. The world`s attention is currently on South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But the conflicts in Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh must not be overlooked. Each has its roots in longstanding ethnic tensions, exacerbated by economic and political underdevelopment.
The choice today is clear. Not to sponsor a new cold war, but to be clear about the foundations of lasting peace.
David Miliband is the foreign secretary of Greta Britain