Great Britain has bid farewell to the circle of leading nations in Europe. The one-time world power is gone and has become only a shadow of its former self on the European stage. Merkel and Hollande have taken over the command and control of the EU crisis management in Ukraine. Neither Prime Minister Cameron, nor his foreign minister, whose name one must first google, sat at the table in Minsk or participated in the regular telephone diplomacy between Paris, Berlin, Moscow, and Washington.
As one of the three signatories to the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, which was meant to secure the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the Britons have a special responsibility toward the failing country. Apart from the announcement that military advisers would be sent and the sanctions against Russia, which are not to be harmful to the City of London, the former Empire has offered no significant contribution to the resolution of the conflict in Ukraine. In the case of Greece, Britain has been similarly indifferent.
The Britons have no strategy
“Splendid isolation” – Great Britain’s foreign policy doctrine from around the end of the 19th century – is making a comeback. It was defined by great restraint at a time of long-lasting alliances and conflicts on the continent and simultaneous expansion of trade and the economy. Today, this is well received neither on the island nor on the continent. The upcoming general elections in May and domestic political problems, along with the barely avoided secession of Scotland, provide only a weak partial explanation.
It is true: As the British House of Lords has loudly proclaimed, Europe sleepwalked into the Ukrainian crisis. Another part of the truth, though, is that even the Brits, who fall within the opposition inside the EU, have no long-term strategy as to how to cooperate and live with Russia on the eastern borders of the EU. It is time to solve this problem by joining forces.
The socially conservative Britons must add balance to Franco-German pragmatism. They are desperately needed. The Russian bear will not be tamed by the carrot alone.
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