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Beside Russia

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4/8/14

Russia is now celebrating the conquest of the Crimea almost as if it had won the Eurovision Song Contest. However, in the long term, it is only harming itself. All the old fears of the neighbouring countries have resurfaced. This is a massive diplomatic disaster for Russia.

Obviously, we cannot tolerate a bigger neighbour attacking a smaller one at its moment of weakness. Communism has been replaced in Russia by a nationalism just as dangerous.

But when the dust settles, how do we position ourselves back to living beside Russia? There is nothing we can do about geography. Neither can Russia.

We want to believe that we have some special know-how on Russia. That is, until someone points out that few people in Finland speak Russian, in contrast to the countries of Eastern Central Europe.

Perhaps our expertise is of a different kind? We possess neither the arrogance of some Western EU countries towards Russia, nor the fresh anger of some Eastern ones. Bad memories, but dating form a couple of generations further away in time.

On the whole, despite our hard experiences, we know how to deal with Russia. Nor is Russia only Putin and his generals, let alone the oligarchs. However much they would like to present themselves only as Russia.

Yet we do not know Russia well enough. The shortage of linguistic and cultural skills is a real problem. Therefore, the Russophone minority of Finland is worth a great deal to us.

They must not be made feel guilty and anxious in this difficult situation. If anyone, it is they who understand the anger and threat seething in the neighbouring country. Let us not blame ordinary people for the actions of states.

What we now need is wisdom and leadership. The East needs an understanding of the West and the West needs deeper knowledge of the East. Cold War memories are not enough as a guideline.

However, I believe we are quite safe here in the North, even without NATO. The European Union of 500 million people is a potential economic superpower - at least when it is able to act together.

Threatening the EU does not make sense for anyone. Its shelter is a good place from which to build a better and more equal relationship with the - at times unruly - East.

The relations between the EU, Finland and Russia will surely be discussed this spring during the electoral campaigns for the European Parliament. For once, we would actually discuss truly European issues rather than complain about domestic grievances!

The Rev. Mitro Repo MEP

Helsinki

5/9/14Time is ripe for diplomacy -- EPToday
4/17/14Time is ripe for diplomacy -- Helsinki Times
4/14/14Trucks to start lining up at the Swiss border?
4/14/14European Schools
4/11/14Greece leading the EU this spring
4/11/14Public Procurement rules to be reformed in the EU
4/11/14Iceland to freeze its accession negotiations with the EU
4/11/14Serbia's future lies in the European Union
4/8/14Beside Russia
3/27/14AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION

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