Europe is being pragmatic about the crisis over Georgia to the point that the divergence between pragmatic European interests and ideologically-driven US interests over the matter could itself become a crisis.
At the NATO emergency summit meeting yesterday in Brussels it has been reported that many of the European members rejected a US proposal to freeze the Nato-Russia council, established in 2002 to boost relations between Moscow and the West preferring instead to keep open channels of communication between European and Russian Ministers. Even David Miliband, the UK Foreign Secretary said: "I am not one that believes that isolating Russia is the right answer to its misdemeanours.” The UK government, until now, has been very supportive of the tough US policy against Russia. To top it off the meeting decided not to rush through Georgia’s membership into NATO which was one of the main US calls. Even Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, seemed in no rush to endorse a quick decision on the question of Georgia’s NATO membership.
The Europeans are also aware that Russia is quite happy to go and talk and trade with people that will talk and trade with them. The Europeans are very much aware that the Russians may also be happy to trade not just commercially but also militarily. As I type President Assad of Syria is preparing for a trip to Russia for talks about closer ties and the possibility of purchasing military materiel; a situation not likely to please Israel or the US.
The reality is the Europeans know which side their bread is buttered. Wealth creation in Europe and the energy requirements of Europe rely on trading with Russia. The bottom line is simple: Europe cannot afford to upset the Russians to the extent the US wants them to. This will annoy the US in much the same way as the German and French refusal to endorse the US and UK and their allies when the US and the so-called ‘Coalition of the Willing’, which, incidentally, included Georgia, did when they wanted to attack Iraq in March 2003.
To what extent the US will be annoyed with the Europeans for their intransigence toward US foreign policy on Russia over the Georgia crisis remains to be seen. How the neocons and the Bush administration will react also remains to be seen.