Magazine article Europe-East

Interview with Us Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, Chairman of Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe : "Sarkozy's Engagement with Russia Is the Right Approach"

Magazine article Europe-East

Interview with Us Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, Chairman of Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe : "Sarkozy's Engagement with Russia Is the Right Approach"

Article excerpt

With the US caught up in its historic presidential election campaign, it is remarkable how marginal a role it has played in the current Georgia-Russia conflict compared to the EU. Speaking exclusively to Europolitics New Neighbours, a US congressman heavily involved in promoting peace and security in the region praised the EU's proactive stance taken since hostilities broke out in August and slammed the US administration for not engaging with Russia. Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (Democrats, Florida) chairs the Helsinki Commission', a US government agency consisting of senators, congresspersons and administration officials tasked with monitoring implementation of the 1975 Helsinki Accords, designed to reduce tension between the Soviet and Western blocs. On 9 September, Hastings introduced legislation to the US Congress to fund Georgia's economic recovery.a

Are you happy with how the EU and the US have responded to the Georgia-Russia conflict?

I appreciate the EU taking the lead on this but I am disappointed with the US administration for only dealing with Georgia and not Russia. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has gone to both Moscow and Tbilisi to broker agreements. Sarkozy's engagement is the right approach. But our Vice-President, Dick Cheney, has only gone to Georgia. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not go to Russia either, even though she speaks Russian. It is also important for someone to establish how this thing started - was there ethnic cleansing, for example.

Is imposing sanctions against Russia a good idea?

I have not been one generally to encourage sanctions, although targeted sanctions might be part of a mix. The problem is, though, this is not like with Cuba today or South Africa in the 1980s where you can squeeze them economically. Russia can impose its own sanctions - it can say if you cut off diplomatic relations with me, I'm going to cut off my pipeline to you'! There are some things Russia wants - like WTO membership - but you have to be careful. Russia may not be a superpower anymore but it is a superplayer - a newly-constituted Russia with old ways. Meanwhile, America's power has diminished because of globalisation.

How should we be dealing with Georgia?

Russia and Georgia have had several centuries of cultural mixing - Putin's mother lives in Georgia. …

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