This issue of Diplomaatia begins with an interview with Chris Patten, the former European Commissioner for external relations, who argues that "the notion, that the substance of foreign policy is simply to be nice with foreigners, is dangerous."
Patten is critical of the way the current European and American leaders have conducted foreign policy, especially with Russia. "It's not enough to look into Mr. Putin's eyes and to find that he has a nice soul - that's not a basis for foreign policy! I hate when foreign policy is conducted in a brain-free way." As for Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, he, according to Patten, was apparently blind to all other considerations apart from applauding Mr. Putin. "Maybe the reason for that is the fact that Mr. Putin speaks German - although I find it fairly odd that you should admire someone for the skill he has acquired to spy in your own country," says Patten. And the visit that Chancellor Schroder and President Chirac paid to the Kaliningrad anniversary celebrations, where no representatives of Poland or Lithuania were invited, demonstrates "incredible insensitivity in historical matters."
In Patten's opinion, a change in European policy towards Russia is undoubtedly necessary and there are two factors that could help it happen. The first is the emergence of a new set of leaders: in Germany, Angela Merkel is just about to enter the stage and in France, President Chirac is also likely to move on in 18 months time. But Patten also believes that the ten new member states of the European Union will start exercising significant influence on European policy regarding Russia, making it much more realistic: "An ounce of your experience in dealing with Russia weighs up kilos of some other member states' thinking," affirms Patten.
Patten expresses hope that ultimately the European leaders will very clearly state the goals that Europe has with regards to its relationship with Russia and he suggests that the goals should be as follows: "we should start working on a customs union, we would like to see Russia in the WTO, I am happy that Russia has finally signed the Kyoto protocol, but I do not advocate closing our eyes to what is happening in the Caucasus or what Russia is doing in its neighbouring countries, neither do I think that we should behave as if oil and gas has made Russia, Santa Claus."
Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt writes about the decline of hard and soft powers in America and Europe. "If we turn the clock back a year or two, we were in the middle of the discussions on the hard power of the United States versus the soft power of the European Union. And the task was seen as making the powers of the United States somewhat softer by relying also more on multilateral actions of different sorts, as well as making the powers of the European Union somewhat harder by the addition of additional instruments. To some extent this is already happening. (---) But the most significant change that we have seen is rather a substantial and undoubtedly worrying decline in both the hard powers of the United States and the soft powers of the European Union."
According to Bildt, the American military power is seriously bogged down in the deserts and marshes of Mesopotamia, to which has been added the hurricane Katrina, whereas Europe has had a miserable year with six failures behind it: the failure of the midterm review of the Lisbon process, the way the Stability and Growth pact was reformed, the failure to find consensus on reforming the financial framework of the European Union, the failure to secure the ratification of the Constitutional Treaty, and lastly, the way the issues of the arms embargo and the liberalisation of trade in textiles with China were handled.
"Each in themselves we should have been able to handle these different setbacks," writes Bildt. "But when you add them together one can not avoid the conclusion that Europe has lost its sense of strategic direction and, accordingly, a certain amount of its faith in itself. The politics of Europe has turned defensive, inward-looking and status quo-oriented. It has lost that critically important feeling of creating something new and vastly better than the old."
According to Bildt, "To overcome this requires that we tackle the interrelated great tasks of the economy and enlargement. Just to speak about bringing issues closer to the voters doesn't solve anything at all. (---) There is no doubt that we at some point in time must come back to the different institutional issues. But today our crisis is intellectual rather than institutional. It is the lack of strategic direction, and lack of confidence in ourselves, that is the main problem.
What our electorates expect is to be given a sense of strategic direction and a commitment to actually achieving results. In the absence of this, we have very little to bring closer to our electorates, but if this is achieved it will immediately be felt by them. It's not therapy that is needed - it is actions that can deliver results."
Once both Europe and America have restored strategic clarity in their thinking, they might able to resume the strategic dialogue and arrest the decline of their hard and soft powers, concludes Bildt.
The former Prime Minister of Estonia Mart Laar discusses the changes Angela Merkel could bring into German foreign policy. He finds four essential changes: first, Germany could restore its place in Trans-Atlantic cooperation by reestablishing a partnership with the US. Secondly, Germany could restore its place in the European Union, by giving up the habit of unconditionally following France. Thirdly, Germany could restore its independent policy towards Russia, by changing its priorities from the Berlin-Paris-Moscow axis to other considerations. And fourthly, Germany could restore its role in Central and Eastern Europe by stopping the decline in bilateral relationships that Chancellor Schroder has allowed to take place.
In addition, the Foreign Affairs Editor of Postimees Erkki Bahovski describes how the European Union has been "lost in translation" and the former Estonain Defence Minister Sven Mikser explaines why Estonia should continue keeping its soldiers in the missions in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan. And Harri Tiido, the Estonian Ambassador to NATO, reviews a new book by Andrew Wilson "Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World."