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EU Faces Tests as Great Powers in "Frozen Conflict": Expert
Source: globaltimes.cn
Source Date: Monday, December 26, 2016
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government, ICT for MDGs, Knowledge Management in Government, Internet Governance
Created: Dec 26, 2016

The European Union(EU) is facing thorny foreign policy challenges as the United States, Russia and the 28-nation bloc are now in a state of "frozen conflict", a Brussels-based expert told Xinhua in an exclusive interview recently. 

"It is hard to recall when relations between the major poles of power have been so difficult," said Prof. David Fouquet, vice-president of European Center for International and Strategic Research (CERIS). 

"Between three of the parties, the US, Russia and the EU, they have almost entered a phase of 'frozen conflict'," he said. 

He underlined that there seem to be a deep division between the values projected by the US President-elect Donald Trump and much of Western Europe's leadership. 

"This could seriously test the heritage and sustainability of the traditional transatlantic partnership and even its institutions," warned Fouquet. 

"Europeans should be prepared for little or no assistance or reliable partnership from Washington in economic, foreign, security, social or environmental policy areas," he added. 

Indications of difficulties to come have already shaken the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, the professor noted. 

Moreover, the multilateral trade and economic systems, the US system of military alliances and the international cooperation against climate change were thrown into doubt as the incoming US leader seems to have little or no interest in pursuing, he argued. 

"The EU might also be so cautious and indecisive about its status with Washington, so that it should take considerable time to normalize," he said. 

He noted that the EU should also make preparation for the impact of a new US foreign policy on third-party relationships that are crucial to Europe. 

Taking Africa as an example, Fouqet said US interest and engagement is expected to decline or even disappear, but for the EU, the continent is the key to solving migration crisis and security problems.

Another major test and uncertainty will be the US and European relationships with Moscow and President Vladimir Putin, Fuquet said, stressing that it could profoundly affect both the NATO and EU in internal and external dimensions. 

He opined that even if Donald Trump seeks his own version of President Obama's unsuccessful attempt to "reset" relations with Moscow and President Putin, there might still be a strong residue of US opposition and hostility in numerous circles to undermine such a top-down leadership initiative. 

Lamenting "a weakened, divided and transitioning European Union", he said the 28-nation bloc would be unlikely to take any initiative or even accompany others' possible efforts to overcome the recent worsening of relations with Russia. 

Just days after this interview, the EU decided on December 19 to extend the sanctions against Russia for another six months, until July 31, 2017. 

The sanctions have been in place since 2014 in response to an alleged role that Russia had played in conflicts in east Ukraine. 

"We have witnessed the weakening in European unity and solidarity for more than a generation of leaders and the trend is even accelerating, "he said, "this probably in the short or medium term makes Europe the weakest link in this constellation, reducing its leverage and relegating it to a pawn status to the others." 

He opined that it might be a role for China to seek to help normalize the strained relationships between the others. 

"Despite some trade tensions, it appears that China and the West largely seek stability and the status quo whereas Russia believes in a different approach or at least restoring the status quo ante," he said. 

"But any stronger alignment of Chinese and Russian policies and strategies could be counter-productive and provoke a defensive backlash in the Western side and drive Europe more into the US alliance." he said.
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