11 February 2003

The following is a translated transcription of the full text of a joint declaration from Russia, Germany and France issued by French President Jacques Chirac Monday after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who met German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder Sunday.

"Russia, Germany and France, in close coordination, reaffirm that disarming Iraq, in accordance with the relevant resolutions since U.N. Resolution 687, is the common objective of the international community and must be achieved as soon as possible.

"There is a debate on how this should be done. This debate must continue in the spirit of friendship and respect that characterizes our relations with the United States and other countries. Any solution must be inspired by the principles of the United Nations charter as were recently quoted by the secretary general Kofi Annan.

"U.N. Resolution 1441, adopted unanimously by the U.N. Security Council, provides a framework of which the potential has not yet been fully exploited.

"The inspections led by the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have already produced results. Russia, Germany and France favor the continuation of the inspections and a substantial reinforcement of their human and technical capacities through all possible means and in liaison with the inspectors, in the framework of the U.N. resolution 1441.

"There is still an alternative to war. The use of force can only be considered as a last resort. Russia, Germany and France are determined to ensure that everything possible is done to disarm Iraq peacefully.

"For the inspections to be completed, it is up to Iraq to actively cooperate with the IAEA and the UNMOVIC. Iraq must fully accept its responsibilities.

"Russia, Germany and France note that the position they are expressing is similar to that of a large number of countries within the Security Council."


I'm a bit uncomfortable posting this transcript without further comment.  To me it seems a remarkable document.  The World is on the brink of another war, and I'm grasping for understanding of it all.  I assume that you are as well, and I believe resorting to the raw text of events like this speech is probably the best way to work towards an informed opinion.

Thus, this node.  That said, the last thing I want to encourage on E2 is a stream of mindless news clips being posted.  I'm gonna rely on the E2 editors to sort it out...


There are two important things to note here. First of all, this is the first time France and Russia (traditionally enemies on the political battlefield) have come down in agreement on something against the United States. This points towards the growing rift in the UN, between those that support the US and those that do not. This rift is causing major ripples in the European Union, and making everyone consider the very real possibility of another World War.

The other thing to note is the fact that France is saying this, while all the while preparing for their own war in the Ivory Coast. Is it possible that France is not ready to defend itself if it needs to?

What is not being said is that which is lurking behind everyone's words and thoughts: What will happen if the United States proceeds with this action, and others step up in support of Iraq? Is the United States prepared to deal with an attack on multiple fronts against fresh, prepared units, instead of a single front the US has kept battered into submission for several years? Is the United States prepared to launch World War III, all over one crazy little dicator?

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 and U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 called for member states of the United Nations to use "all necessary means" to uphold them. Not "all nice necessary means". All necessary means. Iraq now has a twelve year history of violating the will of the Security Council, yet at this eleventh hour some states are willing to risk the legitimacy of the Council itself by calling for it not to act, not to impose its will. These states are France, Germany, Belgium and Russia. They're even trying to destroy NATO into the bargain.

Before exploding the above, I think we should look just a short way back into history, into the Cold War era. There are currently 100,000 American troops on European soil. What's that I hear you cry, those vicious Imperial occupying dogs!?!? Well, no, actually. The troops on European soil are a relic of the Cold War days, when they acted as a security umbrella against the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. Europe hasn't had the responsibility of defending itself for these past fifty years, and that's down to America. Many Germans feel affection towards America because of this, which is why Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at first thought he was playing a risky game using anti-Americanism as an election platform. Unfortunately for U.S.-German relations, the opposition Christian Democrat party made a hash of opposing Schroeder, and he got elected. There are few precedents for such a sudden destruction of the goodwill between two countries.

France is another nation where strong anti-American sentiment exists. Oh, their massive business interests in Iraq don't help either. 75 percent of French citizens surveyed believe that American war plans are down to a desire to take control of Iraqi oil. Sadly, conspiracy theories such as this one (another one popular in France is that America itself orchestrated the 9/11 attacks to give it a pretext to run around violating the sovereignity of nation states, something which the mainstream Egyptian press is repeating to this day) are hard to counter, and there is often little onus placed on the accuser to explain himself. It is a sad testament to transatlantic relations that the extraordinary proof that this extraordinary claim requires is never asked for.

On February 10, 2003, France, Germany and Belgium blocked plans by NATO to strengthen the defences of Turkey with Allied forces as war approaches (Turkey is already moving some of its own armour to the Iraqi border.) In doing so, they have plunged the organization (which many people already thought was irrelevent in the post-Cold War world) into a deep crisis of legitimacy - because if it's not for the mutual defence of its members, what is it for? It's also interesting to note that NATO invoked Article 5 of its founding Charter for the first time after 9/11, which declares that an attack on one member state is an attack on them all. Sadly, these three nations aren't going to stop what's going to happen, they're just going to cause two things to happen -

  1. The United States will be forced to act outside of NATO with, as it has called it, "a coalition of the willing."
  2. The United States will be discouraged from going through NATO and the UN in the future. Europeans repeatedly bitch about the U.S. not going through international organizations, but look what happens when they try to.

To anyone who watched Colin Powell's recent address to the UNSC and the responses of Council members as I did, it was obvious straight away that the French just plain didn't get it. In their prepared response to Powell's presentation, they called for a strengthening of the inspection teams in terms of personnel and equipment. Now, they're calling for a continuation of diplomatic means, saying that Iraq is co-operating increasingly with the inspection regime. Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix has said -

"The principal problem is not the number of inspectors but rather the active cooperation of the Iraqi side,"

More inspectors are not going to help. We shouldn't have to be flying U-2 planes over Iraq trying to find things, Iraq should be handing them over. Inspectors are inspectors, not detectives, and the bottom line is lack of Iraqi co-operation. Colin Powell's presentation hilighted some of this. Blix is echoing U.S. opinions that these "concessions" being made by Iraq are relatively minor, and the U.S. goes on to say that they are carefully-planned to divide the council further.

The time has come to act. At the moment, the international community is busy making a hash of its responsibilities, its promises, and its legitimacy. The motivations of the French, the Germans and the Belgians seems hard to fathom. It's quite possible they feel like they're becoming irrelevent because, really, they are. Europe has been busy relying on America more and more over the last fifty years, and in terms of global security France and Germany are not big players anymore. If their current petulance and irresponsibility is not based on realpolitik concerns, it is probably based on a desire to try and seem important. What better way to seem important than block the United States in doing what it wants to do? Sadly, they're playing a very dangerous game, and they're just going to end up dividing the world even more - let's face it, they're not in the position to stop the U.S. doing anything.

Inspections are not producing results. If the UN wants to produce results rather than fading into irrelevency, it's time to support the use of all necessary means.

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