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European Union to Hold Urgent Meeting on Russia


The European Union has scheduled an emergency summit of heads of government Monday to discuss what actions to take against Russia following its decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia - two Moscow-backed separatist regions in Georgia. In this report from Washington, Senior Correspondent André de Nesnera looks at the Russian action and what the West can do.

Analysts say Russia's decision, which comes on the heels of a war with Georgia over the two separatist regions, effectively shatters the territorial integrity of that former Soviet republic.

On August 26, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev issued a decree recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, after the Russian parliament unanimously passed a non-binding resolution calling on him to do so.

Marshall Goldman is with Harvard University.

"There's no doubt in my mind that this whole thing has been a demonstration by Russia to the other former members of the Soviet Union that Russia is back, that Russia is strong and that, in one way or another, it is going to reclaim - if not the whole Soviet Union, but certainly major parts of it. And that is a way to begin," said Goldman.

Leaders from around the world have strongly criticized the Russian move. The European Union says Russia's decision has called into question Moscow's commitment to peace and security in the Caucasus.

France, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, prepares to host a summit meeting Monday to discuss what actions to take against Russia.

Ronald Suny from the University of Chicago says he senses Europeans are taking a tougher stance against Moscow.

"The mood now seems fairly aggressive. That is, the Europeans and the United States understand that the balance of power in the Caucasus, and even in some larger sense in the so-called 'near-abroad' - the former Soviet Union, has shifted in Russia's favor, because Russia is willing now to break some of its ties with the West, to pay a price in its own international reputation and move more aggressively in the region. So the West, thanks to Georgia, has suffered a kind of defeat, and they have to make a choice. And it looks like the choice they re going to make is to take a tougher line toward Russia," said Suny.

Robert Legvold, of Columbia University, says European leaders on the one hand want tougher measures against Russia, but on the other hand cannot go too far.

"The Europeans really understand that you can't simply wall Russia off, or you can't banish it from international politics: it's just too big, too important, too close. So, they don't want to completely destroy everything. That further handicaps them. Not only do they not have good obvious tools that have real leverage, but they've got real stakes in not going too far - yet at the same time, I think, they now have come to a point where they feel that Russia really does have to be dealt with firmly in some fashion," said Legvold.

But Marshall Goldman says there is not much the West can do.

"You can wag your finger and say 'naughty-naughty'. And you can say, 'we won't let you into this group,' or 'we won't let you belong to this club.' But to throw the Russians out at this point, out of the G8, or prevent them from getting into the World Trade Organization - I don't think it is going to be all that effective, because Russians now are economically in a very strong position with their oil and gas. And, so if you say to the Russians 'we are not going to let you export some of your products,' the Russians say 'well, it's the oil and gas that we export most of all, and you need that even more than we need some of the other things.' So I think we have a very weak hand now against the Russians - we, meaning we in the West," said Goldman.

Experts say the 27-nation European Union is split between those countries - such as the Baltic States and Poland - favoring tough action, and other countries such as France, Germany and Italy resisting punitive measures against Russia. Analysts expect that, for the sake of EU unity, summit members will use strong language, but will forego tough measures.

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