I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions. –Stephen Covey
Sustainability is often described as a three legged stool: Economic, Environmental and Social. So, if Russia is reacquiring territories that were in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, how does that affect Sustainability that is based on Economic, Environmental and Social considerations? How will impact those agreement where Russia and US have collaborated for decades?
Russian incursion into the Ukraine is creating uncertainty and stress upon international relations that may very well last for decades. Geo-political rhetoric from EU, US and former Eastern Bloc countries are falling on deaf ears in Russia. Crimea is the treasure for the invasion and side liners are accusing Putin of antiquated Cold War tactics demonstrated by incursions into Hungary and then Czechoslovakia.
Let’s move to the 21st century. Look how we have agreements that leverage the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service1:
• In 1972, the United States and the Soviet Union signed an Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Protection
• In 1994, the Agreement was renegotiated to replace the USSR with the Russian Federation as signatory.
• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinates implementation of nature conservation efforts under the Agreement in partnership with federal, state, local, non-governmental, Native and other partners.
From an environmental perspective, other agreements that utilize EPA’s main expertise with US-Russia include2:
• Bilateral Presidential Commission Environment Working Group (EWG)
• Bilateral Cooperation on Management of Legacy Waste
• Bilateral Cooperation on Black Carbon Emissions in the Russian Arctic
• Russian Arctic Research and Science
• Global Methane Initiative
One issue, energy, is being raised by Sen. Lisa Murkowski to use oil and gas as a behavior changer for Putin. But, the consequences could be far reaching. If he is intransigent, as he has been in the past, EU and former Eastern Bloc countries could see near term energy shortages – during their winter months. Delivery time from US well heads to those countries are not established and replacement will delay much needed energy for heat and cooking usage. As Sen. Murkowski insists; “We need to give them reason to move, and we also need to make sure the broader public comes along as well,” she said. “We need to recalibrate the thinking that America’s energy resources are a scarcity to where they are right now—an abundance.”3
Escalation of barriers and resurrecting old concerns and uncertainty may unravel countless agreements that were signed as common interests. The real uncertainty is how far will the West tolerate Russian aggression that includes violating international laws? Will Sustainability agreements be “deactivated” that impact economic, environmental and social bridges on both sides? From a EU and US perspective, it looks like a win-win end-game that mitigates Russia’s risk. From a former Eastern Block country and US perspective, it also looks like another win-win end-game that mitigates Russia’s risk and moves Western capitalism and Sustainability closer to the Russian border.
But with the “no agreement” meeting today, at what costs will both sides willing to go? US and EU allies may talk about banking and IMF constraints and there are talks about removing Russia from the G8 and G20. There are also talks about restraining oligarchs from using there yachts in western ports and restrict travel by air.
So, when Stephen Covey said; “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” Perhaps he would give the same advice to those diplomats who yield to brinkmanship, rather than working on real international relations.
1 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for International Affairs web site
2 EPA web site
3 It’s time to export ‘abundance’ of US oil: Senator; CNBC, Published: Monday, 3 Mar 2014
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