One needs to focus on core values.
There were a lot of issues to discuss at Brussels Forum, which closed on March 10: state of transatlantic relations, confidence in the media, trade, economic equality, the technological revolution, refugees, and priorities of transatlantic security. Over the year the number of acute situations in the world has only increased. Wars waging in Syria and Ukraine are bearing new casualties. Before the Forum it became known about the poisoning of former Russian GRU officer Sergey Skripal in Sailsbury. It reminded of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, Russian secret services are suspected of.
During the Forum it became known about Trump's decision to impose duties on steel and aluminium from Europe. The decision which no way contributes to the strengthening of transatlantic relations. Taking the floor a few hours earlier, Frederica Mogherini still had hope that it would not be made, but she warned that Europe would be ready to retaliate. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affair Manisha Singh said that even after this announcement the best thing to do is not to take it hard and to negotiate.
Trump's consent to meet with dictator Kim Jong-un was another surprise at the Forum. So far, none of current presidents of the USA has negotiated with any of North Korean dictators. The latest meeting between the leadership of North Korea and high-ranking American official took place in 2000, when US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Kim Jong-il. Albright was present at the Forum, and positively accessed the decision to meet, but expressed a great concern about the level and quality of its preparation.
In 2000 Kim Jong-il promised Albright to wind up North Korea's missile program. Current missile and nuclear capabilities of North Korea prove how reliable promises of dictators are.
The new crisis in relations with Iran, the war in Yemen, the growth of populism and influence of radical parties in Europe, Euroskepticism and xenophobia raise concerns about the future of international relations.
The attention to our region was out of agenda amid these strong challenges to international peace. Russia remains to be a habitual dangerous problem. The Eastern Partnership was hardly mentioned at the Forum.
It is noteworthy that no one discussed the upcoming elections in Russia, as it is done in normal countries. They discussed the Putin the West would have to deal with.
Discussions on burning issues could leave the impression that the world is drowning in even greater chaos and spiraling crises.
However, one thought voiced at the Forum still inspires hope that the current crisis will be surmounted. The issue is that it's time for actions towards defence of democracy and values of the democratic world; the time of reflection has passed away. It's too evident how democracy has stepped back under the burdern of inner problems and the onset of external aggression and authoritarianism.
At the opening of the Forum, Karen Donfried, President of the German Marshall Fund, said: "Actions are required. In times of uncertainty, lack of trust and divisiveness complacency can be fatal."
Indeed, if one looks attentively at any grave world crisis, at any smug dictator, it will turn out that many of them appeared because of fluctuation and even cowardice of the West.
Kurt Volker, U.S. Special Representative for negotiations on Ukraine, was the one who specified the message at the Forum: "The first thing we need to do is fix ourselves in the West. We need to get re-anchored around core values that unite our societies: democracy, market economy, rule of law, human rights, security, opportunity.".
Of course, all these principles are well known and constantly voiced, but in today's political reality they are being rapidly devalued.
Let us hope they are voiced not as an idle remark, but as a plan of action of the West. All the instruments - military, political, economic, technological – are there.
Andrei Sannikov, coordinator of the European Belarus Campaign, participant of Brussels Forum 2018, specially for Charter97.org
* The annual Brussels Forum, organized by the German Marshall Fund of the US was held in the Belgian capital on March 8 -10. The forum traditionally deals with problems of transatlantic relations. This year it's motto was "Revise, Reboot, Rebuild: Strategies for a Time of Distrust”. Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki, Georgian President Georgi Margvelashvili, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, U.S. delegation of Congressmen headed by Senator Chris Murphy, European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, Deputy Secretary General of NATO Rose Gottemoeller, Vice-Prime-Minister of Ukraine Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright took part in the Forum.