European leaders like to talk about the exercise of soft power but perhaps Europe is simply just soft?

The Telegraph is reporting that the EU is preparing to start negotiations with Moscow on a special partnership deal.  Yesterday Peter Mandelson heralded a thawing of Britain’s own relations with Russia.

All so soon after Russia invaded Georgia and Brussels promised a firm response.

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague worries that such talks would send the wrong message to all of Russia’s neighbours:

"It would show Russia that aggression pays off, that Britain and other European countries are incapable of holding a firm line against aggression and that Russia’s neighbours cannot rely on the EU to protect them from Russian bullying."