From Greater Europe to Greater Eurasia
The eight Arctic states include Russia, with approximately half of the Arctic, plus seven states that will all be part of NATO once Sweden joins the military bloc. Reliable cooperation between Russia and the West in the Arctic was to a large extent predicated on bridging competing concepts of post-Cold War Europe. A mutually acceptable post-Cold War settlement was never reached, which produced two competing visions for a new Europe. While Russia envisioned an inclusive Europe based on Gorbachev’s concept of a Common European Home that would eliminate dividing lines on the continent, the West decided instead to move the dividing lines eastwards by expanding NATO and the EU to eventually include all states except Russia.
President Bill Clinton cautioned in January 1994 that NATO expansion could “draw a new line between East and West that could create a self-fulfilling prophecy of future confrontation”. Clinton eventually embraced NATO expansion, which implied abandoning key tenets of the Charter of Paris for a New Europe in 1990 and the principles of the OSCE in 1994 which both called for “indivisible security” in a Europe without diving lines. Clinton’s Secretary of Defence, William Perry, explained
that others in the administration knew NATO expansion would unravel the peace with Russia, although the sentiment in the Clinton administration was that Russia was weak: “the response that I got was really: ‘Who cares what they think? They’re a third-rate power’”.
Russia continued to pursue its ambitions for an inclusive European security architecture until February 2014, in which the Western-backed coup in Ukraine signalled the death of its Greater Europe Initiative. In an even wider context, Russia’s 300-year-long Western centric foreign policy since Peter the Great came to an end as Moscow instead began to look to the east for partnerships. At the same time, China had begun to rebel against US global hegemony by striving for technological and industrial leadership, redrawing the arteries of international trade with the Belt and Road Initiative, and establishing new financial instruments of power.
The consequences for cooperation in the Arctic are immense. While Russia had previously considered Arctic cooperation as a part of the wider Greater Europe Initiative, it is now integrated into the Greater Eurasian Partnership.