We Don’t Have Another Europe and We Don’t Have Another Russia

The coming year is expected to be peaceful with a low probability of global shocks, and at the same time action-packed in terms of Russia’s relations with its key partners. Observers cannot fail to be intimidated and alarmed by the chaotic state of international relations and the routine efforts to dismantle all kinds of regimes, from arms control to the informal rules governing matters to do with foreign policy. This is further exacerbated by the fact that all these developments are viewed through the prism of relatively established rules and norms of conduct inherited from the time of the Cold War.

With the freeze brought on during the Cold War gradually dissipating over the past 30 years, global politics was gradually freeing itself up from the past constraints. Today, the artificial restraining factors that used to weigh on national foreign policies have all but disappeared. Every international subject has its own rich historical, strategic and cultural background, making futile any attempt to impose any constraints on the international community. Besides, there is nothing bad about enhancing the democratic nature of international affairs. On the contrary, it helps people better express their aspirations, and consequently makes it easier for the Russian diplomacy to find the best solutions. Europe is not an exception in this politically diverse environment.

Europe: 30 Years After the Festivities
Timofei Bordachev
Despite all its mistakes caused by the inevitability of a number of decisions in 1990–2000, Europe is still the region that is most capable of developing its internal intellectual dynamics. French President Emmanuel Macron is a case in point. Moreover, Europe maintains its openness and has never been a place for isolationism. Therefore, in the longer term, Russia and Europe have a chance to return, in new positions, to a diplomatic game with a positive sum.

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In late 2019, the European parliament adopted a resolution equating Hitler’s Germany with the USSR and referring to them as the two countries responsible for the outbreak of WWII. Quite predictably, Russia responded with outrage and disgust with even the President of Russia feeling obliged to react to this document. It is true that taking a reserved posture, as the Russian diplomacy usually does in cases of this kind, would have been inadequate. However, the debate that is poised to unfold in the months ahead of the 75th anniversary of Victory raises a number of questions about Russia’s foreign policy that will have to be answered, sooner or later, especially since they relate to a very important neighbor in terms of economic relations and national security.

In fact, this neighbor is currently in a protracted soul searching phase, trying to find a place on the world map and trying to understand its role and opportunities in the 21st century. The project Europe offered itself and the world in the aftermath of the Cold War consisted of building a strong union in a regulated, albeit unfair, international environment. This vision however failed to materialize. To survive in this new world, Europe must come up with an adequate foreign policy.

For this reason, it is quite natural for European politicians to treat history as some kind of an auxiliary tool, and the history of WWII is no exception. Throughout its history, Europe went through a great number of wars and disasters. Moreover, the unique diversity of states belonging to the European civilization enabled Europeans to apprehend and conceptualize its experiences. In fact, European hypocrisy and lack of sensibility results from Europe’s historical past rather than being a congenital mental defect.

Improvisation on Historical Topics: A New Resolution of the European Parliament
Andrey Sushentsov
A recent European Parliament resolution, “On the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe”, is an unfortunate example of the politicisation of history. The key conclusion a Russian observer can make is that Euro-optimists are so weak in Europe that only through anti-Russian points is it possible to find a platform for pan-European identity.
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In 1945, the USSR and its peoples triumphed over the most fearsome enemy history ever knew, an enemy driven by an ideology of hatred and cruelty, exacerbated by European punctuality and effectiveness. At the same time, Russia has been successfully trading with the successors of these enemies. It is an open secret that denazification actually failed in Germany, and those who used to prop up the Nazi rule assumed high private and public sector posts in the Federal Republic. It is not uncommon for us to shake hands with those whose statements can be easily interpreted as the European right’s ideological legacy from the first half of the 20th century.
Russia welcomes Europe’s political diversity, especially since Europe that emerged from the ashes of WWII proved to be a challenging partner. The old, liberal Europe is no more. We need a new one.

It would be definitely a mistake to think that traditional European elites will vanish leaving the power to new political forces. But even if new political leaders do emerge, national interests and strategic culture will still remain. From this perspective, Russia is regarded as an important and inevitable neighbor with whom relations will always be close but focused on military and diplomatic matters. There are reasons to believe that Europe has learned the lessons of its own policies in the 1990s and early 2000s, when there was confidence in the air that Russia would sooner or later integrate into the European space as a junior partner.

We can argue that these hopes were a temporary delusion, since they would have caused irreparable harm to Russia’s national interests and threaten its statehood. In fact, it became obvious that Russia could not rely on Europe or the West in terms of security as early as in the first months of the military conflict that broke out in the Caucasus 25 years ago in early December. At the time, the European Union and NATO failed to declare their unambiguous support to Moscow, although no one doubted Russia’s commitment to building closer relations with the West at the time. But when Russia was once again able to deliver on its military and political objectives on its own, all talk of building a “common European home” became irrelevant. This understanding could serve as a stepping stone towards a new conversation.

What Will Replace WWII in Our Minds When We Forget About It?
Andrey Bystritskiy
World War II began eighty years ago. But did it end six years after it began? The war’s hostilities ended in 1945 and the conflict later culminated with the trials in Nuremberg and Tokyo. But, strangely enough, its presence is still felt in modern politics, culture and our social lives. This phenomenon requires our attention, although Theodore Adorno doubted whether culture existed in principle after Auschwitz.
Message from the Chairman

For Europe, 2020 will not just be about stepping up relations with Russia. Throughout 2019, President Macron has been tightening his grip over European politics. He now controls the European Commission, Council and the ECB through his proxies. Over a period of the past few months he has made a number of statements regarding Europe’s role in the world, highlighting problems it faces and the measures that can be taken to restore its influence. At the same time, a number of decisions accomplished the transformation of Brussels, i.e., the European Commission and the European Parliament, into a stick member states can brandish to implement their own agenda without hurting bilateral relations with their leading partners − the United States, China and Russia. Furthermore, the EU’s growing protectionism and aggressive regulations correspond to the stance that is customary for a number of member states. This policy is abetted by the current paralysis in Berlin’s political action, especially since Germany’s silence can signal that it supports Paris.
In 2020, there will be a window of opportunity for Russia and Europe to revitalize their diplomatic ties. New principles and a new agenda will underpin these relations. Mutual containment policies are just as inevitable as the revival of political, trade and economic ties. Overall, Russia and Europe are finally bringing their relations back to normal, just like they were in the 15th or 16th centuries.

But there are changes in terms of resources. Russia acquired new territories and then lost them at the end of the 20th century, while becoming a military super power and being able to rely in its European policy on the leading Asian countries – China and India, as well as benefit from shifts in US policy. At the same time, the EU’s economic power and institutional might are an indisputable advantage for Europe. Its weaknesses are related to the multitude of institutional constraints hamstringing the leading European powers, as well as dependence on the United States in terms of security. Adding up all these factors provides sufficient grounds for launching a productive dialogue.

In 2020, statutory matters in Russia’s relations with Europe and the leading European powers will be limited to building their respective diplomatic narratives. In this sense, there can hardly be any agreement on whose actions paved the way to WWII, just as the East and the West could not agree for centuries how to make the sign of the Cross. International relations have a special sense of morality, which makes it different from the ordinary human morality whereby MEPs elected by universal suffrage committed a horrendous act by voting for the resolution on WWII. However, we don’t have another Europe or, if experience is any guide, another Russia either.

Forget European Defense, Think About European Security
Timofei Bordachev
Judging by the comments of the brightest and most sincere European observers, in 2019 the Old World accepted the idea that Europe is no longer the core of global politics and the economy. It is gradually turning from an active participant in politics into an object of competition, first of all, on behalf of the real giants – the United States and China. Apparently, their confrontation will determine world politics in the first half of the 21st century.
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Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.