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.
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.
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.
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.