Russia belongs to the center of Europe

The Western attempt to expel Russia from Europe has failed. That there was such an attempt was always implicit in the strategy to admit all European countries, except Russia, into NATO and the European Union. In this context, NATO’s slogan “A Europe Whole and Free” is an explicit statement that Russia is not part of Europe.

But as French President Emmanuel Macron reminded us, Russia is is part of Europe and is simply too big, too powerful and too invested in its immediate neighborhood to be excluded from the European security order. A continued strategy in this direction will lead to repeated attempts by Russia to come back strong. At best, it will lead to repeated and very damaging crises; at worst, to war.

A structure must be created capable of defending the interests of NATO and the EU while taking into account the vital interests of Russia and preserving peace. The solution lies in a modernized version of what used to be called the “Concert of Europe”.

The Western attempt to expel Russia from Europe has failed. That there was such an attempt was always implicit in the strategy to admit all European countries, except Russia, into NATO and the European Union. In this context, NATO’s slogan “A Europe Whole and Free” is an explicit statement that Russia is not part of Europe.

But as French President Emmanuel Macron reminded us, Russia is is part of Europe and is simply too big, too powerful and too invested in its immediate neighborhood to be excluded from the European security order. A continued strategy in this direction will lead to repeated attempts by Russia to come back strong. At best, it will lead to repeated and very damaging crises; at worst, to war.

A structure must be created capable of defending the interests of NATO and the EU while taking into account the vital interests of Russia and preserving peace. The solution lies in a modernized version of what used to be called the “Concert of Europe”.

The current security order has reached its limit. Until 2007-2008, EU and NATO enlargement seemed to have gone smoothly, with the admission of all former Soviet satellites from Central Europe and the Balkans, as well as the Baltic states. Russia was unhappy with NATO expansion but did not actively oppose it. Then, however, NATO and the EU were given decisive checks, by their own excess.

At the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, in 2008, the United States and its allies, despite refusing an action plan for the immediate membership of Ukraine and Georgia because of the opposition of France and Germany, obtained the promise of a possible accession of these countries. Seen from Moscow, this created the prospect that NATO would include countries with territorial disputes (and in the case of Georgia, frozen conflicts) with Russia; that (as in the Baltic states) NATO would cover attempts to harm the position of local Russian minorities; and that NATO would expel Russia from its naval base in Sevastopol and the South Caucasus.

Later that year, the Russo-Georgian War should have sounded the death knell for further NATO expansion, as it demonstrated beyond any doubt both the acute dangers of territorial disputes in the former USSR and the fact that as a last resort, Russia would fight to defend its vital interests. in the region, and the West would not fight. This is demonstrated even today by the repeated and categorical declarations from Washington and Brussels that there is no question of sending troops to defend Ukraine; and if NATO does not fight for Ukraine, it cannot admit Ukraine as an ally. It’s that simple.

The rise of China is the other factor that makes excluding Russia unsustainable. Because this project was developed at a time when Russia was at its lowest for almost 400 years and when the colossal growth of China was just beginning. This has allowed the West opportunities that today have drastically diminished, if, as seems likely, China is prepared to bolster Russia against Western economic sanctions.

The EU too has reached the limit of its eastward expansion. On the one hand, there is the size of Ukraine (44 million inhabitants), corruption, political dysfunctions and poverty (GDP per capita which represents a third of that of Russia). Perhaps more importantly, the EU’s enlargement to Eastern Europe no longer looks like the unconditional success of ten years ago.

Romania, Bulgaria and other states remain deeply corrupt and in many ways still ex-communists. Poland and Hungary have developed dominant strains of chauvinistic and quasi-authoritarian populism that place them at odds with what were supposed to be the EU’s core values ​​- and which in some ways bring them ideologically closer to the president’s regime Russian Vladimir Putin. After this experience, there is no chance that the EU will admit a country like Ukraine in the foreseeable future.

An acknowledgment of these self-evident truths (which are privately acknowledged by the overwhelming majority of Western officials and experts) should pave the way for thinking about a new European security architecture that would integrate NATO and the EU while reducing the hostility between these organizations and Russia. We should aim for the creation of this new system as part of the solution to the current crisis, and in order to avoid new ones.

This requires a return to a more traditional way of thinking about international politics. For a key problem with the West’s approach to Russia since the end of the Cold War is that it has demanded that Russia abide by the internal rules of behavior of the EU and the NATO without offering EU and NATO membership (which is impossible for several reasons anyway).

In recent years and around the world, the American establishment, by contrast, has been loudly announcing “the return of great power politics” – and that is true enough insofar as it is happening. Surely the idea of ​​a monolithic “rules-based world order,” in which liberal internationalism acts as a thin blanket for US primacy, is now dead.

The problem is that most members of the American establishment have become so convinced of the necessity and rightness of the global primacy of the United States that they can only see relations with other great powers in terms of confrontation and zero-sum. Rivalry, of course, there will inevitably be; but if we want to avoid future disasters, we must find a way to manage relations in such a way as to contain this rivalry, to establish real common rules, to prevent conflicts and to work towards the solution of common problems. To achieve this, we must look for lessons further in diplomatic history.

The essential elements of a reasonably consensual new pan-European order should be: a traditional non-aggression treaty between NATO and the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), whereby both sides undertake not to attack each other militarily. In fact, neither side intends to do so, and putting this on paper would reduce mutual paranoia and the ability of establishments on both sides to fuel that paranoia for their own domestic ends.

Full diplomatic relations should be established or re-established between NATO and the CSTO and between the EU and the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union. On this basis, intensive negotiations should be launched to achieve two objectives: new arms control agreements in Europe, starting with nuclear missiles, and economic arrangements that would allow non-members of the EU and Eurasian Economic Union to trade freely with the two blocs, rather than imposing a mutually exclusive choice of trading partners on them.

However, when it comes to avoiding and resolving conflicts, the institutions involving all European countries are too large and rigid to be of much use. The Russian establishment has also decided, not without reason, that this is simply an excuse for Western countries to agree on a common position and then present it to Russia as a fait accompli. There needs to be a regular, frequent, but much smaller and less formal meeting place for the countries that really matter for European security: the United States, France, Germany and Russia (plus the United Kingdom, s surviving as a single state and emerging from its post-Brexit disarray).

Such a European Security Council would have three objectives: first, to avoid new conflicts through early consultation on impending crises; second, resolving existing disputes on the basis of common standards of realism – in other words, who actually controls the territory in question and will continue to do so; and third, democracy – the will of the majority of the local population, expressed through internationally supervised referenda (a proposition put forward by Thomas Graham).

Finally, a European Security Council could lay the foundations for security cooperation outside Europe. Here, the current situation is nothing less than tragicomic. In Afghanistan, the United States, NATO, the EU, Russia and the CSTO have an identical vital interest: to prevent this country from becoming a base for international Islamist terrorism and revolution. And despite the greater complexity of the situation, this is also true in the end of the fight against the Islamic State and its allies in the Middle East and West Africa.

One of the other benefits of such a new consultative institution would therefore be to remind both the West and Russia that while Russian and NATO soldiers have never killed each other and do not want to, there are other forces that have killed many thousands of Americans, Russians and Western Europeans, would happily kill us all if they could find the means to do so, and see no moral difference between what they regard as infidel western and eastern imperialism.