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Illusion instead of strategy: failure of “Greater Europe” makes Russia facing its enemies

Igor Ivanov: The Sunset of the Greater Europe. Photo: The Baltic Forum

“The Greater Europe” project no longer exists. Russian diplomatic circles and political elite influenced by the Ukrainian crisis have to reconsider the foreign policy ideology of their cooperation with the West.

On September 12 2015, almost two years after the Ukrainian crisis erupted and a year after the “Minsk process” started – President of the Russian Council for International Affairs (RCIA), the ex-minister of foreign affairs, Igor Ivanov in his speech at the 20th Annual International Conference of the Baltic Forum “The US, the EU and Russia – the New Reality” in Riga, had to admit the wreaking of “The Greater Europe” project. (1)  It is a doubtless “achievement” of Ivanov and his think-tank, the RCIA, admitting failure of the post-Soviet project of Russia’s (more precisely of Russian elite’s) joining the Western civilization as a full-fledged member.

Inspired by Spengler, Igor Ivanov entitled his report at the conference in Riga “The Sunset of Greater Europe,” which is not correct, as “Greater Europe” in the format it was suggested to the world - EU + fragments of the former Soviet Union – has never existed.  Greater Europe has never gone beyond the thoughts of the Russian westerners; it was inherently a veil and excuse for the West’s expansion into the East. 

Consequently, something that has never existed cannot face “sunset.” Simply, even the adepts of the idea have finally made sure that promotion of “the Greater Europe” project is not only inexpedient but also inadequate in the current situation. The qualification of Ivanov’s expert society uniting the RCIA was questioned.  He had to put up with the idea of his project, a dream of “a united and indivisible Greater Europe” (!) instead of “a united and indivisible Russia.” “The once-in-a-century chance was missed and it is unlikely that another such chance will present itself to the current generation of politicians, in both East and West,” Ivanov said.  Was it a chance or it remained in the dreams of the former minister? 

Anyway, in his report, Ivanov voiced a range of wrong provisions that need a commentary.

The ex-minister said in Riga: “Today, when we speak about the Euro-Atlantic space, we mean Western Europe and the USA. This applies not only to the security sphere, as represented by NATO, but increasingly to the economy (Trans-Atlantic integration projects, plans to deliver American gas to Europe, etc.). So we can say that, in the modern world, the Euro-Atlantic space includes the Western states located in Europe and North America.” Ivanov is not accurate, as he limits the Euro-Atlantic Space with the Western Europe only. It is evident to us that Euro-Atlantic Space stretches into the Nordic countries, Central and Eastern Europe, and finally the Balkans. The Ukrainian crisis demonstrated that openly.  Euro-Atlantic Space is where sanctions were imposed on Russia over the Ukrainian crisis.

In his report, Ivanov insisted that we are observing “revival of the Euro-Atlantic Space.” Meantime, it has not disappeared within 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, it expanded into the East – NATO’s expansion into the Central and Eastern Europe, war in the Balkans or a chain of ‘orange revolutions’ in the post-Soviet space.  It appears that Igor Ivanov did not notice that, as he was too busy with his dream and the dream of the post-Soviet elites about “Greater Europe” stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok with possibility to legalize in the West the wealth gained in the post-Soviet space.

Dreams to appear in the European civilization yielded to dark reality so that at the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis the pro-Western circles in Moscow – without any grounds – thought that, as Ivanov said, “economic interdependence might force the two sides to show political flexibility, dampen the crisis and stimulate the search for compromise.”  The Russian Gazprom in the period of sanctions, within short period of time, has promoted three multi-billion dollar projects of gas transportation to Europe.  Over the last 50 years, inspired with the dreams of “Greater Europe” the Russian elite has made Russia’s economy and its export component dependent on the European energy market. 

In Riga, Ivanov interpreted the situation as “continental shift, the drifting apart of the two European geopolitical plates.” Actually, Ivanov says that in the current Ukrainian conflict, there are two Europes in “a new geopolitical rift.” Was there ever a time when there was no such “geopolitical rift” if during the last millennium there has always been a fundamental difference in the economic management in the west and east of Elba, which predetermined the lack of unity in development of capitalism in that space.  This difference was more than evident in the case of Russia.  Eventually, one can state that even in the light of the Ukrainian crisis, Igor Ivanov in his arguments about “two Europes” failed to overcome the Eurocentric standpoint on Russia. 

Summing up his report, the ex-minister assessed the current moment in the following way: “This does not mean that Russia should turn its back on Europe, renouncing interaction with its European partners and friends.”  Ivanov either does not see the evident unity of bellicose Europe toward Russia, the integrity of its Euro-Atlantic line, or just diplomatically refrains from mentioning the adversaries. Anyway, in the fight one should not turn back to the adversary, but confront it.

Ivanov describes the idea of “Greater Europe” as “romantic expectations of the end of the previous and the beginning of this century.” It does not so. There is serious policy behind those romantics and dreams, an aspiration of the post- Soviet elite to become part of the West.  In the shadow of those dreams, there is a ruined country, with a population that decreases and runs wild in the ruins of the mono-towns.

In Riga, Igor Ivanov confessed: “Greater Europe” did not, in the end, happen. However, history does not forgive such mistakes to politicians (much less to the country) even if there were hostages to fruitless dreams.

(1) Igor Ivanov. The Sunset of the Greater Europe // http://russiancouncil.ru/inner/?id4=6564#top-content

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