Rivals or Allies?

A few years ago, Jean-Pierre Thomas, special representative to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, expressed his thoughts about how Europe and Russia would come to create a general economic and political union in the future that would allow them to successfully compete with the U.S. and China. I do not think that this idea was thrown out by a high-ranking French diplomat onto the media scene accidentally. He gave voice to the mood of that part of Old Europe’s political elite that is realistically assessing the situation. So far, the EU has stood before an important choice: Either Europe will absorb developing countries, enter into a free trade zone with the U.S. and Canada, or join a union with Russia and create a Eurasian expanse from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean at last.

The first alternative is inevitable if the political elite of the two leaders of the EU — France and Germany — continue to vacillate on the question of reforming the EU. Indigenous populations of European countries are constantly diminishing, especially in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In countries where the birth rate is equal to the death rate — France and the U.K. — laws about gay marriage are being made. The quantity of migrants is vigorously growing — in Sweden, for example, they already make up 30 percent of the general population. Experts already predict that if stringent migration laws are not put into place, by 2030 the indigenous populations of the leading European countries will become minorities.

The second option assumes an actual merging of Europe and Washington. It is unavoidable, taking into account that the political elite of New Europe — Poland, the Baltic countries, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, etc. — has been formed with U.S. support and serves its interests. Old Europe is weakened by the crisis and controversies. The individual economic potential of each leading country — Germany, France, the U.K. — is incomparable to the economic might of America. Also, as a rule, information resources are in the hands of the pro-American structure, which allows for the control of public opinion and the elimination of independently minded politicians — Chirac, Schroder, Strauss-Kahn — and also clears the road for worthless individuals like Hollande.

The third alternative would be the most agreeable, considering that the economic potential of Russia and its individual ties to Germany, France and the U.K. are commensurable: The gross domestic product of each is on the level of $2 to 3 trillion; by comparison, the GDP of the U.S. is $14.5 trillion, and China’s is more than $10 trillion. This means that mutual relations between these countries would be equitable. Russia does not share in the globalization ambitions of Germany, France, Italy or the U.S. That means that there is no sense in subjecting a partner to your own will. Finally, we note that on the level of cultural connections, Russia and Europe have a much more long-standing tradition than with the U.S., let alone China. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Russian elite preferred to vacation exclusively in Europe; Russian culture was literally impregnated with that of Europe.

It is interesting that all figures of Russian culture had their own preferences with regard to European countries. For example, Gogol madly loved Rome. He felt at home in Italy. France and Paris evoked a deep connection in Ivan Turgenev. Contemporaries wrote that “Europe stole Turgenev from Russia.” Geneva, with its cult of Rousseau, was close to Leo Tolstoy’s heart. If we look at the geography of Dostoevsky’s travels, then we will see that one of the pillars of “pochvennichestvo”* always tugged at him in southern Germany (Baden-Baden, etc.). Is it still surprising that Friedrich Nietzsche called the Russian author the only psychologist who taught him anything? Finally, after the upheaval of 1917, nearly all of the cultural elites of Russia found refuge in Europe.

Taking into account these long-standing historical-cultural ties, we can be sure that the integration of countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States and Europe is much more founded than a union between North America and Europe. In fact, Russian “zapadniks”** and “pochestvenniks” are of the same thought. For example one of the brightest representatives of “pochvennichestvo,” Fyodor Tyutchev was the first in history to initiate a European-Russian relations planned awareness campaign on the convergence of Russia and the West. Unfortunately, in the end, enemies of the union between the West and Russia strongly refused. American hegemony and the strengthening of Asian counties was the result. Will it be possible to overcome the resistance of the opponents of such an alliance — especially in the face of U.S. and its rich elites — in the 21st century? Will a united economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok become a reality?

*Translator’s note: “Pochvennichestvo” has no literal translation but broken down can mean a sort of nationalistic tendency, like recultivating ourselves in the soil that we were sowed in. It refers to a movement inspired by Dostoevsky to return to Orthodoxy and denounce nihilism and Marx.

**Translator’s note: A “zapadnik” is someone who sympathizes with the West.

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