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#4 - JRL 7064
The Russia Journal
February 14-20, 2003
A Europe-Russia split: empty ambitions
By Andrei Piontkovsky

The European Union summit last year symbolized, it seemed, not just the EUs triumphant expansion, but also a big step forward towards the emergence of a new superpower a unified greater Europe with a common foreign and defense policy.

But this superpower Europe project remains a dream, and theres no better illustration of its failure to get off the ground than the recent unexpected extravaganza celebrating Franco-German friendship. In the same way, the long-running Russia-Belarus Union saga and the emergence of parallel groups formed by certain of the former Soviet republics serve to illustrate the failure of the C.I.S. project.

The Franco-German reconciliation process that began in the 1950s-60s after 200 years of bloody wars was crucial in laying the foundations of a peaceful and prosperous Western Europe that is now expanding this zone of stability eastward. Much of the merit for this reconciliation goes to the great French and German politicians of the time Charles de Gaulle, Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhardt.

Relations between France and Germany have long since become as normal and friendly as between most of the other EU countries. So why, then, was it necessary to put on such a splashy Soviet-style show of Franco-German friendship, complete with leaders embracing each other, sports contests and performances by various amateur artistic ensembles all serving only to oppose the Paris-Berlin axis to the rest of the EU?

The EUs unity fell apart over relations with the United States. What came as a shock to ambitious European elites above all those of France and Germany was not the events of Sept. 11, 2001, but what followed in November and December of that year. The U.S. operation in Afghanistan effectively demonstrated just to what extent the United States economic, technological and political potential outweighs the resources of its European allies.

Having resorted to Article Five of its charter for the first time in its history, NATO found itself on the sidelines in the anti-terrorist operation. (Britain took part in the operation more as a special U.S. ally than as a NATO member.)

European politicians now face serious questions. Just what is the point of the EUs defense policy? What kind of wars should Europes armed forces be prepared for? How big should the EU defense budget be if the military-technological gap between Europe and the United States is just going to increase regardless?

Going even further, to what extent is the European-Atlantic alliance psychologically and politically able to cope with having a very big brother in its ranks? This issue also has implications for Russia, which, on many issues is increasingly positioning itself as an ally of the European-Atlantic alliance.

The European elite seems not to have found a rational answer to this question yet. What we have been seeing since autumn 2001 is more of a purely emotional reaction that manifests itself as an unprecedented and ever-rising wave of anti-American outbursts and sentiments, especially in the French and German media.

The United States European friends and rivals make many specific reproaches and accusations against it, and sometimes they are fair and reasonable, but it is still hard to get away from the impression that what most riles part of the European elite is the very existence of the United States as a nation with so much more power and influence than its partners.

Much of the Russian elite understandably shares this irritation. But before Russians and Europeans band together in the embrace of this noble emotion, its worth first conducting a little imaginary experiment. Just picture the political map of the world exactly how it is today, but with one difference there is no United States. Would Russia and Europe have more or less security in this brave new world? Everyone can find his or her own answer to this question. Eight of Frances and Germanys European partners already gave their answers when their leaders signed a joint letter of solidarity with the United States at the end of January.

Russian ruling circles have so far reacted quite reasonably to the situation surrounding Iraq. While Moscow hasnt expressed any great enthusiasm for the U.S. plans, it has avoided the hysteria that has taken hold of some of the United States traditional allies. Russia is building complex and pragmatic relations with the worlds only superpower. Thanks to these relations, it has already been possible to liquidate the Islamic fundamentalist threat on the C.I.S. southern borders, and it is not worth sacrificing these relations to satisfy the ambitions and complexes of certain European politicians.

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