February 19, 2003
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
RUSSIA, EUROPE AND NEW CHALLENGES
Sergei KARAGANOV, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policies
The differences that arose inside the two pivotal organizations of the Western community - NATO and the European Union, over the attitude to a military action against Iraq have become yet another proof of how profoundly the world is changing. The tragedy of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent events started breaking the outdated, inadequate ideas about the surrounding reality and making people revise many concepts that seemed to be axioms.
The appearance of new threats has made the crisis or inadequacy of the institutions designed to ensure European security obvious. NATO, having achieved most of its aims and becoming one of the most successful military alliances in history, is obviously becoming outdated. In the early 1990s, it, perhaps, lost its historical chance of radically reforming itself and becoming the basis of a global alliance to ensure security against new threats. At that time, however, NATO took a course for expansion and face-lift reforms. The result is a delayed degradation, which had become obvious by NATO's second expansion and has especially vividly manifested itself now, in the situation concerning Iraq. The weakening of the alliance, together with a widening rift between Europe and the USA in the military field, leads to the weakening of European influence in the North-Atlantic community.
Earlier, in the conditions of confrontation and rivalry with the West, Moscow often rejoiced over differences between the Euroatlantic partners. However, now that the axis of threats has shifted onto another plane, Russia is interested in its allies in the struggle against instability in Asia, terrorism and the proliferation of mass destruction weapons being as much efficient and united as possible. This is why the deepening of cultural- ideological, political differences between the USA and Western Europe begins to cause concern in the Russian political class. Calls are even being made on Moscow, which were unthinkable before, to start work to settle these differences and play the role of a bridge between the diverging coasts of the Atlantic ocean, one of "the integrator" of the Euroatlantic environment.
It would be advantageous for Russia to have by its side the European Union as a more powerful and efficient partner in the field of foreign and security policies. The majority of our approaches and interests coincide. Despite the current almost friendly relations with the USA, no one in Russia would rejoice over Washington's turning into the sole hegemon or the weakening of European influence, positive, as a rule, on US policy.
However, many Russian observers, just like their numerous colleagues outside Russia, are constantly expressing doubts whether the EU is really capable of building common foreign and security policies. Paradoxically enough, despite the proclaimed course "Europe first," Russia objectively begins to drift towards the traditional course "the USA first:" Washington, despite its tendency towards unilateral actions, all differences and Russian suspicions (which are much stronger with regard to the USA than with regard to major West-European states) is a much more efficient and understandable partner than Brussels. What is more, the Bush administration has made a stake on the creation of partner relations with Moscow. The EU position, if we distract ourselves from declarations, is not so obvious.
The European Union, which keeps Russia at a distance of a stretched out hand, is seriously weakening its international positions, especially in the conditions of a new world where the issues of security and geopolitics are again coming to the fore. It is not by chance that now when differences with the USA have deepened, Germany and France are appealing first of all to Moscow. It is important to realize that a qualitatively new situation requires from the Europeans both in the east and in the west of the continent a radical revision of the former policy, a marked invigoration of the search for adequate ways of influencing the new situation and adapting to it. Only a joint search for solutions will be efficient.