'Cold War Reanimators' Like Romney are Poor Role
Models for Europe (Gazeta, Russia)
black and white Cold War mentality looks all the more absurd in the context of
the tectonic shifts taking place before our eyes ... Mitt Romney, who readily
repeats his idea that Russia is America's preeminent geopolitical foe, is the only
such politician-reanimator of that ilk today. ... If he wins, Romney may of course try and revive
the transatlantic mythology of the 'free world' vs. the successor of the 'evil
empire,' but even Romney will quickly understand how far removed from the real
issues this is."
Speaking before the Council of Europe on
the subject of European security, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
lamented that, "In our image, some politicians would like to reanimate the
image of a 'geopolitical foe' - an opponent that would allow them to maintain a
strong political-military nexus between the U.S. and European members of NATO."
In this case, as was rightly noted by the head of Russian diplomacy, "the
black and white Cold War mentality looks all the more absurd in the context of
the tectonic shifts taking place before our eyes."
Mitt Romney, who readily repeats his idea that Russia is America's
preeminent geopolitical foe, is the only such politician-reanimator
of that ilk today. Few take this seriously.
Even those unsympathetic toward Moscow understand that Russia's
place in the hierarchy of threats is not that significant, and that the
presidential candidate is simply regurgitating familiar clichés to express some
sort of position.
At the same time, the threat of a crumbling of U.S.-Russia
relations is real, but has nothing to do with exaggerating the Russian threat,
and everything to do with the growing mutual indifference and disinterested neglect.
And these symptoms are present on both sides.
The global politics shift toward Asia ultimately denies Russian-Euro-Atlantic
ties their one-time conceptual content, which was determined by the long coattails
of the Cold War - first the animosity, then overcoming it and denying it
together, and finally a rebirth against the background of continued denial ...
Regardless of whether all of this was real, a clearly-defined framework for
relations emerged with its own internal logic.
Only a shell now survives - a shell that is hollow. In his remarks, Lavrov again listed the eternal
problems - disagreements over Synchronized Armed Forces Europe (SAFE),
which Moscow de facto left five years ago, the expansion of NATO's infrastructure,
and the lack of mutual understanding on anti-missile defense. The latter is
still topical, as it relates to the basic problem of global strategic stability
(and it will remain as long as nuclear arsenals accumulated by the superpowers
exist) and the future balance of power in Asia. The rest resembles a provincial
theater of the absurd. In any event, the very presence on the agenda of the
question of parity within SAFE (the gist of the document was the establishment
of a balance of power between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, if anyone remembers)
proves that there is nothing left to discuss.
Europeans are also constantly resurrecting the question of
tactical nuclear weapons in Europe - Russian and American. Why the weapons
remain there remains as unclear as is the question of who is bothered by them.
But launching negotiations on the matter, which is insisted upon by the Old
World, would open a Pandora's Box of endless and unfounded mutual complaint.
Even the more recent process of NATO expansion makes no political-military
sense right now. Over recent years, the question of admitting Ukraine and
Georgia has been in effect dismissed due to well-known circumstances, and
whether Macedonia is admitted interests only the Greeks and Macedonians
Against this backdrop, Russia's offer in 2008, suggested by
Sergei Lavrov, to sign a legally-binding agreement on
European security (it has been a while) looks similarly like a blast from the
past - a recent past, but in substance a distant one. Such a document would
make sense if it were to put a line under the matter and bring it to a close. But
there is little hope for that. Rather, the expectation is that it would revive
the issue of European security.
There is, of course, another dimension related to what in former
times was referred to as the "third basket": democracy, human rights,
and the humanitarian component. In other words, the Council of Europe's area of
influence. At one point it was believed that a society formed on its guidelines
and principles would emerge, in which all military-political questions would
vanish and be replaced with the issues associated with friendship and mutual
understanding. It is now not only clear that this hasn't come to pass, but that
the European Council is losing the capacity to ever foster such a development.
What makes the recent conflict about the report and its
recommendations between Russia and PACE materially different from their many past
collisions, is the Kremlin's official reaction. Presidential press-secretary
Dmitri Peskov simply replied: "We don't find
this language or statement appropriate, and will certainly not consider them."
And not only that, but the Council, amid deepening crisis in Europe,
is more in need of Russia, one of its largest donors, than the other way
around. Moscow increasingly views itself as the herald of other values - traditionalist
values. And it isn't just the desire to freeze Russia's conservative domestic model,
but a response to a global process: the collision of tradition and
modernization, as well as the debate over the foundations, apart from liberal
ones, that allow for modernization. This is one of the world's most intense
Set in its usual Euro-Atlantic paradigm, the dialogue between
Russia and what is commonly called the West has exhausted itself. It is now
possible to hold a dialogue with Europe on a new basis, which would take into
account obvious mutual economic interests and a common intellectual legacy:
even the strange conservative hybrid that Moscow offers as an alternative to "European
values" is deeply rooted in European culture. Understanding the need for
re-evaluating the conversation will come if both sides realize that in an
Asia-centric world, they are part of the periphery - classical Europe even more
so than Russia.
Previously, Moscow - rejecting all criticism - always held that it
rightfully belonged in the Council, and wanted to be judged by its standards, but
with acknowledgement of its unique circumstances. Now Moscow has made clear
that it will no longer make such efforts: the Council of Europe is no longer of
In relation with America, Euro-Atlantic inertia is even more pernicious,
as it detracts from the truly serious threats of the future.
If he wins, Mitt Romney may of course try and revive the
transatlantic mythology of the "free world" vs. the successor of the "evil
empire," but even Romney will quickly understand how far removed from the real
issues this is.
The big politics is playing out not in Europe, but in the Near and
Far East. In the case of the former, Europe has some bearing (although the
usual problem of European security does not apply); and in case of the latter,
it is practically out of the game. Russia and America have lots of room for
cooperation in Asia, since their interests there contradict less than they once
did in Europe, and sometimes even overlap (as in relations to growth in China).
The main thing is not to drag the momentum of the Pacific into the inertia of
the now-pointless Atlantic rivalry.
Until the content of the dialogue gets an update and while the
sides continue to repeat the same things, the sense of utter boredom isn't
going anywhere. This boredom is a guarantee of indifference and a lack of
desire to change things for the better.
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