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memri
June 14, 2018 No.
7522

Russia-NATO Update – Ria.ru's Analyst Danilov: Macron Challenged the U.S. View On NATO, By Recognizing Mistakes With Russia; He Is Courageous

Russia-NATO Update is a review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest news on Russia-NATO relations from the Russian and East European media.

Ria.ru's analyst Ivan Danilov wrote in an article, titled "Macron Repented Before Russia For The U.S.", that the French President challenged Washington's view on NATO at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum. Macron actually said that NATO had erred in not fully honoring the obligations it had assumed and this failure had provoked reasonable concerns in Russia.

According to Danilov, it is now clear that the American and the French (European) views on NATO are incompatible.

"According to the American version, NATO is all but the embodiment of sainthood, necessary to protect the western world from aggressive Russia, which wants to get its own back after its defeat in the Cold War and refuses to behave in accordance with its status as the losing party, as required by the American politicians. According to the French version, it is the West as a collective that broke promises it had extended to Moscow, and the violation of those promises, as expressed in NATO's eastwards expansion, provoked Russia's natural response with corresponding geopolitical consequences," explained Danilov.

The Russian analyst also stressed that Macron displayed courage in rebelling against the U.S. and noted that the political atmosphere in Europe has changed.

Below are excerpts from Danilov's article:[1]

There Is A Revolution In The Western Political Discourse

"Several remarkable events occurred simultaneously during the St. Petersburg economic forum. The Russian side articulated some very serious proposals with far-reaching geopolitical consequences.

"First Deputy Prime Minister Anton Siluanov offered Russian support to the European Union for the plan of creating a 'petro-euro,' signaling Russia's readiness to engage in trade relations with the EU, which mostly buys oil and gas from us for euros, not for dollars.[2]

"Moreover, in response to a veiled complaint by the President of France Emmanuel Macron about France's dependence on the U.S. in the sphere of security, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin declared his preparedness to ensure effective protection for the European Union. Although the offer was made with Putin's typical humor, it was not facetious.

"The Western media are trying to downplay its importance, emphasizing that 'Macron said Europe was committed to a defense alliance with the U.S.' It is of particular note that the French president himself made a rather unique statement about NATO, laying the blame (or at least partial blame) for the deterioration of relations with Russia upon the West.

"It is very important, because it means a de facto revolution in the Western political discourse, where until recently, only retired European politicians with no political future could allow themselves to admit the obvious: the West has lost Russia because of its own ambitions, because of NATO's eastwards expansion, and because of repeat violations of assumed obligations.

"Macron is the only incumbent high-ranking EU politician who was brave or desperate enough to admit that the classical European maxim about the 'aggressive Russia, which exiled itself from the world community' is mendacious and harmful. Actually, seeing a Western politician acknowledge that the West has made a mistake is like winning a lottery: it happens very rarely. And seeing an incumbent Western politician admit that the West has acted unethically towards Russia and is now experiencing the well-deserved consequences — that's something out of a fantasy novel.

"'I think that the mistake that was made in the past 20 years – and I will say it openly – was that we in NATO did not fully fulfill the obligations we had undertaken at a certain moment. This caused legitimate concerns on the part of Russia. We did not build a space of trust that Russia had the right to expect, which fueled its concerns,' said Emmanuel Macron.

There Are Two Incompatible Views On NATO: The American And The French (European) Ones

"Acknowledging the existence of the problem and one's own role in its emergence is a good first step towards solving it. Despite the ritualistic statements about the unwillingness to 'turn his back on the U.S.,' now there are, in fact, two incompatible views on NATO: the American and the French (European) ones.

"According to the American version, NATO is all but the embodiment of sainthood, necessary to protect the western world from an aggressive Russia, which seeks revenge for its defeat in the Cold War and refuses to behave in accordance with its status as the losing party, as demanded by the American politicians. According to the French version, it is the collective West that violated promises it had given to Moscow, and the violation of those promises, expressed in NATO's eastwards expansion, provoked Russia's natural response with corresponding geopolitical consequences.

"Thus, the joy of the Western media over the fact that the French president did not turn his back on NATO looks strange because these two views of the past of this organization imply two incompatible views of its future. There is the American version: NATO's problem is the fact that the Europeans don't pay enough to the Americans — and that is the reason why they cannot properly crush Russia. There is the French (European) version, which follows from Macron's statements: NATO's problem is not money or 'the Russian threat,' but the fact that it should not have expanded in the first place. And now, one should try not to push Moscow but to build trust with Russia, which the French president so emotionally talked about in the St. Petersburg forum.

"What's especially noteworthy is Macron's desire to remove from himself (and Europe on the whole) the lion's share of responsibility for NATO's expansion and messed-up relations with Russia. When the French leader openly speaks about the fact Europe 'could have had insufficient sovereignty' in the recent past, that's worth a lot and we should not expect a sterner wording.

"For the European political elite, the acknowledgement itself of Europe's restricted sovereignty and statements about the willingness to fix this situation are already a huge step forward. And the fact that the French leader is shifting the blame on the Americans– that is firstly, only natural, and secondly, one has to admit that Washington has always been the primary 'engine' of the anti-Russian acts of the West. The Europeans could only be reproached for not offering strong enough opposition to the American Russophobia, although taking into account their limited sovereignty it is hard to see whether they even could effectively sabotage the anti-Russian policy of the U.S., which was guided not so much by common sense as by the pure Russophobia of [Zbigniew] Brzezinski or [Madeleine] Albright.[3]

"If one looks at this pragmatically, it is more beneficial now for Russia to contribute with all its might to the 'disengagement' of the EU from the U.S., and not to settle old scores with the European political establishment, trying to get even for, for example, the European policy of 'Eastern Partnership' and for European complicity in the Ukrainian crisis. All the problems between Moscow and Brussels (and they do exist) can be settled a lot more peacefully and effectively if the EU finally starts acting in its own, not in American interests.

"Emmanuel Macron displayed great courage in St. Petersburg, and it is clearly not his individual political initiative. The political atmosphere in Europe has changed, and if previously, in case of dissatisfaction with the American policy, the chief subject of discussion was the issue of how to appease Washington, now one of the primary topics of public discussion is the issue of how to reform the EU and (especially) how to strengthen the euro so as to fight the dollar hegemony effectively.

"The British Financial Times thinks that in order to achieve that, the EU will have to take the path of reforms and centralization, which the French president advocates. Russia is lending Europe a helping hand, which can provide it with military protection as well as unprecedented possibilities for the European currency. It is very probable that this is the last chance for Europe to gain real sovereignty, and one can only hope it will use this chance."

 


[3] Both Brzezinski, who served as Carter's NSC chief and Albright, Clinton's Secretary of State, were born in Poland and the then Czechoslovakia before they were incorporated in the Soviet Bloc. They are therefore considered by Russia to have an anti-Russian animus.