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memri
May 25, 2018 No.
7490

Russian Intellectual Lukyanov: Europe Without America

In his article, titled "Europe Without America," Russian intellectual Fyodor Lukyanov analyzed Russia's relations with Germany, ahead of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Sochi.[1] Lukyanov describes Berlin as the most "consistent" supporter of sanctions against Moscow. However, the Russian intellectual's interpretation does not ascribe Germany's support for sanctions to the Ukrainian crisis, but views it as a byproduct of the differing weltanschauungs of the two countries.

Germany's ideological world view supports European integration based on the growing influence of Brussels. According to Lukyanov, the European integration did prove economically and politically beneficial to Germany, since Berlin became the de facto leader of the EU bloc. However, the situation in Ukraine, the migration crisis, and the election of President Donald Trump changed the balance of power inside the EU.

Lukyanov emphasizes that the new Trump administration exposed Germany's weakness vis-à-vis Washington. The Russian intellectual opines that since Germany disagrees with Trump's 'Peace through strength policy', Berlin finds itself marginalized. In contrast, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to be more aligned with Trump's view (Paris also joined the U.S. and the UK in carrying out a punitive strike against Syria, on 14 April 2018). This difference in views with the U.S. has put Germany at a loss inside the EU and as a global player.

According to Lukyanov, if Germany seeks to regain its leading role it must break with the unipolar order concept. This would imply support for a EU foreign policy position independent of the U.S. that would translate into rapprochement with Russia. However, Lukyanov ruefully concludes that Germany is not ready "for this serious course correction" by causing a rupture in trans-Atlantic relations.

Below are excerpts from Lukyanov's article:[2]


(Source: Star.com.tr)

"On Friday, Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, met with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel - his first meeting with Western leaders after his inauguration and start his new term. Of the great powers of the European Union (We no longer regard Great-Britain as such), Germany is the most consistent supporter of sanctions against Moscow. The formal reason for sanctions was the Ukraine crisis, but the mutual atmosphere has been darkening for some time. In reality – the reason was not so much concrete political and economic differences (the interests of the two countries align in many areas) but rather divergent world outlooks.

"The German political class, whose most prominent representative is [Chancellor Angela] Merkel, is convinced that the European order should be formed around the idea of European integration –as the EU understands it. To simplify this somewhat this is is a rejection of force and the geostrategic component of foreign policy in favor of 'soft' or 'civilian' power, by disseminating the rules of Brussels.

"It is clear why Germany is in the vanguard of this world-view. It was relatively recently that the Germans dabbled in great-power politics and paid quite a heavy price for their extravagant geopolitical ambitions. Therefore that they saw in the EU concept salvation from their past and the risk of its repetition. European integration was and remains a guarantee that the 'German Question', which has several times plunged Europe into war, will never again occur. In other words, European integration (bearing in mind that Germany was the strongest economy in the EU/EEC from the 1960's onward) allowed for the country's economic development and growth, while avoiding traditional accusation of dominance. The need for a European cocoon became more acute following Germany's unification, when many European neighbors became concerned about the prospect of the fatal cycle of German history repeating itself.

"The context of a growing European Union, in which Germany de-facto plays the leading role, but is not obliged to declare it, was not only comfortable for the Germans but irreplaceable. The crises in European integration that became noticeable about 10 years ago were perceived by Germany as an existential threat. Internal organization problems, for example foreign currency deficit and other similar issues were successfully solved within EU internal procedures. The turning point was a clash with the outside world, which, as it turns out, did not go where the EU expected following the 'Cold War'. Contact between the rest of the world and the EU's 'post-historical' little world was the last blow to the EU – and a complete shock for Germany. Three events in the last 5 years, the situation in Ukraine, the migration influx, and America's U-turn with Trump forced the EU to doubt whether the reality in which the European Union wants to live is realistic (recalling the statement by Merkel in 2014 in which she said that Putin lived in a different world, which at the time the chancellor considered non-existent). [3]

"In 2014, European regulatory and economic expansion, which was considered 'soft' but quite assertive, encountered a very tough geopolitical response from Russia. In 2016 the EU was swamped by waves of immigrants from former colonial territories on the [EU's] periphery - an event which destroyed the internal balance in the Union. The failure of Donald Trump to consider allied relations as a default given and America's transition to open pressure have forced Europe to sense its insecurity in an ever more dangerous world.

"The fate of the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program has become a turning point. And it is not Iran's business per se. Europe stands before dilemma. Make a point and swallow America's diktat, finally abandoning any lingering pretense of 'strategic autonomy' or refuse the conditions set by Washington, getting into political conflict with Washington and risking economic problems. Europe speaks about the inadmissibility of the first option, presumably saying enough we will not surrender. But at the same time the EU recognizes sotto voce that it has no means for influencing the United States, save for persuasion (which is absolutely useless).

"In 'Peace through strength', as proclaimed by Trump, power is understood in its most classical form, the very type which Europe and especially Germany wanted to abandon. It is now evident that out of all the European leaders none is more in alignment with this view than Emmanuel Macron. After all, France remains a nuclear power and possesses a certain potential for power. [This situation] has put Germany at a loss.

"In this new framework, relations with Russia should find a new meaning– EU independence from the U.S. in foreign policy, which by definition provides for active engagement with Russia, China, and the rest of the great non-Western states. However, Berlin is not yet ready for this serious course correction. In the first place, no matter what is said by German politicians about the inadmissibility of a Washington diktat, many of their generation educated in the all-powerful transatlantic spirit, cannot get this straight. Secondly, as mentioned earlier, the European Union's preservation of its unity is extremely important for Germany as a prerequisite for its political existence, and the EU has enough countries, which are guided solely by the idea of confrontation with Russia. That is unlikely to change, and even if it did it still would not work out."

 

 

[2] Globalaffairs.ru, May 16, 2018.

[3] See Pressure Rising As Obama Works To Rein In Russia, Nytimes.com, March 3, 2014.