The Nord Stream 2 deal has changed the minds of European politicians. The smartest of them have already come to the conclusion that “the largest country in the world” is now the main one, and without it it is impossible to solve a single issue. Reinhardt Krumm from Vienna summed it up: Respect for Russians is a matter of security.
By Andrey Perla
This is news so news. “Russia has destroyed the European dream.” No more and no less. The head of the Vienna office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (an organization more than authoritative) Reinhardt Krumm published an article about Russia in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper (it is very prestigious for a German to publish there, it is immediately obvious that a serious person is writing a serious article). More precisely, about how Europe should treat Russia. He wrote that the “European dream” is gone, the old political ideas do not correspond to reality, and Moscow can no longer be ignored. To maintain security, Krumm wrote, the EU will have to negotiate with Moscow. We were wrong, Krumm wrote, about Russia. We wrongly thought that it was in decline, that the security risks were low, and that relations with Russia were stable. Everything turns out to be quite the opposite. On all counts.
Russia, Krumm wrote, is ready to challenge the West and take risks out of a sense of justice. And Europe needs to negotiate with it. From a sense of self-preservation.
The most interesting thing about this news is that it is perceived as news. Krumm wrote, it seems to you and me, perfect platitudes. But these platitudes, it’s hard to believe, were ignored in Europe even by serious politicians. Until very recently.
It was generally accepted that the Russian economy, as one American president said, was “torn to shreds” and could be ignored on most issues. For a long time it was considered so. And then suddenly the Putin-Biden summit, a new “big deal”, “Nord Stream 2”, which broke all European politics …
And it turns out that all this policy depends on Russia and is happening about Russia. And you need to somehow realize this, you need to somehow adapt to it.
When Russians give names to things
One of the historians said that there was only one period when “the Russians determined the names of things”, in other words, all other countries of Europe and the world in their development, their decisions, even in fashion followed the Russians: this is the time of the “Holy Union” – after the victory over Napoleon, from about 1815 to 1848. Then (now it’s hard to believe), even the Prussian military uniform was sewn in imitation of the Russian one.
Of course, this does not mean that Russia was surrounded by friends. On the contrary, France raved about revenge, England aspired to become the first in a European concert, and so on and so forth – and the matter ended in the war, which we now call the Crimean, the war of the then united Europe against Russia.
Looking at world politics today, it is difficult to get rid of the thought that all of it is happening again insofar as Russia exists.
For example, here’s a thought from an interview with Alexander Baunov, editor-in-chief of the Carnegie Moscow Center:
Baunov, naturally, is commenting on the latest news – the “deal” between the US and Germany over Nord Stream. And he states that this deal, like the policy of the two Western countries in general, like the entire European one, is a policy, the content of which depends on Putin, that is, on Russia. In exactly the same way as in the first half of the 19th century, all politics was built on independence (including in spite of, of course) from Alexander I, and then to Nicholas I.
Baunov, of course, is not the first or the last one to state this. He is simply amazed: how the energy supply of the largest European economy turned out to depend not on objective factors, but on the attitude towards Russia and its politics.
Russians can only interfere with themselves
We should state something different: the whole world understands the role of Putin as the ruler of Russia. The whole world believes that Russia determines by its position the positions of all other powers. Including the United States. Of course, we are talking about defining reactively hostile positions, about the fact that the meaning and purpose of the West’s policy is to contain Russia. But if it weren’t for Russia, then they would have nothing to say to each other, and their very existence would have no meaning.
The whole world, I repeat, understands this. And he compares the situation, of course, not with the times before the first defense of Sevastopol, but with the times of the first Cold War – after 1948, when the planet was a field of confrontation between Russia and its allies and the United States with its allies. The whole world considers this obvious – and only in Russia itself, for some reason, is the tradition of self-abasement still preserved, the idea that we are greedy, undeveloped, backward and are somewhere on the periphery of civilization. This is a venerable tradition. At the same time as the “Holy Union,” the great Peter Chaadaev wrote a sermon that Russia can only give the world a negative example, that we have not created anything. Both then and now, this tradition was in striking contradiction with the observed reality.
But – so much the worse for reality! The majority of Russian liberals at all times wished not only the defeat of their Motherland (betrayal of the Motherland is generally the main qualifying feature of the Russian liberal intellectual) but also (even before the defeat) recognition of its insignificance. It comes to denying generally accepted facts – for example, that Russia has the sixth economy in the world (in terms of GDP in PPP) or that Russia is considered as the largest power by most countries in both hemispheres, or that Russia remains one of the three space powers …
The gentleman from Vienna tells his readers that Germany (and everyone else) has to deal with “the largest country on earth” – as a partner, rival, or adversary. And this is a given – like it or not. And our “patriots abroad” are lamenting everything: we are small, weak, not at all, why do they treat us with respect? That’s why they are. They know how to count, they know how to look, and it would not be bad to learn from them.
Andrey Perla is a Political consultant and journalist.
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