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Yaroslav Shedov

MSc MGIMO University and University of St. Andrews

The 2008 financial crash, the refugee crisis, climate change and a global pandemiс - all these issues were and still are being tackled by the EU and Russia individually. However, imagine a situation where Russia and the EU could act as one political institution, where the negative impact of those events could undoubtedly be reduced. This article will tackle three questions. Why does the idea of “Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok” have the right to exist? Why is this concept important for the EU and Russia? And how can it be implemented?

French president Charles de Gaulle did not question the fact that Russia was a member of the European family. He considered that acting together as one was the only way to build a safe, strong and united Europe. In his speech at the University of Strasbourg in 1959, he declared, "Yes, it is Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, it is Europe, all of Europe which will decide the fate of the world.” If you look at the date of the speech, you may be surprised, as indeed that idea contradicted the Cold War agenda. The reason for it is Charles de Gaulle’s disapproval of the existence of the Iron Curtain. He believed that Europe had to extend beyond its political borders, with the idea's fundamental foundation being culture.

Nowadays, President Emmanuelle Macron and Vladimir Putin expressed their intention and desire to cooperate in the context of Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok. On June 26, 2020, President Macron stated that France would push for collaboration from Lisbon to Vladivostok, especially during "the crisis we are living through." Last year, prior to the meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Fort de Brégançon, Emmanuel Macron stated, "Russia is a very deeply European country." Indeed, novels and plays of Russian authors are translated to nearly all European languages. The most famous plays are staged in European cities, while the music of Russian composers is played in the finest European theatres. The paintings of Russian artists are also exhibited in major European museums. All these pieces of art of Russian culture are understandable and clear for the European audience. John Freedman, an American theatre critic, describes Chekhov plays as universal, with every person of non-Russian origin being able to find something of their own culture. "In Russia he is Russian. In England he is English. In the United States he is American." Indeed, Russian pieces of art are mainly associated with western, European culture. It is impossible to say that they can be Eurasian or Asian as they all have roots in Christianity.

On November 3, 2020, world politics may face an unprecedented situation. For the first time in American history, both candidates may not concede the election. According to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, only 22 per cent of American citizens believe that this year's presidential elections will be fair and free. It suggests that even the clear victory of one of the candidates does not guarantee that there will not be any unrest. As a result, it may create a vacuum in international politics which may be filled by China, and it will be hard to predict how it will significantly change the international agenda.

It should be clear that there will be third parties which will not be interested in active cooperation between the EU and Russia. For China, it is much easier to cooperate with the EU and Russia as two separate political and economic identities. The Roman strategy, divide et impera, is still being used nowadays. While the Wolfitz Doctrine proclaimed, "We (the U.S.) must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." There is no doubt that it is the EU's and Russia's duty to look beyond disagreement, end useless political ping pong and reinvent Europe's sovereignty.

Russia and Europe have more areas of common interest than points of conflict. Politicians should think in terms of the long game, as new challenges to European Civilization are arising. Bilateral and international relations will prove to be more important than temporary internal political fluctuations. While internal politics change and regimes may come and go, nations must maintain working relations for far longer. With the rise of chaos in the world order, Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok could be an antidote to the turmoil.

The 2008 financial crash, the refugee crisis, climate change and a global pandemiс - all these issues were and still are being tackled by the EU and Russia individually. However, imagine a situation where Russia and the EU could act as one political institution, where the negative impact of those events could undoubtedly be reduced. This article will tackle three questions. Why does the idea of “Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok” have the right to exist? Why is this concept important for the EU and Russia? And how can it be implemented?

One DNA, One Culture

French president Charles de Gaulle did not question the fact that Russia was a member of the European family. He considered that acting together as one was the only way to build a safe, strong and united Europe. In his speech at the University of Strasbourg in 1959, he declared, "Yes, it is Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, it is Europe, all of Europe which will decide the fate of the world.” If you look at the date of the speech, you may be surprised, as indeed that idea contradicted the Cold War agenda. The reason for it is Charles de Gaulle’s disapproval of the existence of the Iron Curtain. He believed that Europe had to extend beyond its political borders, with the idea's fundamental foundation being culture.

Nowadays, President Emmanuelle Macron and Vladimir Putin expressed their intention and desire to cooperate in the context of Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok. On June 26, 2020, President Macron stated that France would push for collaboration from Lisbon to Vladivostok, especially during "the crisis we are living through." Last year, prior to the meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Fort de Brégançon, Emmanuel Macron stated, "Russia is a very deeply European country." Indeed, novels and plays of Russian authors are translated to nearly all European languages. The most famous plays are staged in European cities, while the music of Russian composers is played in the finest European theatres. The paintings of Russian artists are also exhibited in major European museums. All these pieces of art of Russian culture are understandable and clear for the European audience. John Freedman, an American theatre critic, describes Chekhov plays as universal, with every person of non-Russian origin being able to find something of their own culture. "In Russia he is Russian. In England he is English. In the United States he is American." Indeed, Russian pieces of art are mainly associated with western, European culture. It is impossible to say that they can be Eurasian or Asian as they all have roots in Christianity.

Christianity was adopted in Russia in 988, allowing the Kievan Rus’ to become a member of the European community. It should also be taken into account that the Kievan Rus’ was not the last state that adopted Christianity in Europe. Christianization was also a long process in the Baltic, Nordic, and Scandinavian countries. For instance, the Christianization of Lithuania took place from 1006-1386, Estonia – 1070-1227, while in Norway it was in the 12th century. It shows that Russia has been part of Christianity for a long time.

Furthermore, dynastic marriages played an important role in establishing political and cultural ties between Kievan Rus’ (and later the Russian Empire) and Europe. Three daughters of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise were the queens of France, Denmark, Hungary, and Norway, while his sister was the wife of the Polish king and his granddaughter married the German emperor. The members of the Romanov family (the dynasty that ruled in Russia from 1613 till 1917) were fully integrated into the system of the European royal families. Despite the fact that Russia was created at the periphery of the Christian World and changed by the Mongol-Tatar invasion, Russia is still a European country with a Christian Foundation. It is indeed a great advantage and luck for Europe that its civilization exists on territory that geographically is both Europe and Asia.

On the other hand, American political scientist Francis Fukuyama could disagree with the statement that culture was the force that united countries. In 1989, Fukuyama published the article "The End of History." Three years later, in his book "The End of History and the Last Man," he argued that after the dissolution of the USSR, humanity had reached the point where there was “the end-point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of human government.” In support of this statement, Fukuyama refers to the democratic peace theory, which suggests that democracies do not go to war with each other, as it is one of the powers that unites countries.

However, Samuel Huntington argued that culture is the force that matters. He suggested that the conflict of ideologies was replaced by the conflict between civilizations. In Huntington's opinion, during the Cold War, the world was divided into the spheres of interests controlled by the USA and the Soviet Union. Nowadays, such division has lost its relevance due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Therefore, according to Huntington, it will be more appropriate and meaningful to group countries in terms of their civilization and culture rather than based on their economic development or their economic or political systems. There is no doubt it will be crucial for Europe and Russia to act within one common identity; to identify the potential threat to the European culture and if there is such a possibility avoid any potential conflicts with other civilizations.

An East Wind is Сoming [1]

Globalization has created a complex interdependence which is indeed great idea in theory, as one state can purchase the goods which are needed for its market (therefore, there will be no necessity for this country to invest money in the production of these goods) while the country producing these commodities receives capital as part of that market exchange. Still, the world pandemic has shown that nearly all countries in the world are dependent on China, with many having to order PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) from China. As a result, the complex interdependence resulted in mere dependence on China. It is a worrying signal as it can be argued that the U.S. has started to lose its grip on the international agenda due to the turbulent situation in domestic politics. Step by step, China has started to fill its vacuum. The way of presenting data and information regarding the pandemic and the lack of transparency should raise questions on the potential outcomes of Chinese dominance. The most important feature of the Chinese government, which is ignored, is its communist ideology. However, we do not see any rhetoric from western countries that the Chinese communist government is a threat to the western ideals of the capitalist economy as it had happened when the Soviet government was communist. There are not any sanctions imposed on the Chinese government because of the existence of so-called “vocational training centers” for Uighur and other ethnic minorities (mainly Muslims) in Xinjiang. It only proves that nowadays most countries have become so dependent on China that any political actions against its government may badly economically backfire to them. Therefore, it will be hard to predict how the Chinee government will act in the future if it becomes the dominant power in the global order.

It should be taken into consideration one of the Chinese ways of understanding the world. The Chinese vertical world map depicts China nearly in the centre of the world, while it is close to the Arctic region. Indeed, China has already started to play an active role in the region, to which only European countries, Russia, the USA, and Canada are geographically close.

China cannot physically claim Arctic territory, but it can have political and economic interests in the region. Anne-Marie Brady, a New Zealand politics researcher and full professor at the University of Canterbury, in her book "China as a Polar Great Power," highlights that China can potentially gain control in the region.[2]

In November 2014, Chinese President Xi Tingiping stated that China "will be joining the ranks of the Polar great powers" and called China a "near-Arctic power." Chinese companies have already financed Artic projects (e.g. Yamal LNG in Russia), including the Joint China-Iceland Aurora Observatory in Iceland, and potentially may have contracts for building three airports in Greenland. The active Chinese role in the Arctic region may shape the way of how the global order is governed.

Also, the Chinese government has started to gain influence in Europe. From railways to steel, the Chinese government is spending billions of Euros in the Union. EU governments have been granting China more and more unfettered access to the European market. It is estimated that “from 2008 to 2018, China spent an estimated 300 billion Euros on the acquisition of European companies or the establishment of their subsidiaries in Europe." In 2019, Hungary and China signed a 2 billion Euro loan deal for the Budapest-Belgrade Chinese rail project, financed with Chinese credit. At the same time, Chinese state-owned companies State Grid and China Three Gorges invested more than 9 billion Euros in the Portuguese electricity grid. By using their market force, Chinese state-owned companies are becoming an important player in EU countries. This idea was supported by Raquel Vaz-Pinto, a political scientist at the University of Lisbon, who said, "We were forced to privatize by the market logic, and eventually sold to state capitalist companies."

Non-EU countries in the Balkans have also been increasingly under the influence of the Chinese government. Unfortunately, this has already had a negative impact on Montenegro. A Chinese financed highway in Montenegro caused a disastrous problem for the local budget, with the Montenegrin government having to freeze public sector wages and raise taxes (Montenegrin debt has raised to 80% of the GDP).

Moreover, the Chinese government has also started to act in the countries which are politically, economically, and culturally integrated with Russia. Since 2012, Serbia received $9.5bn of Chinese investment and more than half of that was from China's state investment. Serbia's largest industrial factories, such as a steel factory in Smederervo and a copper mine in Bor, were sold to Chinese companies. Such investment projects made Serbia "a strategic anchor for China in the [EU's] semi-periphery," where it can act flexibly, as there are not any EU regulations.

Finally, Belarus, Russia's closest ally, secured a $500 million from the Chinese Development Bank in November 2019, while the Belarussian Railway company was funded by the Export-Import Bank of China. Additionally, the Chinese Development Bank provided $100 million Euros to Belarusbank. The most ambitious project is the Great Stone Industrial Park, China’s largest overseas economic project. It shows that China has started to play in Russia’s backyard (and it is playing well). China offers loans that do not have any political risks for the borrower (for example, EU or U.S. sanctions). Such Chinese geopolitical games in the EU and Russian spheres of interest should worry policymakers.

Indeed, Emmanuel Macron warned that the "period of European nativity" about China had to stop. He admitted that it was a strategic error to let Chinese companies buy up such important infrastructure projects as ports. He said, "The relationship between the EU and China must not be first and foremost a trading one, but a geopolitical and strategic relationship." The EU and Russia have ended it up in a situation where by continuing to quarrel about the situation in Ukraine, they neglected China's rise in Europe. These fears are not based on xenophobia or prejudice. There is no doubt that Chinese investments are key for economic growth, but it is also crucial to recall strategic interests, as it will not be possible to redeem the state’s sovereignty.

You Cannot Reform Europe While Ignoring Russia

Addressing a French ambassadors conference, Emmanuelle Macron said that the western world had to cooperate with Russia to build a new architecture of European stability. One of the ways of building such architecture is by reforming the European Parliament. For example, the European Commission has proposed a EU strategy for the Baltic Region. Russia has direct access to the Baltic Sea, but due to the fact that Russia is not a member of the EU, Moscow cannot take any direct steps to make changes to that strategy. It can be argued that there is the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, which is treaty-based, and Russia is a member of this organization. Still, it will have a much bigger impact on decision-making if Russia will be able to discuss its ideas in the European Parliament. Even one of the points of the strategy suggests that "better coordination and cooperation between countries and the region is needed to address these challenges" (European Commission). At the same time, the Council of Europe may continue to act as an advisory body as there are still countries that are not members of the EU, but they still play an important role in regional politics in Europe.

The project Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok should bring value to European and Russian citizens. Otherwise, it will remain a legend that was never brought to life. John Donne, an English poet, in his work, which became an epigraph to Hemingway's book "For Whom the Bell Tolls" wrote, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent…” The same can be said about Europe. No country can be isolated as an island, as every state is a piece, a puzzle of Europe. If Russiais to be ignored, which is the largest puzzle of Europe, and not fully integrated politically, it will have fatal outcomes for both the EU and Russia in the long term due to the reasons which have been discussed in the previous part of this article.

Conclusion

On November 3, 2020, world politics may face an unprecedented situation. For the first time in American history, both candidates may not concede the election. According to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, only 22 per cent of American citizens believe that this year's presidential elections will be fair and free. It suggests that even the clear victory of one of the candidates does not guarantee that there will not be any unrest. As a result, it may create a vacuum in international politics which may be filled by China, and it will be hard to predict how it will significantly change the international agenda.

It should be clear that there will be third parties which will not be interested in active cooperation between the EU and Russia. For China, it is much easier to cooperate with the EU and Russia as two separate political and economic identities. The Roman strategy, divide et impera [3], is still being used nowadays. While the Wolfitz Doctrine[4] proclaimed, "We (the U.S.) must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." There is no doubt that it is the EU's and Russia's duty to look beyond disagreement, end useless political ping pong and reinvent Europe's sovereignty.

Russia and Europe have more areas of common interest than points of conflict. Politicians should think in terms of the long game, as new challenges to European Civilization are arising. Bilateral and international relations will prove to be more important than temporary internal political fluctuations. While internal politics change and regimes may come and go, nations must maintain working relations for far longer. With the rise of chaos in the world order, Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok could be an antidote to the turmoil.

1. In Greek mythology, Eros was the god of the East wind that was associated with a turbulent wind that could cause destruction.

2. Brady, A., 2017. China As A Polar Great Power. Cambridge University Press.

3. Divide et impera from Latin—divide and rule, a strategy of gaining power by breaking the large concentration of power into pieces.

4. Wolfitz Doctrine—an unofficial name of the Defense Planning Guidance published by U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz in 1992. It was leaked to New York Times in the same year.


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