Why I as a liberal democrat support EU-Russian cooperation
I grew up in the transatlantic liberal democracy of Germany and know about the other historical paths of German history which wanted to make an alliance with Russia, be it the Black Reichswehr, be it Rapallo, be it the Eurasian axis of Sun Yatsen, be it the Hitler-Stalin Pact and the neutral Germany which was wavering between the blocs and never found its place, wanted to find its „place at the sun“ under Emperor Wilhelm 2 or Lebensraum in the East under Adolf Hitler. Konrad Adenauer made the right choice and rejected Stalin´s plan to neutralize Germany. Therefore, we found a place in which we prospered and became a liberal democracy. And this idea even spread to the East and brought Gorbatchev and the peaceful revolution of 1989.
However, things changed. While at the beginning there was talk about integrating Russia into NATO and the EU, this never happened. The Russians on the other side experienced that the USA and the West were expanding to its former territories, that all their protests didn’t receive any acceptance, that their living standard was eroding and that the Jelzin period was very chaotic due to the privatization program by US economic adviser Sachs and as a result, the Russian life expectancy dropped by 10 years. Not only the post-Sovjet republics were disintegrating, but you also had a disintegration of the Russian Federation, especially Chechenia.
Putin was the logical result due to a buy-out of national resources, internal anarchy and the loss of the first Chechnyan war. During that time NATO and the EU always expanded. While Russia had no real protests against the membership of the East European states and even the Baltic states, Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus were sensitive parts of the Russian security architecture as these countries were direct border states to Russia and in Ukraine Russia had also the Black Sea fleet. The West even tried to kick out Russia from its sensitive parts in Ukraine as it was supporting the Maidan revolt and blaming Yanukovich as a Russian puppet. In reality, Yanukovich was like Lukatchenkov in Belarus, not even, as he on the one side accepted NATO drills in Ukraine, but on the other side rejected an EU membership. He wanted to be neutral and make some strategic balancing. However, the West decided that he was a puppet of Putin and had to be toppled and replaced by a pro-Western puppet. This was the moment Putin intervened and occupied the Crimea with his green men.
Since then Russia and the West is in a stalemate situation. While the West claims that Russia signed the Budapest treaty involving the territorial integrity of Ukraine including Crimea, Russia held a manipulated referendum, built infrastructure and a bridge, and enlarged the annexation of Crimea.
However: Why do I propose EU-Russian cooperation? To be honest. My point of view is absolutely a minoritarian position in the West. Only Trump, Mearsheimer and part of the Carnegie Foundation are thinking similarly. In the mid and long term, for a decade and not now. Therefore, I want to make the arguments against a solely value-based, liberal anti-Russian policy as a liberal democrat.
LUDOVIC MARIN/ AFP
Russia is not a liberal democracy, but a dictatorship.
This is true, but Russia doesn’t want to become a member of the EU while the EU or NATO don’t want for Russia to be part of them. We want to be as we are and Russia wants to be as it is. Therefore, everything is clear. As EU-members as PiS-Poland and Orban-Hungary are authoritarian states, this is a problem of the liberal EU, but not Russia as a non-member state. We have many relations to authoritarian states, but focus our critic on Russia. Authotaritarism has different intensities. PiS-Poland and Orban- Hungary are not that authoritarian as Putin-Russia is, but Putin-Russia compared to neototalitarian XI-China is a semi- authoritarian or even semi-liberal state. As long as we don´t want a regime change in Russia, there is absolutely no reason why we should cooperate with neototalitarian China, but not with Russia. The value-based politicians are very hypocritical in this aspect.
Russia violates human rights
As before: China is also doing this, but the West till now had less scepticism to cooperate with China. Of course, it seems more because China is an economically strong country and maybe the next world power that these people focus their human rights propaganda more against Russia than against gorilla-economy China. However, the question is, if you can cooperate with Russia despite human right violations and even bring about an easing for the suppressed groups. We should remember that the West was negotiating with the much more brutal human right violator, the Sovjet Union by the CSCE process. The CSCE had 8 negotiations baskets- from armaments reduction talks to economic cooperation to technological cooperation to human rights. It was some sort of a 8 basket Bazar where you traded one item against the other and the CSCE produced a sustainable easing of repression for the opposition groups in the Eastern Bloc. Therefore, if we make a cooperation with Russia, it should not mean that we ignore the human right issue, but that we put it in a feasible framework.
A regime change would be better
It is thrilling if you ask ordinary Western regime change supporters whom they want to bring in a power position instead of Putin. Mostly they don´t know even the names of the opposition leaders and act according to the slogan: Everything is better than Putin. This sort of ignorance also paved the way during the Iraq war 2003 and the Arab spring that everything would be better than Saddam Hussein, Ghaddafi, or Assad. It turned out to be a disastrous misunderstanding and was a total mess. Civil war. failed stats, millions of deaths, the Islamic State and an Islamist winter, refugees, and chaos were the result.
Most ordinary Western regime change supporters are also not listening to what Boris Reitschuster, one of the most prominent Putin critics in Germany says about the Russian opposition:
„It is a multicolored heap, the spectrum of which ranges from the left to the right. Liberal heads of the opposition – like the former chess world champion Garry Kasparow – accuse contemporaries that in reality they have less to complain about the authoritarian system under Putin than about Putin himself. The opposition is far from being “flawlessly democratic”; should it come to power, which is not foreseeable, Russia would in no way become a constitutional democracy based on the Western model overnight.“
Of course, If I talk to more educated and informed Western regime change supporters, they mostly have only two names as an alternative for Putin: Navalny and Khodorkovsky. But if you ask them that Nawalni made demonstrations with right-winged parties, called migrant workers oft he Caucasus republics insects and never published a real program, but only phrases against corruption and that he would be the cleanser for Russia, you will find no support for their thesis that Navalny would be a real democrat and had a real program.
If you look at Navalny´s website and propaganda you will discover a new personal cult. It is not about democracy and political contents, but only a 1-man-show that claims that he would cleanse Russia from corruption, that you would get another great leader who makes Russia great again, He is the anti-Putin and new leader which replaces him and doesn´t say what he wants to change politically.
Khodorkovsky wrote a book, mostly about his own biography, but with a chapter „The Future of Russia“. Here he thinks that you still need a strong state, but more political and mental freedom, as there should be an entrepreneurial spirit that could leapfrog the Russian economy and society to a hi-tech- information society. But most of his Western supporters haven´t even read this and it is also very risky as leapfrogging has not so much historical evidence. However, the question is, why you need a regime change or if you couldn´t convince Putin to modernize his economy, even if you don´t want to „leapfrog“ it as this could be the next disaster for Russia. Kasparov is too old and doesn´t want to become a politician and the oligarchs in Little Russia in London and New York are just waiting to rip off the Russian population again and to return tot he anarchy oft he Yeltsin era. Therefore: Regime change might not be the best solution.
A cooperation between the EU and Russia should not be value-based or on the basis of some vague idea of a common Christian heritage, but mainly on interests. What are the interests? Climate change. Covid and the rise of China and Islamism.
The rise of China
At the moment Russia and China seem to have very close contacts, bilateral, by the BRICS, the SCO and energy exports, joint drills in the Pacific and even the Mediterean Sea. Russia uses China as counterbalance against Western expansion. And as the West still has sanctions against Russia and is in confrontation with it, nobody could think of a situation that in the future Russia might change ist attitude. Most Russian elites are still European and Russian strategist Karaganov wants to create an Asian pivot as the new world economic and geopolitical center was Asian and mostly Chinese, hopes that many Russian will settle to the Far East and revitalize this underpopulated, economically weak area as he also thinks that pro-Asian elites could replace the old Moscow pro-European establishment and that Russia could become a „global supplier for international security“, especially as nuclear power which can balance between the USA and China. Russia therefore could become an independent world power balancing between the two poles of a coming multipolar world.
However, John Mearsheimer predicts that China will become so strong militarily and economically, that Russia is in danger to become a neo-colony and appendix of China. As China rejects New Start and would raise ist ICBMs there was no role for Russia to be a nuclear balancer between the USA and China. Economically China would grow, but Russia becomes more and more dependent from China, if the West is not changing its policy. The Far East and Siberia would be occupied by China, not by troops, but by economic infiltration and become another economic and political center against Moscow. Therefore Mearsheimer predicts that Russia´s friendly attitude towards China could change if there was a Western alternative for it. Mearsheimer predicts that Russia had 3 options: To become a Chinese appendix and to submit itself under Chinese domination, to stay neutral and try to keep its independent role by strategic balancing or to become an ally of the West and the USA if they would be willing to accept Russia as a global player.
The Carnegie Foundation sees similar trends and proposes a West-Russian cooperation in the future, not now as the next 10 years would be a conflict-ridden relation, but that you contain the conflicts and look for a cooperation if China is getting too strong for Russia. Trump already tries to bring Russia in the anti-Chinese camp by his G 11 proposal with South Korea, India, Australia and Russia as new members. But that is unrealistic as Russia won´t like this idea and wants to have China included. Therefore any talk about West-Russia cooperation can only be in the perspective of a decade. However, in the Indo-Chinese border conflict, Russia sided with Modi in the RIC meeting and also proposed that India should become a permanent UNSC member while China blocks this at the moment. China´s new assertiveness might have caused the Russian rethinking in the RIC. And probably a too strong China could also be perceived by Russia as a danger and threat to ist own geopolitical position in the future.Therefore the EU and the West should start contacts with Russia about future cooperation as alternative to its present close relations with China.
EU-Russian Covid pandemic cooperation
While as a first reaction most national states including the EU reacted in nationalist ways to fight the Covid virus and the pandemic, now there seems to be a chance that international cooperation by the WHO could be reorganized
1. While the USA wants a retreat from the WHO and China already declared to make a New Health Silk Road and to invest more in the WHO, the EU and Russia should counterbalance this new imbalance in the WHO. First, the WHO has to be funded by reliable state´s contributions in a balanced way, so that the loss of US funds is compensated and that China doesn´t dominate the WHO and influence and controls it. The funding has also to rely on reliable state contributions than on the charity and sponsorship of some philanthropy billionaires as the Gates Foundation. Therefore the EU and Russia could start a joint initiative to restructure the WHO sustainably fort he fight against pandemics and Covid.
2. The EU and Russia have to support medical research and development cooperation by pooling ist best scientists, scientific institutions and medical doctors.
3. EU and Russia both have stimulus programs for the economic impacts of the Covid lockdown. These should be channeled in a more sustainable, green economy that modernizes the Russian and the EU economy.
4. As the underdeveloped countries are mostly affected by the Covid lockdown, the EU and Russia should start an initiative to support these countries and try to stabilize them.
EU-Russia ecological cooperation
An ecological cooperation against climate change Save the Siberian woods as green lungo f the world and Eurasia, save the Arctic,. Etc. These are similar important issues as the Crimea or human rights. Therefore the Western- Russian cooperation should be a sort of CSCE basket negotiation with a 9th ecological basket.
The fields of ecological cooperation is published on the website of the think tank oft he Russian Foreign Ministery Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) as a fundamental paper in cooperation with the Vicepresident oft he Club of Rome Germany, member of Desert Tech and Plant for the Planet Frithjof Finkheimer:
A New East Policy (Neue Ostpolitik) — prevention of a new arms race 1) Germany is working within the EU and NATO to ensure that Ukraine and Belarus receive a neutral status comparable to Austria in the post-war period and serve as bridge states between the Eurasian Union and the EU 2) Germany is working within the EU, NATO and Ukraine to ensure that Russia is guaranteed its Black Sea port in Crimea, irrespective of the respective Ukrainian governments and, in contrast, reverses the annexation of Crimea and stops support for the pro-Russian rebel groups in Eastern Ukraine and the first step: compliance with the Minsk Agreement 3) Disarmament Initiative Germany is working within the EU, the UN and NATO to ensure that both Russia and NATO prevent an arms race, and/or renegotiating the previous treaties on conventional and nuclear restrictions – with the inclusion of cyberspace and space and maybe China. 4) Resumption of the modernization partnership, especially in the economic sphere-negotiations on the long-term objective of a free trade area or a common market from Lisbon to Vladivostok
5) An EU-Russia ecological cooperation for a sustainable Eurasia from decarbonization in a strategic transition period, hydrogen technology, gas as a bridge technology, sewage management, limiting the deforestation oft he Siberian woods, and other fields of cooperation still have to be discussed.
6) EU-Russian cooperation against an escalation of the Sino- American conflict
Russia and the EU try to stay neutral or make strategic balancing between the two escalating new world powers and try to deescalate a conflict by new initiatives.
The West, the EU. India and Russia against Islamism
The War on Terror, which now seems to have stopped and which should have been better conceived as War against Islamism, is now being replaced by conflicts over great power. While everybody is now looking at Russia and China, the Islamists are growing again, including Erdogan-Turkey`s neo-Ottoman empire idea with the Muslim Brotherhood of all countries, as well as overthrowing Assad, which then leads to an Islamist dictatorship in Syria Russia will not be able to counter this very much, but if Assad and the Russians and their military bases in Syria and the Mediterranean have been taken away, the West will face perhaps an even bigger problem. Interestingly, Lavrov and Schoigu also canceled their visit to Turkey today. We probably could have two Islamist belts. one from the Sahel to Nigeria with the Islamic State and a second from North Africa to Syria with Erdogan-backed Muslim Brothers and the FIS in Algeria. The best thing would be if they fought over each other. Whether Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan would remain stable remains to be seen The whole thing is also fueled by Palestine and Jerusalem. And there is also the US- Iranian conflict on the top, and it remains to be seen whether the PLO can still hold power and is not taken over by Hamas or even more radical forces.
In South Asia, the Taliban is strengthened after the NATO withdrawal, the Islamists in Pakistan, the country with the first Muslim atomic bomb are on the rise and India faces also a problem with its Muslim population and their partially radicalization and Islamization, the Kashmir conflict is by no means resolved, Islamists in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia are a growing power, as is the Rohingya conflict in Burma exploited by Islamists and could also destabilize the governments in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh through supposed Islamic solidarity. In Central Asia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), led by China and Russia, has so far ensured stability, as well as the increasingly Islamic Kadyrov in Chechnya, which is also becoming more unreliable and is also a butcher. It is also possible that China’s Uyghur policy, the brutal internment of 1 million out of 10 million Chinese Uyghurs in concentration camps will radicalize Muslim populations and can cause solidarity effects. In any case, from a western perspective, cooperation with China on Islamism due to its minority policy seems unlikely, especially since the Sino-American conflict is also becoming more acute. I recently saw the Mali debate in the Bundestag and I had the impression that neither the SPD nor the CDU had any success story. On the contrary, there were reports of spillover and widening of the fighting in the Sahel region, and there was probably hope for the G5 force. In addition, the world is also being weakened by the Covid virus, which will further weaken many economies and already weak governments. Let’s hope that the sleepers turn out to be more of a bogeyman tale.
Insofar as one wants to advocate a new Eastern policy towards Russia, it also applies that this can only be done from a position of strength or at least on eye level. Especially since Moscow would also have to move and the Minsk Agreement would have to be fullfiled at least, since only then Putin sees an attraction in not destabilizing the EU and NATO. Before that, there can be no unilateral concessions or relaxation of sanctions However, Trump´s foreign policy is undermining western unity, at the moment the West is paralyzied and splitted and it remains to be seen how the situation and relations between Putin and Erdogan develop in Syria and Libya. Should there be a division into spheres of interest, new Russian military bases in Libya would also be conceivable in addition to the Russian military bases in Syria. The Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea would then be in close proximity. A Russian-Turkish alliance, as was the case between the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire, would be an immense threat to the West and Europe.
But the transatlanticists have chosen mainly Putin as their enemy. Islamist Erdogan, who is still a NATO member, takes advantage of the Western-Russian conflict to expand his neo-Ottoman empire and pursues strategic balancing between the two. He also wants to acquire nuclear weapons, for which the expansion of the Turkish nuclear industry by Japan and Russia and its latest contacts with the Muslim nuclear power Pakistan are evidence. The question is whether a nuclear-armed neo-Ottoman Empire would be in the interest of West or Russia, or one hopes for a NATO-Erdogan-Turkey axis in the fight against Russia in Europe and the Greater Middle East, and maybe even Erdogan’s Neo-Ottoman Empire and the Muslim Brothers as allies in the struggle and buffer against the second Islamic belt from Nigeria to the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, which the Islamic State is likely to want to control with Boko Haram and Al Shabab? Maybe nostalgia for the old alliance of the German Empire-Ottoman Empire? Probably the West itself doesn’t really know.
It would be better to focus on the Sino-American conflict and Islamism, try to keep Russia neutral with a New East policy in the Sino-American conflict and to see Russia as an ally in the fight against Islamism. Maybe it is possible to have a joint War on Islamism in an united front of the West, Russia and India and other states.