Russia's Integration into Europe-Some Theses On Security Issues
Dr. Andrei Piontkovsky
Director, Center of Strategic Studies (Moscow)
RUSSIA'S INTEGRATION INTO EUROPE
When addressing the subject of Russia's integration into Europe, several security considerations come to mind. I will discuss below a few of the more important ones, including their implications for relations with the United States:
- Russia's integration into Europe is completely senseless and absurd so long as mutual suspicions regarding military security persist. The Russian political elite must get over the schizophrenic attitude that makes it enthusiastically discuss the prospects for political and economic integration with the European countries while at the same time viewing these same countries as the "aggressive" NATO bloc creeping ever closer to Russia's frontiers. In this respect, Russia's relations with Poland since it joined NATO have shown visible improvement and provide a positive model. There is nothing surprising here - having secured its place within European organizations, Poland has been able to put behind it its historic "Russian complex" and can now look on Russia without prejudice as a normal and friendly neighbor for the first time in its history.
- The issue of creating a European security system often comes up in debates on Russia's integration into Europe. At the risk of sounding paradoxical, I would put forward the idea that Europe does not need a "security system." The fact of the matter is that in using this term, we forget that it implies the existence of acute hostility between this or that country that could potentially spark an armed conflict. The purpose of a "security system" is to codify this state of hostility and prevent it from turning into armed conflict. Today, there is no need to create a security system in order to prevent a war between France and Germany, although this would have been a perfectly reasonable aim in the second half of the nineteenth century or first half of the twentieth century. But today, there is simply no way these countries could go to war. Similarly, Russia's relations with the European countries have reached such a level now that here too, a war is inconceivable.
- Russia's integration into Europe raises other security issues with their origins beyond the European continent. These are the issues Russia would bring with it. Russia's real-not phantom-security issues are concentrated on its southern and far eastern borders. It would not seem right for Russia to burden its European allies with these problems. The United States could play a significant part in this respect. The Americans have already demonstrated how this would work when they pursued above all their own aims in Afghanistan and at the same time brought a long term solution to one of Russia's most pressing national security issues-preventing Islamic extremists from entering the Central Asian republics.
- If we agree that Russia is through with several centuries of searching for its geopolitical self-identity and has finally decided that it is part of Western civilization, then there is no way to avoid problems within the triangle (United States, Europe, Russia) in forming this new West. The events of last September-December clearly demonstrated a number of trends that experts had spoken about but that politicians had not yet become aware of: (a) Europeans now realize fully that they will never close the military technology gap between Europe and the United States, and that attempts to do so by increasing defense spending will only undermine the European economy, while the gap will just continue to grow. (b) But there is another more serious problem. What is the sense of the European Union's defense policy, and what kind of wars should its armed forces be prepared for? The European Union faces no threat on the European continent itself, and the United States is not going to call on its allies in operations in other parts of the world, preferring if need be to make use of local ad hoc coalitions. But what then is NATO's raison d'être? European politicians' initial reaction to these thorny questions has been irritation and an increase in complexes when it comes to the United States.
- It would be a great temptation for the Russian and European elites to unite around these common gripes and mutual complaints against their American partner. But this would be a purely emotional approach and not constructive at all with regards to a genuinely serious problem, namely, how the West (Russia, the European Union) should build its relations with its Big Western Brother. This big brother may not always live up to our ideals and expectations, but will stay on top for the next 20 years at least, and will remain our natural geopolitical ally. Above all, we must absolutely not let ourselves sink into an irrational anti-American knee-jerk reaction and distance ourselves from the United States on any international political issue or use each other as a pawn in our own game with the United States. We should debate jointly with the United States on a narrow range of issues, basing ourselves on two criteria - the importance for our security and the extent to which our position is convincing and intellectually well-founded.