Saturday, July 2, 2016

Russians Debate Which Kind of EU Collapse Would Be Best for Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 2 – Russian officials have made no secret of their desire to divide the Euro-Atlantic community and to weaken or even supplant organizations like NATO and the EU, but now that the British vote to leave the EU has put the future of that community in doubt, Russians are discussing which demise of the European Union would be most useful to them.

            According to Regnum’s Yury Baranchuk, Russians see three main possible futures for the EU. These three are continuing stagnation and uncertainty, the complete collapse of the EU into separate states, and the formation of two EUs, one centered around Germany and France and the other mostly consisting of the East European states (

                There are no others, he insists, and he describes the arguments Russians have made concerning each of them given that they are convinced that with Britain’s exit, the EU cannot continue to operate in the manner that it has in the past, take in new members or serve as a model for people in Eastern Europe.

            According to the first scenario, Baranchuk says, some Russians see a continuation of the current stagnation of the present EU project.  This will occur if Britain drags out its exit, allowing Poland and the Eastern European members of the EU to mobilize against Paris and Berlin. 

            This will deepen the split between “old Europe” and “new Europe,” with the former limiting American influence which has been pushing the EU toward anti-Russian moves and the latter seeking to maintain both American influence and the anti-Russian stance of the European community.

            This is an inherently unstable and thus short-lived prospect, Russian analysts think, and will more or less quickly devolve into one or the other of the two remaining scenarios: the complete collapse of the EU with a return to a Europe of nation states or the formation of a two-part Europe, “old” and “new.”

            Given this uncertainty, the current members won’t be taking in any new members anytime soon, and they will shelve such notions as “the project ‘Ukrainians are not Russia.’” Both these shifts would be to Moscow’s advantage. And to exploit this, Moscow must develop bilateral ties with the key countries of “old” Europe.

            Such a policy will work for either of the two scenarios, Baranchuk says.  For European countries, either will be extremely stressful because many of them no longer know how to function as nation states apart from supra-national institutions and will find it difficult to function without the latter, especially the countries in Eastern Europe.

            The third scenario, one in which Europe will split into a more tightly integrated “old” portion and a weaker “new” one, will also work to Russia’s advantage, Moscow analysts say.  Russia’s relations with the Europe dominated by France and Germany will be bilateral and economic, and it will be clear to all who has the power and who does not.

            The “new” Europe will become “a pro-American and anti-Russian bloc led by Poland.” But its relative weakness will mean that both “old” Europe and Moscow can discount it and consider how best to bypass it in order to move toward greater Eurasian economic integration, Baranchuk argues.

            He says he and most Russian analysts think that the third scenario is not only the most likely but the best for Russia because it will elevate economic interests above American and East European political ones, eliminate many current conflicts, and open the way to form “a single Eurasian economic and political space from Beijing to Amsterdam and France’s Brest.”

            Moreover, Baranchuk writes in conclusion, “this will be a different Europe in principle than the one Russian stars-and-stripes liberals see and dream about, a Europe without Russophobia and without claims to historical or national exclusiveness.”

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