Geopolitics of Europe - the "independence" formulas | publicatii - Politica La Est

Geopolitics of Europe - the "independence" formulas

Mihail E. Ionescu
The first  phrase  about the independence of Europe has been expressed , in the framework of the Cold War , by French General Charles de Gaulle. When he said that Europe as a continent is from the Atlantic  to Urals he did not recognize a immemorial geographical reality, but a stringent  political one. When he famously said on 22 November 1959 at the University of Strasbourg : Yes, it is Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, it is Europe, all of Europe, which will decide the fate of the world!” he expressed shockingly and astoundingly a “  Declaration of Independence” of the Old Continent .

 Firstly , De Gaulle refused to recognize that the Iron Curtain  installed after the Second World War has excluded from the geographical reality  of the continent  the half  of it submitted by Soviet Russia since 1945,  that is including Russia itself. What has been considered the West does not mean- said superbly the French General- Western Europe and USA, but USA and Europe up to Urals, namely including Soviet Russia ( of course he didn’t exclude Siberia as belonging to Russia, but  considered the bulk  Russian nation as extending mainly historically up to Urals).

Secondly, such phrase  being said during the Cold War , when the USA had up to half a million troops in Western Europe being on the way to confrontation  with Soviet Russia in Germany, he implied that USA does not belong to Europe, and that in spite of the NATO alliance, Europe is historically only one and with bright future. It was clear for his contemporaries and also today that the target has been  USA in that famous  phrase , and beyond the present day geopolitical realities, the horizons  ineluctably have the contours of a united entire Europe influencing as such the world. To be clear that this means “ Western Europe and Eastern Europe”,  De Gaulle had opened of policy of distancing himself and France from NATO in a well publicized measures- moving the  site of Headquarters  of Alliance from Paris, retreating of France from the NATO military structures.

Thirdly, that phrase was an expression of General’s vision of the new role of France as a leading power of Europe.

Of course, De Gaulle’ phrase   has been natural in a preceding thread of acts of Europe becoming visible on the international arena, among which  the creation of what is today EU was the most important ( March, 1957 ). And also, should not be forgotten that this  European movement towards unity and independence was triggered by the reaction of USA of what had been the Suez  crisis in October 1956, Washington behavior pushing German leader  Konrad Adenauer to state emphatically that it remains for Europe - facing the hostility of USA-  only a united Europe to base on its independence.

General Charles de Gaulle ( left ) and Konrad Adenauer

The second phrase in connection with the first one was expressed at the end of the Cold War, when had appeared that the clash between the two superpowers- which maintained Europe in a position of beautiful prize for the winner- ended up. Conference of Paris in November 1990 had given the international legitimacy to this end of Cold War and establish the space to which is applied the principle of the Helsinki Act ( 1975 ). The  Paris Conference has adopted Charter for New Europe, all European states signing it, and also USA and Canada , plus the Soviet Union ( in one year it disappeared being divided in 15 states ) . According to that Charter ‘The era of confrontation and division of Europe has ended. We declare that henceforth our, relations will be founded on respect and co-operation. Europe is liberating itself from the legacy of the past. The courage of men and women, the strength of the will of the peoples and the power of the ideas of the Helsinki Final Act have opened a new era of democracy, peace and unity in Europe” . It was affirmed the fact that the evolution since the Helsinki Conference in 1975  - the moment  in which has been finalized and signed by the states covering the Euro- Atlantic space the Final Act  of Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe launched in 1970, in Europe has been installed the rules of  states’ behavior which has entered into history handbooks as “ Helsinki Decalogue”.   By these rules it was recognized the frontiers in Europe and it was established that any change of  should be taken into account only following the rules. 

What is more important is the fact that the Charter is defined the planetary space on which such rules are applied , when said that: “  The participation of both North American and European States is a fundamental characteristic of the CSCE; it underlies its past achievements and is essential to the future of the CSCE process. An abiding adherence to shared values and our common heritage are the ties which bind us together. With all the rich diversity of our nations, we are united in our commitment to expand our co-operation in all fields. The challenges confronting us can only be met by common action, co-operation and solidarity.”

Extraordinary for those years of the Cold War, the Charter proclaimed that “ Being aware that an essential complement to the duty of States to refrain from the threat or use of force is the peaceful settlement of disputes, both being essential factors for the maintenance and consolidation of international peace and security, we will not only seek effective ways of preventing, through political means, conflicts which may yet emerge, but also define, in conformity with international law, appropriate mechanisms for the peaceful resolution of any disputes which may arise.”  Besides that, which is a new trend – enhancing cooperation in the Euro-Atlantic space - which is opened the horizons to the Cold War ending soon :  “ Accordingly, we undertake to seek new forms of co-operation in this area, in particular a range of methods for the peaceful settlement of disputes, including mandatory third-party involvement. We stress that full use should be made in this context of the opportunity of the Meeting on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes which will be convened in Valletta at the beginning of 1991. The Council of Ministers for Foreign Affairs will take into account the Report of the Valletta Meeting. [1]

Experts and politicians used this event to talk about the “ Euro-Atlantic space” which is extending from  Vancouver to Vladivostok. In such a way the borders of Europe has dilated to comprise almost the entire space of the Western civilization. It is also a new blueprint of the European balance of power or  , to be more precise, of the new ‘ European order’. The motives and events which have pushed to  that stage in the two centuries old  historical turmoil  in Europe are too  many to be described here even shortly. [2]

But against that backdrop, in only two-three years after the Paris Conference- in spite of the fact the result of it has been the creation of  Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe OSCE for implementing the rules and principles of  the Charter of Paris-  has intervened what has been called “ unipolar moment”.  Without any challenger, with Soviet Union being voluntarily ( and irresponsible ) dismembered, USA had became what their leaders said as being “ indispensable  nation” of the world ( another formula for “ America is a shining city upon a hill ”  inscribed  by Ronald Regan in the American exceptionalism  mythology; or , as written by   “we shall be as a city  upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us” written by John Winthrop in 1630 ).[3]

In such circumstances it was not possible to discuss about the Euro-Atlantic space extended from “ Vancouver to Vladivostok” without taking into account that USA is a leader/ hegemon of that part of the globe , and globalization is a tool to create the uniformity of that huge area in terms of democracy , security and prosperity.  In the first years of the third millennium, the ‘ neoconservative party “ formed in USA and having as prominent members high intellectuals and politicians  purportedly conquered the political establishment’s helm . It  promoted a policy  - especially with the occasion of the international  military missions within the “ war against terrorism” and what is considered  at the time as a ‘ liberal interventionism’ -which has prompted  reserves and even rejections within the new geopolitical unity of “ Euro-Atlantic space” . Firstly, it was the opposition to the Iraq invasion ( France and Germany ), in 2003 ,  and that the clear hostility of Russia to the NATO enlargement to the East and so called ‘ color revolutions’.  If Russia has agreed to the ‘ big bang’ of NATO enlargement in 2004 has been due to the formation of NATO-Russia Council ( 2002 ) , which has given to Moscow a say to any security decision of  the Atlantic Alliance. Moscow has since 2002 a mission at the NATO Hq. in Brussels for that purpose, but with Crimea annexation by Russia in 2014  NATO-Russia Council has been suspended, and its  revitalization ( if, how and when )  is considered  to be a new chapter in the bilateral relations. 

In the meantime, Russia has preserved its own reserves towards the Euro-Atlantic space, inscribing in its own security strategies all along these years that it has the strategic target implementation of  a multilateral world, as such adopting the position opposed  to the hegemony of the USA . The turning point  between Russia and the West has been August 2008, the war in Georgia .
From now on, due to the fact that under Obama administrations, in spite of the promises that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be ended, it appeared a perception not of American weakness, but a kind of attempt to retreat from different regions in order to concentrate the resources towards Asia, where the rise of China has been considered as a new and overwhelming threat to USA. The famous decision of President Obama- so called  ‘Asian pivot’ - in 2011 reflected that fundamental change in the world policy  of USA which is developing since than  in parallel with the  search for a new grand strategy to preserve the American eminence within the post- Cold War international system.

Against this background , other regions had begun to think about their own future , how to launch initiatives and to combine the  tools  at their disposal in order to compensate for the USA leaving the role of the leading role of the  ‘ unipolar’ world. 

For the first time ,as a result of these attempts to find out new geopolitical formula to be visible and important on the global stage,  according to our knowledge ,  it was used a new formula for Europe – without the USA- being  advanced by President ( at the time Prime Minister) Vladimir  Putin of Russia.

Putin  wrote in November 2010 , in an editorial published in “Süddeutsche Zeitung”  that: "We propose the creation of a harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok/…/ In the future, we could even consider a free trade zone or even more advanced forms of economic integration. The result would be a unified continental market with a capacity worth trillions of euros."[4] Underlining some main principles of cooperation and domains where uniting resources could have a world impact- for example, “ to trigger a new wave of industrialization across the European continent.", Putin wrote: “"The renewed principles of our cooperation could be anchored in the partnership agreement between the EU and Russia, an accord which is currently under negotiation. We should approach this treaty from a strategic perspective. We should try to think 20, 30, even 50 years into the future."[5]

To be  in accordance with the historical reality should be stressed that the formula defining geopolitical Europe form Lisbon to Vladivostok  was advanced  for the first time in the circumstances developed after the Georgian War in 2008 and  the beginning of the great  economic and financial depression of the world system .
Of course, at the time, Russia had a great interest in such a cooperation  targeting to join  the  WTO  ( World Trade Organization ) in 2011 , for that being useful the agreement of EU , and at the same time to counteract the newly formed ‘ Eastern Partnership’ ( in 2009 )  , which addressed to the former European  Soviet Republics  , and to avoid in such a way the attraction of these states  to the separate accords with Brussels. Leaving aside these immediate interests of Russia, it was a proposal which had envisaged the next several decades of cooperation between the two parts of Europe, creating “a unified continental market “ .

The idea has not disappeared also from the visions of the European Union ‘s leaders. For example, in June  2016, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in speech that will be an immediate end of EU sanctions  against Russia when the government in Moscow implements its obligations under the Minsk Agreement for eastern Ukraine and added : "I am in favor of Russia gradually moving closer to the European Economic Area, so that we have a common economic zone from Vladivostok to Lisbon at the end".[6]

In the Russian vision, the concept of united Eurasia is called ‘Greater Eurasia’  or  ‘Greater Europa’ . What is ‘Greater Europe’, asked  one of the participants at the international conference  “Greater Europe. Towards a common space from Lisbon to Vladivostok”,  which took place at the Institute for International Relations /  MGIMO/ , in  Moscow on  December 19th 2015. His answer is the following: “ It is a territory, which includes all European states and the states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). It is a common market from Lisbon to Vladivostok, where there are no barriers, where common and clear rules are supreme. Greater Europe is a territory of freedom of movement, where you can take a train in Kazan and get out of the train in Paris without any passport controls. It is where you can have a Russian diploma and continue to work and to learn in other European country. Greater Europe is a space of free human interaction in all spheres. This is an idyllic picture and a distant perspective, but the difficulty of this goal is not a reason not to try to reach it. It is worthwhile because it gives some obvious advantages to Russia, Eurasia and the European states.” [7]
 Two things should also be said about the Russian perception. The first one is about common security. Of course, this common security is excluding the third part, be it USA or China or others.  The report of the conference quoted above is assessing that it is possible to attain it , but that will mean finding solution to different  frozen conflicts  in former Soviet space, but also in within EU : “ If we imagine the common security space of the EU and the EAEU / Eurasian  Economic Union ,formed by Russia in 2015 and comprising five  former Soviet republics from Europe and Asia- our note / we will see to understand that territorial disputes of Transnistria, Donbas, Crimea, Abkhazia, South Osetia and Nagorny Karabakh must be solved within in. Aspiration for forming a common security space will stimulate European and Eurasian leaders to influence the conflicting sides for achieving peace in a long-term perspective. It is important to underline that the same problems existed for a long time as well in the then would-be European Union. e.g. Alsace – Lorene ,  Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and other regions. Within the European framework a compromise was found. If it is possible to solve such long standing problems in the EU, we have ground to hope that inside a Greater Europe common security space peaceful settlement is also achievable. The EU and the EAEU have many common threats, which they need to counter-act together: terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, trade with weapons and people.” [8]
Secondly, within the EU are manifest different trends , defined like ‘ continentalism’ , ‘eurocentrism’ and ‘ transatlanticism’ . All these currents of opinion at the political level and within the public opinion are  their roots in different perceptions of various states regarding the threat to their interests and the best ways to defend them . To overcome it, assessed the conference in Moscow, will mean for Russia a “ flexible approach” to promote the dialogue along  the “ continentalist” view, and mainly to deepen  “ economic interaction” because “ business is not so politicized and is aimed at mutually beneficial relations” .[9]

Some experts are considering that such a project will be helpful to connect EU via Russia with China : “For Moscow, this positioning might be economically advantageous, as the EEU could be a bridge for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to connect with the European market. On the map, this looks logical and appealing, but in reality, Beijing – though not against cooperating with other blocs – still aims to draw major Eurasian resources towards itself. Russia’s EEU, which is weaker than the BRI, would inevitably be drawn towards China, and grievances would accumulate on the Russian side.” [10]

What is going on contrary to the implementation of that project it is not only the fact that Russia will have to decide if will be able to resist in a kind of “ asymmetric “ partnership ( without any historical roots ) , but the fact that the world has entered in the era of power politics, in which the economic and military blocs are competing .[11] Among the experts is a confidence that Russia is based any geopolitical calculus on the fate of Ukraine; more than that it is the fact that between Russia and Europe there is a difference in values and political systems, and more, that the  geopolitical pivot of Moscow towards east ( China ) is a genuine issue , mainly because there is here the only direction in which it  has not met the resistance and push back from the West. “This vector of Russian power projection is quite telling in an age when Moscow is more drawn to the east than to west, and it is likely a death blow to the once grand plans of an economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok. “ [12]
Out of the blue, some days ago the issue of the ‘Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok ‘ had reappeared , being resuscitated by the French President E. Macron during the visit of President of Russia, V. Putin , in Paris on the eve of the G-7 meeting in Biarritz. According to the tweets concerning the discussion between two presidents , accessible on the twitter account of Mr. Macron:
@EmmanuelMacron, Aug, 19
Notre ordre international vit un moment historique. Il nous faut le recomposer. Dans ce cadre, la relation de la France et de la Russie est déterminante. Nos pays doivent parler, trouver des points de convergence. C'est l’objet de ma rencontre avec Vladimir Poutine à Brégançon.
@EmmanuelMacron, Aug 20
Ensemble, nous avons abordé la situation à Idleb, en Syrie, où la population civile vit actuellement sous les bombes. Les attaques menées par le régime tuent des innocents, en particulier des enfants. ll est impérieux que le cessez-le-feu décidé à Sotchi soit pleinement respecté.
@EmmanuelMacron,Aug 20,
Nous avons également parlé de la Libye. Une trêve, décidée avec l’ensemble des parties prenantes, a été obtenue durant l’été. Il nous faut maintenant construire de manière durable la stabilité et rebâtir un ordre en Libye. Nous y sommes tous deux attachés.
@EmmanuelMacron, Aug 20
Des incendies à la fonte du Permafrost en Sibérie, la Russie voit de près les ravages du changement climatique. Je me réjouis de sa décision de ratifier l’Accord de Paris. C’est un geste fort et symbolique. Nous devrons poursuivre sur cette voie.
@EmmanuelMacron, Aug 20
Je suis convaincu que l'avenir de la Russie est pleinement européen. Nous croyons dans cette Europe qui va de Lisbonne à Vladivostok.[13]
More than that, the day after the Putin’s visit at the official residence of Macron  at Breganson. French President  has written  on his Facebook , in Russian language , that  “ Russia is a very deeply European country” , and stated that  “Europe stretches from Lisbon to Vladivostok.”  French President continued to write about  that “progress on many political and economic issues is evident for we’re trying to develop Franco-Russian relations.”  And, as a perspective that   he is “ convinced that, in this multilateral restructuring, we must develop a security and trust architecture between the European Union and Russia”. [14]   So, being “deeply European”, Russia could not be absent from the security architecture of Europe of tomorrow. It is something which any European responsible leader would not have said- irrespective of the solution in the Ukrainian crisis or the threat of aggression at the Western frontier against the members of EU or the creation of a formidable military arsenal in annexed Crimea -  , except being convinced that today  Russia is a need for Europe .

Or, rephrasing the above affirmation, the question is why such a posture of E. Macron, going from accepting the geographic reality  of Russia being part of Europe, which is understandable, up to the belief  that  it is imperative to build a ‘security and trust architecture’ between EU and Russia?  Where is USA (and NATO)  in that construction ?
To advance some nuances of the answer, I would mention some of the developments on the international arena.

Firstly, Brexit. The day after Macron met Putin, President of France had a meeting with the new Prime Minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson. Coming from Germany , where he met  the day before Chancellor Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson is attempting the last chance to achieve a deal for retreating from EU. He is asking Berlin and Paris   for  a new  formula for the ‘ Irish backstop’ which will make possible “ Brexit with deal” . It is already known that Boris Johnson has promised  to retreat without a deal from ERU on Octoiber 31, this year. Will be possible to negotiate o newly asked formula for “ Irish backstop’ ?
 What is a role of Russia in this domestic affair of EU ?  UK is a strong component of  EU and NATO and its departure from EU would mean weakening the global posture of Europe. If, as recent developments are proving, between UK and USA will be concluded a strong economic and trade partnership, the result will be the appearance of a geopolitical competitor  for Europe. And the threats of Mr. Trump with a trade war to Europe has been advanced repeatedly since at least one year  and half . That such evolution is probable it was two days ago declared openly by US President, Donald Trump, after a meeting with Boris Johnson at Biarritz within the G-7 Conference:
Donald J. Trump Retweeted- Aug 25
Jennifer Jacobs
Who’s 1st leader POTUS chose to sit with for bilat.  here at #G7 in Biarritz? UK’s new prime minister Boris Johnson. “He needs no advice” on Brexit, Trump told us. “He’s the right man for the job. I've been saying that for a long time. It didn't make your predecessor very happy."[15]

Secondly, it is about what could be called  the US competition for good relationships with Russia. In is already known that Trump had the opinion to invite also V. Putin  at Biarritz reunion and so to reconstitute the G-8 which has been abandoned in 2014  as a consequence of Crimea annexation by Russia . The other members of G-7 did not agree, but Trump, asked by the press regarding that said ( the following tweet belongs to the  newspaper ‘ Bloomberg’ ‘s correspondent at Biarritz meeting ) :  
I asked Trump if he plans to invite Putin to G7 in US next year. “I don’t know. It’s certainly possible.” He said leaders talked about it. “We had a very good discussion on Russia and President Putin, a lively discussion, but really a good one"
 ‘It was lively.’ “ [16]

As today it is of crucial importance – due to its geographic, but not only, position- how Russia is positioning in the future systemic regrouping, where USA, China, EU and Russia are competing, admitting Russia again in G-8 at the initiative of  President Trump is not without geopolitical significance. According to the news from Moscow, Putin will consider such an invitation next year in USA.[17]
So, we have a new geopolitical definition of Europe, signaling the wish of EU to have Russia as a partner in a new “ security and trust architecture” . It is a renewal by the French President Macron of about ten years old proposal of Mr. Putin, at the time PM of Russia. But we don’t know if such a proposal will become reality , rather will not due to the formidable opponents to its implementation.
It is interesting to follow the issue because in such a way would be more clear how the great powers are playing power politics among themselves. If , contrary to the expectations of numerous  experts , EU will succeed concluding a new architecture together with Russia in the following years or we will witness a reconstitution of the geopolitical format defined by the OSCE in 1990 and still in existence - ‘ Euro-Atlantic space’, from Vancouver to Vladivostok – but threaten by the emergence of the power politics of today , such results  will define a new geopolitical era, either defined by the  ‘win-win’ game or by machtpolitik between the continental blocs .

These summer moves, prior to the reunion in Biarritz of G-7 or during that - where another surprising fact took place- the unexpected visit at that resort  of the  Iran Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif , which has been a surprise of President Macron especially for US President Trump - and the reaction of other  chancelleries to them will define the historical course of international relations  for the years to come.
August 26, 2019.
[2] Tuomas Forsberg, Russia and the European security order revisited: from the congress of Vienna to the post-cold war, Published online: 30 Nov2018-
[4] 'From Lisbon to Vladivostok'     Putin Envisions a Russia-EU Free Trade Zone  , in “ Der Spiegel”, November 25, 2010
[5] Ibidem
[6] MERKEL ZU BRENNER-SCHLIESSUN:„Dann ist Europa zerstört“   , Frankfurter Allegemeine,  03.06.2016               
[7] Evgeny Ilyin, PhD student MGIMO University of the MFA of Russia. Report at the international conference “Greater Europe. Towards a common space from Lisbon to Vladivostok”, MGIMO, Moscow, December 19th 2015.
[8] Ibidem
[9] Ibidem
[10] Emil Avdaliani,The End of “Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok”, March 8, 2019
[11] Ibide-
[12] Ibidem
[14] Russia Is ‘Deeply European,’ France’s Macron Says in Russian, in “ Moscow Times”, 20 August 2019-
[17] Ibidem


  • Gravatar
    editor nume display 28 August, 2019

    1. I think in the end, the one who has more resources will prevail, whatever those are. It could be another angle of analysis.
    The rivalry evolved from the political / security field to conflict in economic-financial-resources field. It is the forerunner of a potential hot conflict ...

    I believe the alliances under discussion will be viable only as they add synergies without turning one of the partners into a minor player into an alliance.

    2. The French initiative seems rather an extreme gesture of a politician in derision, especially if it is initiated unilaterally and not in coordination with Germany; what can France offer in this alliance ??? What would be the common policies considered? What mutual benefits?

    Why didn't General de Gaulle's initiative succeed?

    France is no longer the economic power who was the partner Russia of the last half of the Sec. XIX, nor the post-colonial power led by General de Gaulle. See below...

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