Europe

Take Russia out of Europe

Dmitry Tymchuk, on the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 flight MH17:

I sincerely believe that some part of the responsibility for this tragedy lies with the European leaders. In the case of the Russian aggression against Ukraine they have been too busy counting their money, forgetting that the world is very crowded and fragile. They forgot how small Europe is. And it cannot be that one country is the victim of aggression and consumed by war, while this is apparently of no concern to all the others.

It’s also time, I believe, that those in Europe and the U.K. who are involved with Russia at a general cultural and educational level made their position clear. Time that Russian propaganda organizations like RT (Russia Today) and Voice of Russia were taken off the air and closed, time that Russian PR agencies like the Russkiy Mir Foundation and Academia Rossica were shut down and their offshoots and branches in Western universities removed.

Better Russia

New_Russia_on_territory_of_UkraineIn Slon, Leonid Ragozin takes a long and searching look at the twin identities of Ukraine. In the Russian-speaking part of Ukraine he sees a “Better Russia”:

It’s a more peaceful country with a better climate and less abrasive manners than Russia, a country where Russian military personnel and “northern” oil pensioners still go to live out their days as before, and to where  – as in Cossack times – the Empire’s more freedom-loving, enterprising and talented citizens escape.

And this alternative Russia, unlike the original, has a chance in our lifetime to become part of a Greater Europe, to achieve its standards of state governance and quality of life. Such a Russia will, more than Ukrainians themselves, be interested in preserving Ukrainian statehood  because this will be the guarantee of its survival and success. If you really need a single, albeit diverse, Ukrainian nation, then it is with the help of such a Russia that it will be built.

Instead of relying on a narrow and sometimes intolerant Ukrainian nationalism, Ragozin thinks, the Euromaidan movement would do better to maximize its appeal to this “other Russia”. After all, he points out, the movement’s most prominent  leader, Vitali Klichko, is a boxer trained in the  Soviet army and with direct experience of the authoritarian and “athletic” mentality typical of the so-called “titushki” who are charged with maintaining support for Yanukovych’s government.  If Klichko could extend his influence to this constituency, and even become its leader, Ragozin believes that

there would be no need for the fighters of the Right Sector, the Molotov cocktails and medieval catapults: the Berkut would take him to the Rada and to Bankova.

After reading this the only question that occurs to me is whether the influence of Putin and Great Russian chauvinism may not now be more widespread among Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population than Ragozin is prepared to admit.

Ukraine: Scenarios

ukreuropeOn his LiveJournal blog Ukraine/Russia specialist Andreas Umland asks:

What happens to Europe should its territorially largest country slide towards civil war and a violent break-up? What happens to the current trans-European security architecture, pan-European organizations and all-European law should the Ukrainian state fall apart? What will happen to the already strained political, yet surprisingly intense economic EU-Russia relations when Moscow accepts possible offers from East and South Ukrainian regions to become, like Transnistria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia, Russian protectorates (if not oblasts of the RF)? I hope that these scenarios are currently being discussed in Brussels, Washington, Berlin, Moscow… etc

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is giving signs that Moscow may not wait indefinitely for the answers:

Russia urges EU “not to interfere” in Ukraine.

Useful Europeans

83px-Logo_Front_National.svgThe previous post drew a rough parallel between the Western leftist and revolutionary movements of the 1920s and today’s left-wing/libertarian alliance of “techno-revolutionaries” who seek to bring down capitalism by information-related means. The analogy can be widened, however: there is another group of dissenters in the West whom Moscow can rely on to create a base of support and a pool of common interests. It’s a group that has little in common with left-wing ideas and aspirations, or even with the preoccupations of libertarianism, but is similarly useful. The far-right movements of Europe, with their representation in the European Parliament and their exploitation of the immigration issue, have a role to play not unlike that of the “полезные идиоты” of the inter-war decades.

As Elena Servettaz recently made clear,

Kremlin officials realize that the traditional liberal and conservative parties in Europe are gradually losing ground and that now is the time to cautiously align themselves with new forces—the far-right nationalists. “Some people in political circles in Moscow know that in Europe, and particularly in France, as the new family of far-right parties is gaining momentum, they must get to know them better and test the waters,” says Jean-Yves Camus.

The Euroscepticism of public opinion in France and the U.K. can be harnessed and adapted by nationalist and populist parties to form a Europhobic ideology based on fear of foreigners, “conservative values” and hostility to Islam. In December the Dutch Eurosceptic politician Geert Wilders attended a meeting in Italy which also hosted a United Russia Duma member:

According to Italian media, Viktor Zubarev also addressed the gathering and spoke about ‘values, the family, the nation, a return to religion’ and said that the party shared a lot of ideas with Italy’s Northern League, from immigration to budgetary policies.

In France, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen believes that Russia is “unfairly demonized”, and has claimed that an ongoing anti-Russian campaign is being organized “at the highest levels of the European Union with support from the United States”.

As Moscow increases its propaganda effort through outlets like RT (Russia Today) and Russia Beyond the Headlines, it’s as well to be aware of the possible dangers of its collaboration with right-wing extremist forces in Europe – and to see those dangers in the context of Europe’s twentieth-century past.

Continental imperialism

“Pan-Germans and Pan-Slavs agreed that, living in ‘continental states’ and being ‘continental peoples’, they had to look for colonies on the continent, ‘to expand in geographic continuity from a center of power,’ that against ‘the idea of England . . . expressed by the words: I want to rule the sea, [stands] the idea of Russia [expressed] by the words: I want to rule the land,’ and that eventually the ‘tremendous superiority of the land to the sea . . . , the superior significance of land power to sea power . . .’, would become apparent.”

-Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1958 edition, p. 223.

Dreyfus

“Thus closes the only episode [The Dreyfus Affair] in which the subterranean forces of the nineteenth century enter the full light of recorded history. The only visible result was that it gave birth to the Zionist movement — the only political answer Jews have ever found to antisemitism and the only ideology in which they have ever taken seriously a hostility that would place them in the center of world events.”

-Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1958 edition, p. 120.