While, Thursday 1st, the caustic Chancellor Sergei Lavrov saw the Washington-Moscow relations at the bottom of the well, his boss, Vladimir Poutine, calculated the political dividends of the videoconference which had taken place two days before, with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. The Kremlin movements saved the diplomatic concept of the European Common House, the fruit of the Gorbachev era.
President Joe Biden, at the beginning of his administration, launched a heavy rhetoric against the putinist regime and put the bilateral relations in tension, to repeat the pressure exerted on the Kremlin, in particular by the duo Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Reigning in the post-Cold War United States, practically by consensus between Democrats and Republicans, Russia’s vision is far more of a threat than a possible partner.
Among Washington’s European allies, the perception is more nuanced. Historical and geopolitical suspicions remain, but important economic interests persist. Russia, for example, is emerging as a primary supplier of natural gas to heat homes and move industries to countries like Germany.
In videoconferencing, the nuances jumped out. Putin, Merkel and Macron spoke about vaccine cooperation and the intention to produce Sputnik V in the European Union. There were also confrontational issues, such as the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalni, the wars in Ukraine, Syria and Libya, as well as the nuclear deal between world powers with Iran.
From the Kremlin towers, the week’s developments have been reminiscent of diplomatic moments of the 1980s, when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbatchov attempted to deal with the inevitable dismantling of the empire created by Vladimir Lenin from 1917. And a key concept perestroika has drawn the common House of the European Union.
On July 6, 1989, Gorbachev chose, for a historic speech, the French city of Strasbourg, close to the German border. “The philosophy behind the concept of the European Common Home rejects the likelihood of armed conflict or the possibility of using force or the threat of force,” the reformist leader said. “This is not just a play on words, but the logic of European development guided by life itself.”
It was melting the bipolar world of the Cold War, and Europe was preparing for the imminent end of the continental divide between the Western and Soviet blocs. In four months, the Berlin Wall, the ultimate symbol of this historic period, would collapse.
Diplomatic competition therefore attempted to construct the new scenario. Gorbatchov relied on the architecture of the European Common Home to maintain his influence and ties with his neighbors west of the Russian border.
Stronger in the geopolitical struggle, the United States of President George Bush supported the concept of a “united and free Europe”, obviously under the aegis of American influence. Due to a very favorable correlation of forces, the White House vision prevailed.
In the following years, the European Union and NATO, a military alliance led by the White House, expanded areas in the eastern part of the continent, embracing countries once ruled by Soviet dictatorships, such as Poland, the Lithuania and Romania, and have approached and touched The borders of Russia.
In the continental conflict, as in other corners of the planet after the Cold War, Washington imposed a heavy geopolitical defeat on Moscow. Now, Putin is considering the possibility, with vaccine diplomacy, of reclaiming space in European countries, saving concepts from the Gorbatchov era.
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