US-Russia Reset or the Liberation of Europe?
In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, the possibility of US-Russia relations being restored or normalized has found its way to the center of attention. Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections has coincided with a 21% increase in the number of Russians expressing their support for rapprochement with the West, now totaling 71%, according to the Levada Center’s most recent poll. Given that only one month ago 48% of Russians said a Third World War could break out between Russia and the United States, this development is almost as dramatic as Trump’s victory itself.
Immediately following Trump’s election, Putin himself stated that “Russia is ready and wants to restore fully-fledged relations with the United States,” thus dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s that Trump himself, being inaugurated into the US establishment, could never so openly do. Just before the US elections, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus stated in front of the World Russian People’s Council that “the opportunity to continue dialogue and build bridges does not seem so hopeless today…We know that, besides the official view presented to us by the media, there is another America and another Europe.”
Hand in hand with this, elections and political developments in various European countries, including those historically close to Russia such as Bulgaria and Moldova, have suggested that Russian-European relations could also be normalized to a considerable extent in the near future. The Austrian presidential elections scheduled for December 4th and the French presidential elections in 2017 are likely to see the victory of candidates who, for one reason or another, want to heal relations between Russia and their own countries, and the European Union as a whole.
Thus, the info-sphere has been filled with the following, daunting question: Will Russia and the West come to terms? Alternatively, the popular phrasing has centered on the possibility of Russia and the West restoring or normalizing relations.
This question is itself incorrectly posed for a number of reasons. First and foremost, despite popular misconceptions, the “West” is a multi-layered and even internally contradictory phenomenon that cannot be considered a unified subject or entity in relation to Russia. Of course, the term is often used for the sake of concision or for lack of a better one. But the underlying reality is important. We are dealing with two distinct entities: the United States of America and Europe.
The United States cannot but be Russia’s existential enemy, and vice-versa. The United States represents the peak of geopolitical Atlanticism, the hegemonic, totalitarian ideology of Liberalism, and the civilizational mission of the “West”, understood as Modernity, dating back historically to the end of the European Middle Ages. The US knows no other history. Russia, on the other hand, inherently represents the qualitatively opposite: geopolitical Continentalism, Eurasianism, and the civilizational mission of Tradition. All of the United States’ and Russia’s historical incarnations, to one degree and in one form or another, have manifested these constants.
Europe, on the other hand, is not the United States and not necessarily the “West” in the above-mentioned understanding. The American Project is the offspring of the decline of “European civilization”, Europe’s rejection and degradation of its continent, its tradition, its geopolitical inclinations, and its Logos and contributions to human history.
Europe is not positioned in fundamental antagonism to Russia, but is its natural partner and, given the proper conditions, the western artery of the greater Eurasian body. Europe, in geopolitical terms, is Rimland.
Today, as Europe’s very existence is being put into question in the context of the geopolitical and eschatological confrontation between Eurasia and the United States, it is becoming ever clearer that Europe’s path out of the abyss lies in partnership with Russia and the new integration projects of Eurasia that will ultimately leave America out of the picture, slated for retirement from its hyper-power status.
Thus, in dealing with the question of relations between Russia and the “West,” we must call things by their names and decode diplomatic clichés.
As for US-Russian relations, Trump’s presidency offers the glimpse of a hopeful opportunity for this existential antagonism to be temporarily blunted on the basis of pragmatically, mutually recognized rivalry, geopolitical realism in foreign policy, and short-term cooperation in reversing the previous US administrations’ bungled Middle Eastern policy. On a general note, it averts the possibility of a Third World War breaking out in one form or another between the two countries. Russia and the US can cooperate and arguably should get along for the sake of world security, but their rapprochement necessarily, ultimately means the curtailment of the existential mission of one or the other. Whether this will end in the partition of Russia, the fragmentation of the United States or its shrinking back from its global hegemonic plans of Pax Americana to Pan Americana, which does have certain historical roots in US geopolitics, is an open question to be decided in the geopolitical showdown of the 21st century.
But the real question is Europe. Not only do Russia and Europe have every reason to cooperate, but Europe’s fate depends on such. Europe and its nations’ identities are in crisis, thus paralyzing any potential for positive, constructive change, and the neoliberal economic model of the European Union - implanted by the United States in the aftermath of the Second World War - not only economically shackles proud European nations, now insultingly called the “periphery,” to the Atlanticist strongholds within the EU, but ultimately renders Europe as a whole a US colony subject to the whims of the financial oligarchy.
On the other hand, while the US’ economic and geopolitical domination is in crisis, Russia and its allied integration projects have offered the European Union a renewed lease on life with an eye both towards Europe’s valuable past and constructive future as a regenerated pole in a multipolar world. The only forces holding Europe back, which the American publication Foreign Policy writes are now personally incarnated in the face of the widely unpopular Angela Merkel, are now finding themselves besieged with questions as to the future of European integration and the actors involved therein. Without their Atlanticist curators, EU leaders have been left baffled and helpless in the face of this dilemma. These questions, however, are being raised and proposed alternatives to by anti-Atlanticist, pro-European (“pro-Russian”) initiatives of diverse shades across the continent.
The changing political landscape in Europe, to a certain extent attributable to the “Trump effect,” i.e., the breathing space from Atlanticism now open to multiple European countries, suggests that Russian-European relations do have the chance to improve. The rise of political parties and movements rejecting Atlanticism and Liberalism and the gradually increasing possibility of them achieving practical victories in various elections, represents a key factor in this process. The fact that Europe’s “sovereigntist” parties and candidates, whether of left or right, are often referred to as “pro-Russian” and that points on the anti-Russian (in effect, anti-European) sanctions or Crimea often figure in their domestic platforms is an incredibly telling sign. The rise of “alternative” (real) Europe, compounded by compelled changes in the existing structure of the EU elite, is a process gaining undeniable momentum.
The “Trump effect” might have paradoxical consequences. It might be Europe that will be “made great again”. There will be no “normalization” or “restoration” of relations - these relations will rather be gradually reformed and, as quantity can be impacted to turn into quality, could be revolutionized. The end goal is Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok, not from Budapest to Los Angeles. In this light, the improvement of relations between Russia and the West can only mean a changed Europe and a distanced United States. The diplomatic notes, trade, and gestures exchanged between Washington and Moscow are merely the backdrop. Multipolarity is on the horizon, starting with the liberation of Europe, not a reset in relations with the US.