Where are Europe’s instincts leading

History contains many examples of the fact that in conditions when the only goal of prudent powers is to maintain peace at any cost, the course of events is in the hands of the most aggressive members of the international community.

Russian policy towards the West is based on the highest prudence and restraint. However, it would be strange to allow a moment when the price of these qualities turns out to be too high. The normal international order presupposes that certain principles and rules of conduct are more important than maintaining peace.

This week, international politics in Europe has come close to a state where even the most natural and necessary manifestations of globalization are beginning to crumble. In response to the landing of an Irish low-cost airline in Minsk, followed by the detention of one of the passengers by the Belarusian authorities on their sovereign territory, Western countries decided to arrange a real air transport blockade for Belarus. The main initiators were the Baltic countries and Great Britain, which is no longer a member of the EU. But their calls immediately received support from other European capitals, which is difficult to explain in terms of rational thinking and diplomacy.

On May 24, the leaders of the EU countries recommended that European companies not fly over the territory of Belarus and banned Belarusian carriers from flying to the EU countries at all. Already on May 26, Air France requested from Russia the right to fly its plane to Moscow via an alternative air corridor and canceled the flight when it did not receive this permission. The next day, May 27, the same story happened with the flight of the Austrian company.

Now there is reason to think that the Russian aviation authorities will nevertheless agree on alternative routes to Moscow for the Europeans. Russia is not one of those who are ready to destroy everything for the sake of a momentary desire to show partners their place. But the signal was sent to the European partners, even if this was not the direct goal of the [Russia’s] Federal Air Transport Agency.

If Russia, with its characteristic restraint, does not support the «air war» unleashed by the West, the very fact of its beginning speaks volumes. Apparently, the degradation of the entire system of international rules and customs has become irreversible, and you need to think not about how to preserve or prolong its existence, but how to live in conditions of the destruction of any habitual ties. There are two reasons for the destruction of globalization: the West’s complete dissatisfaction with the fact that it has ceased to be a monopoly recipient of its benefits and, no less important, attempts by other countries, especially China and Russia, to reach a compromise for the very fact of preserving peace and relative controllability in world affairs.

On the part of Europe, everything is being done — as usual in the policy of the United States and its allies in recent years — in the mode of making decisions based on political assessment before clarifying the legal side of the issue. All of this we have already observed in the situation with the «Skripal case» or a well-known Russian blogger. The algorithm includes an immediate noisy reaction from Eastern European and British politicians, media involvement, fanning hysteria for several hours, and supposedly forced joining the process of more respectable Western countries like Germany or France. But in those cases, although the attack was against Russia, it was still about the exchange of diplomats. This is a more familiar and «decent» method, akin to the execution of hostages in ancient times. Although here it is not clear what to do when there are no more diplomats left.

Since now it is not Russia the EU is attacking, the more “insane” measures of pressure have been chosen. As was the case with Czechoslovakia in 1938. But the point is not that Europeans are afraid of Russia or China, while not afraid of small Belarus. This distinction determines only the current scale of the hysteria and specific hostile actions. The very algorithm of behavior in the case of EU relations with Minsk, Moscow or Beijing is no different. In any case, they are dictated by confidence in their a priori correctness and decision-making based on group instinct.

The management of these instinctive actions, into which big European politics has imperceptibly turned, is carried out either from the United States, or as a result of its own complexes and problems that Europe is facing. The Belarusian case shows that another time absolutely any country may find itself in the place of Minsk, if its sovereign actions on its territory turn out to be a pretext for unmotivated aggression on the part of Europe.

In fact, one could sympathize with the Europeans. First, they are indeed experiencing the largest crisis since World War II. First of all, it concerns the leading countries. France is in a state of paralysis of the political system and fearfully awaits the next presidential election. The most serious observers inside the country do not exclude that the nationalist Marine Le Pen may win the election. Germany lives only with its own parliamentary elections, they will be in September, and radicals from The Greens can take serious positions in power, which will lead to shocks for the economy and politics. Italy and Spain are humiliated by the fact that their economic policies have been determined by the European Union for almost 10 years and are not serious players.

Secondly, in a situation of political and intellectual stupor in the large countries of Western Europe, the Eastern European lobby is beginning to play a leading role. As a result, the tone in Europe is set by marginal countries like Lithuania, Poland or Latvia, whose political culture has remained at the level of the middle, if not the first half, of the last century. In recent days, we have seen what politicians from these countries are capable of, but their insane statements have not elicited a critical assessment of the large EU countries. As a result, in a somewhat softened form, but the whole of Europe, preoccupied with internal problems, is switching to «Baltic» foreign policy behavior.

However, all these troubles of Europeans would be cause for regret, if only concerned them alone. But so far Europe occupies an important place on the economic and partly political map of the world. Even if the policy that finally destroys globalization is not a goal for the West, but the result of its own internal problems, the question is why should we care? History knows a lot of examples when global cataclysms were the result of populism of leaders who pursued insane policies for the sake of success with their subjects. Everyone else will have to deal with the consequences.

One can treat the government of Alexander Lukashenko in different ways, including with regard to its influence on the implementation of Russia’s foreign policy interests. This, however, is an internal affair of our Union State and it would be strange to involve other powers with their opinion. But there is little doubt that if the West’s actions against Belarus turn out to be unpunished, the escalation of irresponsible actions will continue.

The beginning of Europe’s campaign for «leadership in the environmental agenda» is on the horizon. Now politicians and experts in EU countries are openly discussing the need to “punish” other countries for non-compliance with European requirements in this area.

Today Lukashenko will find himself in a transport blockade, and tomorrow the anger of the European Union and the United States will fall on the heads of those countries that are trying to behave quietly in comparison with the Belarusian leader. Taking into account how the entire world system of checks, rules and balances is falling apart, we will see this soon. And [it will be] quite unexpectedly, how unexpected for many was the ability of the European Union, on its own whim, to strike at the air traffic system in Europe.


Timofey Bordachev, Program Director of the Valdai Club, 28.05.2021 / Source.


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