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Europe and Russian Blackmail

Less than 10% of Russia's borders are shared with NATO, let alone the European Union. No reason to feel surrounded!

Contrary to its propaganda, it is not military threats that worry Russia. Nobody wants to attack it. But it is the presence on its western borders of a large, peaceful, wealthy and democratic entity that highlights its failures.

Before the Ukrainian crisis, almost 40% of foreign visitors to the Schengen area came from Russia. Its middle class discovered prosperity and freedom, to the point of worrying the regime and pushing it further towards dictatorship and nationalism.

By officially displaying the objective of denying the fall of communist totalitarianism 30 years ago, Vladimir Putin hopes to capitalise on the legitimate humiliation that his fellow citizens may feel and regain some of their support.

The world's largest country, whose subsoil is full of all the minerals listed in Mendeleev's table, has a Gross Domestic Product of €1,300 billion, barely higher than that of Spain (1,122), real poverty among the majority of its population (€8,846/year/inhabitant compared to 23,700 in Spain) and a shameful distribution of wealth: 10% of Russians monopolise 80% of GDP.

By playing on fears, by reviving the spectres of the worst hours of Russian history, the gulag and the exterminations, once created by a blind terror of which there is no reason to be proud, by letting the risk of a return to the occupation of a part of Europe behind an iron curtain erected to avoid the flight of his own people loom large, Putin wants to rewrite history. As the magazine Svpressa puts it: "Economically, the Russian Federation cannot compete with the West. What remains is war".

He will not succeed because entire peoples will not forget that they have suffered from a Russian syndrome that has not changed: whether tsarist, communist or KGBist, Russia is always nationalistic, expansionist and revisionist.

By wishing to dialogue with the Americans rather than the Europeans, he believes he is in the big league but is working against the interests of his country. The Americans have no use for a distant adversary who sometimes suits them, whereas the Europeans would be willing to engage in a dialogue that is certainly firm but more credible and more peaceful in the common interest of the continent. They have tried this collectively on many occasions, but the Russians have failed because their main enemy is a united Europe that constantly reminds them of their true weight.

They do not have the means to defeat it; they can try to divide it, provoke it, destabilise it, contaminate it with the corruption of a fifth column within the elites, take limited pledges here or there, but they cannot dominate it.

So Europeans are not wrong to practice the "quilt policy" in the face of the pathetic gesticulations of Putin's regime and its real capacity to cause harm. However, this requires them to be unwavering in their unity, to be truly vigilant and to truly rearm. Being ready to fight for what they have built is the best way to avoid having to do so. Europeans should understand this and get engaged with their common defence.