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Should Europe fear the break-up of Russia?

[This editorial is also available in Ukrainian.]

Although many uncertainties remain, we can no longer rule out the break-up of the Russian Federation that would result from the failed aggression in Ukraine.

The world's last colonial empire is cracking on all sides, and its many ethnic groups and peoples dream of freedom.

Europe would be wrong to fear such an event, just because Russia still has nearly 6,000 nuclear warheads and Putin might be succeeded by a worse leader. In 1991, when the USSR collapsed, no one was allowed to fool around with nuclear weapons and all the powers worked together to avoid the filmmakers' favourite scenario of a few warheads disappearing into the hands of criminal or terrorist groups. As for the corporate kleptomaniacs in Moscow, they no longer have much of a future and are fleeing to the West.

The end of the Russian Federation would simply be the culmination of a long process of decolonisation that began in 1991, the real end of the Tsarist era prolonged by the Communist dictatorship, which survived only by conquest.

It would open up some interesting prospects for its neighbours:

Firstly, it would guarantee peace and put an end to Russia's age-old obsession with expansion. Its bulimia for land, the largest country in the world at 17 million km2, is simply the result of a nationalist obsession that is vital if it is to control a territory that is too vast and a society that is so diverse that it officially counts nearly 100 nationalities.

Secondly, the possibility of cooperating with regions that are rich in their subsoil, their agriculture and often their industrial past, in particular the 21 autonomous republics, from Tatarstan to Tuva, Kalmykia to Buryatia, Dagestan to Khakassia, which are all eager to develop and open up, something that a mafia-like and predatory centre has prevented them from doing for so long.

A genuine security architecture for the continent could then emerge, rejecting brute force and the fait accompli. Europe would finally be able to develop normal relations with the Russia of Europe, which has always observed it from an angle without daring to look it in the eye.

There is therefore no need to fear these possible upheavals. Europe simply needs to prepare for them with all the means at its disposal, admittedly more civilian than military.