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Monday, December 11, 2023

The End of an Empire: Could Russia Be a Real Nation-State?

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The only way to end the endless wars and the endless desire for revenge is to transform Russia from an empire into a nation-state. This is painful and associated with the loss of prestige, but opens up the possibility of peace and raising the standard of living of the population of Russia.

The West won the war in Ukraine. Russia’s attempt to swallow Ukraine failed; real military operations revealed the weaknesses of the Russian army. The Ukrainian people have undeniably proved that freedom, once won, is not given without a fight. Europeans rallied around a policy of common support for Ukraine, demonstrating not only their willingness to pay an economic price but also their unwillingness to accept the threat to freedom on their borders. The Americans provided decisive military assistance.

Focus He translated a text by Jurgen Erstrom Meller on the future of Russia.

Follow the path of England and France. Could Russia Be a Real Nation-State?

It is a time of reconciliation – not from a weak position, but from a strong position. President Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders have a clear view of the actual score on the scoreboard. They don’t like it and want to get out of the catastrophic situation created by their own recklessness. But they will not do so as a humiliated force.

In the late 1940s, George Kennan (one of the “architects” of the Cold War – Ed.) recommended a policy of containment to solve the problem of communism and the Soviet Union. It worked. What is needed now is the opposite method: to integrate Russia, rather than directed at Moscow, into a European, or perhaps even global, system that takes security concerns into account while acknowledging the painful past fears of its neighbors.

Although the ball is on the European side Ukraine’s current nation-state would most likely not exist without the help of the United States.. But the bottom line is that the past should not block Europe’s path to the future. Only a new European security architecture can prevent a repetition of the current situation. In this context, the United States plays a less important role.

Russia is a European country and for centuries has wondered about its role in or out of Europe. Unfortunately, the answer was never found. Now is the time to find it.

The intellectual father of the European Union, Jean Monnet, wrote in his memoirs: “Europe will be beaten in crises and will be the sum total of decisions taken during these crises.”

To date, his prediction has come true. The crisis provoked by Russia has forced the European Union to rally its ranks against external threats and re-understand the need to defend its own model of society, if necessary by military means. There will undoubtedly be many obstacles and contradictions on this path, and not all existing EU members will be able to follow this path. Non-EU countries can even join the Union as associate members, because full EU membership can be very burdensome for economically less developed countries.

However, it is now clear that European security cannot be assured when a dogged Russia feels it has receded into the background and is under possible threat of attack from the West. However, its removal or cutting from Europe does not meet the interests of Russia. On the contrary, Russia’s main security problem lies not in Europe, but in the east, in Central Asia and the Caucasian states. Within the country, it is necessary to solve the problem of the discontent of the large Muslim population.


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Politically, the crisis in Ukraine has forced the EU to cut ties with Russia, but economically it makes no sense. It is clear that Russia remains Europe’s energy partner. The same goes for transport: Russia’s land links with Asia play an important role for itself, the EU and China. The biggest obstacle to this strategic engineering is Russia’s past as a superpower and empire. However, other European countries have grappled with similar problems.

Conceptually, there is no difference between the Russian and the British or French empires. The British and French handled the crossing quite well. They rebuilt the main states at a relatively low cost, without bad loss of prestige and without destroying their social and political structures.

France came close to failure around 1960 when faced with the Algerian problem, but managed to rally. Since then, Paris and London have been trying to combine their current strength and past prestige in an acceptable combination. France achieved its goal by playing an important role in shaping the EU. England tried to do the same, but found it inconsistent with its past history.

Russia is currently at the point where Britain and France were in 1960. Now it’s Moscow’s turn to see the real situation, not the desired one. He hasn’t accomplished much since 1991. Russia’s basic economic structure and political model retained a planned economy and autocratic government, albeit under new labels. The mentality of the Russian people remained the same – at least among people over thirty. Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin managed to hide these failures, but the war in Ukraine served as a relentless showcase.


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It is possible to complete the reforms only by transforming Russia from an empire to a nation-state. This is painful and associated with loss of prestige, but opens up the possibility of raising the standard of living of the Russian population. Leaders who solve this problem will be on the same level as the great Russians who have lived for centuries.

Obstacles and problems are obvious. There are still republics within the Russian Federation that are trying to secede.

Only 81% of the Russian Federation’s 145 million population are ethnic Russians, making it difficult to reconcile the philosophy of Russia’s private profession and the Orthodox Church with reality. Neighbors see it as an unrealistic former Russian and Soviet empire fraught with all kinds of threats.

If successful, Russia will become a true nation-state at peace with itself and its neighbors, and a true member of the European community that some tsars so vainly desire. The benefits for Russia will be enormous: it will not only slash defense spending, but also redistribute cash flows to prevent them from splitting up into poorer parts of the country.

Given the mutual suspicion, this will take time. Both Russia and Europe will insist on a defensive capability that will deter the other side from “adventurous” steps. From a European perspective, a permanent US military presence is needed, at least until the European defenses are strong enough – maybe in a decade, maybe longer. Russia’s nuclear arsenal, which surpasses anything the Europeans can oppose, can only be neutralized by US commitments in Europe.

From the US perspective, such a strategy also makes sense. Russia poses no threat to the United States apart from its nuclear arsenal. It may offend Americans in some parts of the world, but nowhere is Moscow as formidable a competitor as the Soviet Union.

The essence of such a policy for Europe, Russia and the United States is to maintain a kind of military balance, in which none of them can launch a military attack against any European state that has any chance of success. If this situation is achieved and maintained for ten or twenty years, favorable conditions may arise for the commencement of Russian integration into Europe.

The only alternative is Russia, which is always out of balance, never glorious, but continues to pursue unfulfilled dreams of restoring a “glorious” past that might look like it in the mirror, and threatening its own people and neighboring countries. This was exactly the result of the disgusting Russian and Euro-American policies after 1991. The risks of trying something new seem small compared to the risk of repeating the same result.

about the author

Jørgen Jerstrem Moeller is a former Foreign Minister in the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. book author Transforming Asia: From Economic Globalization to Regionalization (ISEAS, Singapore 2019) and The Veil: Technology, Values, Dehumanization and the Future of Economics and Politics (ISEAS, Singapore, 2016).

Source: Riafan

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