2. A EUROPE OF SPACES AND DIMENSIONS
The second conceptualization of Russia’s perception of Europe started with the appearance of a phenomenon known as dimensionalism. However, the notion of dimensions, semantically, is neither a self-sufficient nor a self-explanatory one, and requires inclusion into a wider set of discursive dispositions. Dimension as a concept seems to be a natural part of a discourse molded in spatial terms. Speaking about dimensions, we inevitably enter an area of spatial representations, which, from their part, need a “dimensionalist” vocabulary to fix the nodal points that structure the spatial discourse.
Chronologically speaking, the idea of dimensionalism, especially in its “Nordic” version, preceded the ideas of the EU – Russia “common spaces”. The very fact that Russia is a country which is directly plugged into both the Northern and – still hypothetical - Eastern Dimensions (ND and ED, correspondingly) of the EU, opened new discursive tracks for repositioning herself in a changing system of “geometries of regionalism”.
Russian attitudes towards the EU-inspired “policy of dimensions” seem to be in flux. On the one hand, the Finnish and Polish initiatives were met in Moscow with an interest and reasonable understanding. Yet on the other hand, many in Russia remain skeptical about the practical implications of both “dimensions”. Russia seems to follow a rather critical logic of those commentators who are of the opinion that there is a certain degree of exclusion in both the ND and the ED. Thus, it was noted that “in the aftermath of the 2004 EU enlargement, the ND is more and more confined to blocking the non-military security threats of which Russia is believed to be the main source, and to strengthening the EU external borders”904. Yet Russia feels even unhappier to see that Poland’s foreign policy departs from the assumption that the main stimuli for all ex-socialist countries bordering on Russia are to “ultimately separate them from the post-Soviet space”905.
Therefore, “the East” – as compared with “the North” – seems to be simultaneously a more traditional and a more conflictual signifier, potentially capable of restoring the East – West divide, though in a different format. It seems, hence, difficult for Russia to recognize the role of Poland as an “intermediary” in communications between Moscow and Brussels (Finland with its ND had no such explicitly articulated ambitions).
The employment of the terminology of “spaces” opens a number of other interesting insights. To a certain degree, exceptionalism embedded in the Four Freedom scheme is due to the fact that the whole idea of the Four Spaces was initiated by France and Germany and, therefore, may be viewed as an “Old Europe” project906. The “new European’ nations (including the Visegrad4 and the Baltic states) are expected to “strengthen the political demands of the Union within the four common spaces”907, by now almost absent in the communications between Moscow, on the one hand, and Berlin and Paris, on the other. This opposition between the two patterns of Europe (the “old” and the “new” ones) brings us closer to the third conceptualization to be analyzed further.