A NORMATIVE EUROPE AND A FALSE – TRUE DICHOTOMY

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A NORMATIVE EUROPE AND A FALSE – TRUE DICHOTOMY



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2. A NORMATIVE EUROPE AND A FALSE – TRUE DICHOTOMY

The second frame of reference to characterize Russia’s attitudes to Europe is grounded in discursive distinction between “false” and “true” Europe. «False Europe», as understood by Russian intellectuals, includes countries with strong anti-Russian sentiments and those having lost the «genuine European values», while the «true Europe» is arguably populated by friendly to Russia nations. In this sense, the gist of this conception might be traced back to the notion of alleged “Russian Europe”, historically exemplified by Novgorod’s inclusion into the Hansa trade network and its commitment to a set of democratic procedures1673.

The “false” innovations in Europe are associated with the evaporation of the national spirit (as exemplified by the vocabulary of “the post-Germans”, “the post-French”, etc.), while the “real relics of antiquity” (exemplified in the heritage of prominent European intellectuals, artists and musicians) are respectfully valorized and cherished1674. In the interpretation of many of the Russian scholars, what is considered to be a “post-Europe” embodies the growing self-denial of the national interests and identities, a tendency dating back to the end of the Second World War and the American military preponderance all across Western Europe. As an authoritative political analyst Sergey Karaganov puts it, “Russia hardly needs to give up its longing for traditional European values for the post-European ones”1675. Russia, then, seems to denote what Europe itself seems to be proud of – both refusal of national egos and the valorization of supranational integration.

As Viacheslav Morozov points out, the strategy of differentiation between “false” and “true” Europe «was hardly successful internationally, but worked almost perfectly on the domestic political stage»1676. Put differently, by discursively molding a “true Europe”, Russia strives to overcome and displace its own fears of being isolated from the European culture and values1677.

One possible type of reaction to this “false – true” distinction is the accentuation of the European weakness. Perceptions of some segments within the Russian political elites are marked by a denial of the Europe's attraction to Russia and presenting the EU as an exhausted entity lacking political will and an identity of its own1678. Some of the Russian analysts jump to overgeneralizations, asserting that “Europe is dying… It is a purely virtual notion, a gigantic dead museum… The degeneration of the European idea is shocking”1679. “Europe is an image of the past century, it is a remembrance… Europe is reminiscent of an aged hypocrite and a coquette which conceals the smell of putrefaction”1680.

The discourse focusing on an alleged degeneration of Europe leads to a rather interesting twist in the reasoning of some of the Russian thinkers who conclude that the genuine “European project” could be implemented by Russia itself. The rhetoric of this sort has reached its peak in Dmitry Rogozin’s proclamation of Russia as being a “real Europe”, free of homosexuals, punk culture and other detested by Russian conservatives elements of today’s European lifestyle. This is at this point that the othering of Europe frames and pushes the discursive construction of Russia itself. “Russia’s relations with the current Europe are not geographic but temporal” in the sense that Russia is imagined as a “real” Europe, a heritor of the century-long European culture. This type of discourse, almost unknown in Europe, not only makes Europe a poorly self-articulated entity with weak or even non-existent political will, but also questions the strategy of Russia’s integration with Europe1681.




3. A EUROPE OF DIMENSIONS



The third conceptualization of Russia’s perception of Europe has to do with the phenomenon known as dimensionalism. 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, opens new discursive tracks for repositioning herself in a changing system of “geometries of regionalism”.

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. Yet Russian attitudes seem to be in flux. On the one hand, the Finnish and the Polish initiatives were met in Moscow with interest and reasonable understanding. Yet on the other hand, many in Russia remain skeptical about the practice of both “dimensions”. Thus, it is said 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”1682. 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 is to “ultimately separate them from the post-Soviet space”1683. In the Russian media, Poland is presented as a country striving to demise the current elites in Ukraine and Belarus, to hinder the EU – Russia rapprochement, and to play the role of a peace-keeper in the CIS1684. Some of the Russian experts relegate to Poland the responsibility for the emergence of new dividing lines between the West and the East1685. In Filip Kazin's reasoning, «the Poles … are prone to strictly fix the 'weight categories' and put one of players (Russia. – A.M.) beyond the competition, while the EU bureaucracy wants to place everybody in the same stadium, have a training exercise and see what comes out of it»1686. There exists a wide spread feeling that Poland is reluctant to accept the common «rules of the game» offered by the EU to all its adjacent countries and is eager to distinguish Ukraine (and potentially Moldova and Belarus) from all eastern neighbors1687.

Polish commentators partly confirm these Russian fears by suggesting that relations with Moscow should not dominate the EU foreign policy agenda and ought to develop in direct dependence upon Russia’s approximation of its political and legal norms to that ones of the EU. Polish experts seem to be selective in offering partnership arrangements to the eastern countries. Some of authors in Warsaw even try to make the procedure of “granting the EU’s neighbor state” status dependent upon a list of normative criteria1688.

Therefore, “the East” – as related to the ED – 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). In the meantime, Russia seems to be willing to explore the vulnerability of Poland presuming that “almost nobody would take seriously a country that, on the one hand, has pretensions for a leading role in designing and coordinating the eastern policy of the EU, and on the other hand, proves incapable to maintain normal relations with the main country”1689 of the region to the east of the EU.




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  • 3. A EUROPE OF DIMENSIONS