An article by H.E Mart Helme, Estonia’s ambassador to Russia 1996-1999
When last February the Russian president Vladimir Putin unleashed his chilling attack against America in a speech in Munich, he was really addressing the European Union, or “old Europe” to be exact, and most humiliatingly its most influential state, Germany.
Barely a day earlier, TV screens had been inundated with promotional clips about the cooperation between Russia and the EU in the days of Germany’s ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder. It was natural that the present chancellor, Angela Merkel, is all for emphasizing the need to preserve the dialogue with Russia.
So why did Putin humiliate and aggravate his friends and hosts in such a way? Simple.
Putin used a well-known technique of Zen-Buddhism’s shock therapy against senile, indecisive, spoiled and greedy Europe.
Having used his prior bully tactics – gas attacks, political assassinations, obstruction in the Middle-East, etc. – to demonstrate his brutality, resolve and fearlessness in the face of the New Cold War, Putin set the European Union on a crossroads: either Russia or America, either gas and Europe’s readiness for deals or confrontation over economy and security issues with obvious consequences.
The fact that “old Europe” is in a depressing silence shows that Putin’s message has hit home. Only the representatives of the United States and some of the Northern and Mid-European countries, i.e those who feel that they will have to face Russia’s threats anyway, have raised their voices in protest.
But why has Putin suddenly turned so active and audacious? It is wrong to seek the answer in Russia’s upcoming elections. Sure, they are a background but nevertheless an unimportant one. The continuing inflation of the prices of raw materials is also more or less a background as it gives Moscow more money to carry out its plans. However, the primary reason lies elsewhere. Basically in the fact that the increasing hunger for energy in the Asian giants has created an alternative for Russia, one that liberates Moscow from the mutual trade dependence with European countries and gives it trump cards for political extortion.
Indeed, in collaboration with China, India and other Asian countries, Russia can completely satisfy its own need for consumer goods and at the same time export all – and I mean all – of its produced and exportable raw materials to the Asian Tigers, leaving European foundries in Germany and its neighbours dry. In other words Russia no longer needs Europe.
Moscow gets added confidence thanks to the fast development of relations between Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan – all countries that are part of the Shanghai Association founded in 2001. This syndicate, where Mongolia is an observer country, is the embryo of an extremely powerful geopolitical consortium. It engulfs two thirds of the Eurasian continent, has 1.5 billion people and a remarkable portion of the world’s raw materials. This alliance, not just Russia, is the main challenger to the block of the United States and its allies. Moreover, one has to add to this the hostility of the Islamic world towards the US (and Western civilisation in general). This is a force that Washington does not have the luxury of ignoring.
But who are still allies of the USA in the present anti-American world? Which countries can Washington still rely on? Primarily the Anglo-Saxon nations (Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New-Zealand) and “new Europe” – the East-European countries, including the Baltic States, who have conterminously felt the threat emanating from Russia.
In Asia, the two new power blocks fight over India. In Europe they fight for old Europe’s allegiance. As an adept prostitute, old Europe is flirting with both sides. Putin’s attack on Europe was meant to force Berlin, Paris, Rome, Brussels and all the others who are situated to the west of the former Iron Curtain to decide whether the European Union wants to choose the gas coming from Russia – and thus become a vassal of a considerably weaker Russia than that of the Cold War period – or continue as an appendage of the United States. The fact that Europe is unable to form an independent and monolithic centre of power is apparently clearer to Moscow than to Brussels, which is still living in the illusions of a common foreign and security policy and a European Constitution.
From the point of view of Eastern Europe, it would of course be welcome if new Europe remained allied with America. But be that as it may, these nations can no longer follow a strategy of silent reliance on a non-existent European solidarity. New Europe must stop putting its trust in the EU’s dream of a common foreign and military policy and opt for a clear security policy oriented to the United States.
This orientation, besides being the only one offering potential security, might tilt the Western-Europeans, who have wound up sitting on Russia’s gas syringe, a few millimetres to decide in favour of a real, not merely a verbal, transatlantic coalition.
We need a new Truman doctrine. We need a new “Berlin wall” against neo-Stalinist Russia and its anti-Western allies. This time the Baltics cannot be left to the East of it. ‘Old Europe” has to realize that the attempts at democratising Russia have failed. The efforts at integrating Russia with the West have failed. Only one option remains: Russia, which is threatening world peace, must be opposed through a New Cold War.