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Europe’s Geography of Values

PARIS – Confronted with Russia’s reassertion of its imperial tradition and the deceptive methods and reflexes of the Soviet past, how should Europe respond? Should it give priority to “the value of geography” or to “the geography of values”?

Those who opt for the former do so in the name of short-term “energy realism,” arguing that it is vital to reach an agreement with Russia because Europe lacks America’s shale gas and oil. According to this reasoning, the United States can live without Russia, but Europe cannot.

Moreover, for the realists, America’s defiant behavior toward its oldest and most faithful allies – reflected in the recent surveillance scandals implicating the National Security Agency – has discredited the very idea of a “community of values.” If America no longer respects the values that it professes, why should the European Union lose the goodwill of the Kremlin in the name of upholding them?

Such realists also claim that by aligning the EU’s positions with those of NATO, Europe has recklessly chosen to humiliate Russia – a useless and dangerous course of action. The time has come, they say, for a policy that reconciles historical and geographic common sense with energy necessity. Europe’s future is inexorably linked to that of Russia, whereas America has turned its back on Europe, out of disinterest if not disillusion. The commemoration of a glorious past – the 70th anniversary of D-Day – cannot hide the diminished present: Though Europe may try to diversify its energy resources, it cannot do without Russia in the foreseeable future.