MOSCOW – Rapid changes in the global economy and international politics are raising, once more, an eternal issue in Russia: the country’s relations with Europe, and with the Euro-Atlantic region as a whole. Of course, Russia partly belongs to this region. Yet it cannot and does not want to join the West wholeheartedly – at least not yet. Meanwhile, this choice looks very different now compared to just a few years ago.
It is becoming obvious that the Euro-Atlantic world, whose economic and political model seemed so triumphant 20 years ago, is now lagging somewhat behind China and other Asian countries. So is Russia, where, despite encouraging talk about innovation-based development, the economy continues to de-modernize as corruption has been allowed to metastasize, and as the country relies increasingly on its natural-resource wealth. Indeed, it is Asia that has turned out to be the true winner of the Cold War.
These rising powers raise problems regarding Russia’s geo-strategic choices. For the first time in decades, the values gap between Russia and the EU appears to be increasing. Europe is overcoming state nationalism, while Russia is building a nation state. Broken by history and not wishing to be ravaged by war again, Europeans have embraced compromise and renounced the direct use of force in international relations.
Russians, on the other hand, emphasize their “hard power,” including military force, because they know that they live in a dangerous world and have no one to hide behind. And, because of the country’s comparative lack of “soft power” – social, cultural, and economic attractiveness – it stands ready to use the competitive advantages (i.e., its resource wealth) available to it.