Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov's remarks at the conference “Global disorder. Towards dialogue-based worldviews” within the 17th Dialogue of Civilisations Rhodes Forum


World (dis)order and European (in)security

The organisers of our today’s discussion were quite right to define that sources of modern instability originate mainly in Europe (probably the Euro-Atlantic, to be more precise) and thereby are closely linked with the crisis of pan-European system of values.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker whose bright tenure is coming to an end not so long ago described the situation in the EU as “polycrisis” and rightly so. We witness the still ongoing crisis of the euro that has merely overcome an acute stage, a “migration volcano” erupting its lava of rage every now and then stagnation of living standards virtually eroding the middle class – the main social pillar of the European Union, as well as a painfully protracted Brexit procedure. I would add to this list a crisis of the basic EU values that it is not only proud of but also trying to spread far beyond its territory.

I would remind you that in fact the European Union was founded on interests rather than values, as an instrument of preventing another war in Europe. This was the reason why its founding fathers decided to deprive the then two key European powers, namely France and Germany, of their primary means of production – carbon and steel. It was much later that the EU transformed itself into an idea of a “shining temple on top of the hill” that blinded those looking for something to lean on in an era of post-Cold War confusion. But this evolutionary stage has also become history. Today the European Union has returned to a certain extent to its initial mission becoming again an instrument for matching and balancing the interests of its Member States.

In less than three weeks from now a new European Commission, defined by its President-elect, Ursula von der Leyen as “geopolitical”, will assume office. We will see how geopolitics exercised by incoming European commissioners will facilitate addressing the crisis phenomena I enumerated and preserving Europe’s global economic and political profiles in the changing multipolar world.

I am far from giving advice to the new EU leadership. But I would like to point out the obvious. The only way to prevent the European Union from turning into a ramshackle “backyard” of the world’s economy and politics already in this century is to unite Europe, and rather Eurasia, from Lisbon to Vladivostok. It is certainly a difficult task and its implementation will require a lot of effort from all the countries involved. But, as the Chinese philosopher, Laozi noted already in 6th century B.C.  (that was even before Parthenon was built), a journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step.

Among such first steps may be to stop calling the EU a “continent”, for instance when heads of European institutions state their goal of making the EU “the world’s first carbon-neutral continent”. Or stop piling up artificial barriers arbitrarily named sanctions, and other restrictions. Or stop substituting the clear and comprehensible international law based on the UN Charter by a “rules-based international order”. Otherwise the artificial, in my view, antagonism between patriotism and globalism, imposed from outside, will inevitably drive Europe along a wrong path. The same Europe deridingly described by supporters of the concept of a “melting pot” for cultures and civilisations as a “salad bowl” –perhaps, but one that enables different countries, nations and cultures, closely interactions with each other to preserve their national traits.

As far as more general “recipe” for uniting Eurasia is concerned, I believe that a simple phrase is enough to describe it – integrating integrations. That is conjugating economic potentials of the two largest integration projects on our continent – the EAEU and the EU. It is worth noting that this recipe was first formulated yet at the Moscow Russia-EU summit of 2005 in a Road Map on the Common Space of External Security:

“The EU and Russia recognize that processes of regional cooperation and integration in which they participate and which are based on the sovereign decisions of States, play an important role in strengthening security and stability. They agree to actively promote them in a mutually beneficial manner, through close result-oriented EU-Russia collaboration and dialogue, thereby contributing effectively to creating a greater Europe without dividing lines and based on common values.”

In my view, it is hardly questionable that only a “greater Eurasia” combining investment and technological capacities of the EU with the resource base of Russia and its EAEU partners can provide healthy competition to the rapidly developing Asia-Pacific region (APR). Besides clear economic benefits, opting for integrating integrations would allow to support the emblematic EU principle of multilateralism.

I would emphasise that talking about healthy competition we are by no means opposing the Eurasian mega-project to initiatives originating in the APR, including those in the PRC. We proceed from the understanding that the Chinese “Belt and Road Initiative” fully matches our view of a common economic and humanitarian space throughout Eurasia.

It is obvious that to ensure security in our common European “home” we cannot do without each other. I think EU Member States also understand it well. But stubbornness and maybe some protracted bias do not allow certain European capitals to acknowledge it aloud. At the same time, for instance, at the conference of French ambassadors last August President Emmanuel Macron put it straight that the time of Western hegemony in the world was coming to an end and it was time to thoroughly rethink relations with Moscow, without which a new security architecture in Europe could not be built. The Russian side is ready to start substantive talks on the parameters of a reliable and just system of equal and indivisible security in Euro-Atlantic and Eurasia. Our proposals are on the table. Among the most recent ones is the decision declared by Russian President Vladimir Putin not to deploy intermediate and shorter-range land-based missiles in Europe and – I would stress – elsewhere, if and until the US refrains from it. We called upon Washington and NATO to join such moratorium and hope for a more substantial and thoughtful reaction rather than instinctive denial they uttered. Particularly as the “zero hour” for the last remaining arms control treaty is irrevocably approaching.

Talks on such issues should be held in a concerted way, without politicising the process and on the basis of a preliminary agreement on a single interpretation of international law norms and principles. It is obviously more difficult than to issue ultimatums, but patiently agreed compromises would certainly be a much more secure mechanism to conduct global affairs in a predictable way.

It is also clear that we need a permanent dialogue channel, at the highest level if possible, to discuss multiple issues we are facing. Change at the EU top seems to give us an opportunity to disrupt a pause in Russia-EU relations than has been too protracted, as Brussels acknowledges. It goes without saying that resuming our communication would be more beneficial if the EU defined its own development model and its way to address the challenges it faces in more specific terms. At the same time I believe it would be careless not to take into consideration the realities of the objective course of history, as mechanically going back to doing business as usual is hardly possible any longer. The world presents surging demand for a fairer and more inclusive system, and multiple models of development prevent us from saying that the Western set of liberal values has no alternative. It would certainly be hardly possible to impose these values by force with no attention paid to the history of states, their cultural and political “codes”. So, to conclude, it is time to talk, hear and listen to each other. Russia is ready for that.