Monday, January 3, 2011

Europe and Russia.

Since the Cold War we have learned to see our big neighbor as a threat, as the constant bogey man that is out there to take over Europe, and the reason why we desperately need USA's "protection"!

While most Eastern European states will agree, since they had the misfortune of being under the Soviet rule for five decades, let us re-examine our relationship with Russia as many things have changed and are continuing to change in the European continent.

First of all, the carving of Europe was agreed between western and eastern powers in Crimea. Russia, America and Britain sat down and put down the barriers of the Iron Curtain. It is not as if the Russians simply took whatever they wanted. The borders were drawn where the troops of East and West met, so for the sake of avoiding a prolonged war or diplomatic struggle they compromised and "gave" Eastern Europe to the Soviets.

Even if we all agree that the Soviet regime was a cruel one and brought a lot of oppression to the countries it occupied, was the western part of Europe really the most fortunate? Was capitalism always right and fare on European people? If we judge on what is going on now in Europe, then many will agree that though it is much preferred than communism, it has serious side effects that have never been dealt with.

The second thing I want to mention is that Europe is not the same place anymore. It is uniting (I am not saying united because we have far to go to reach that goal), and if this trend continues and happens correctly, we won't technically need America's "protection". Europe must form its own military defense and take in its own hands its foreign policies. In my opinion NATO should be abandoned and Europe should form with Russia, Canada and USA a co-operative block in trade, defense and other policies.

But the difference with the current situation is that Europe should be equal to the USA and Russia, not the little sidekick that the two former superpowers are seeing it as. I do not see any good in being told in which alliances and wars we must participate, from where we must buy our air-crafts and other weapons and so on. Besides, either we like it or not, we are heavily dependent on Russia for our oil and gas. Why can't we have better relations with them?

Europe is co-operating with Russia already in many fields. ESA for example, the European Space Agency is closely working together with Russia in future space explorations. Why this co-operation can't be expanded in many other spheres? Europe and Russia have so many things to achieve if they come closer, and USA should not interfere. Besides, we are the ones that have borders with them, (Finland, the Baltic states and Poland) and we are the ones that rely on them for our energy.

One may ask, can the Russians be trusted after the recent history between us and their corrupt political system? Well if Europe really unites and develops as one, I say they will have no choice. We are their best customers in energy, we are over 500 million people, while they are less than 150 and many Russians already reside in many European states and in some cases they are EU citizens (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia).

Their records on human rights, gay rights and freedom of speech are also bad. But that does not stop the global corporations from investing in China and moving thousands of European jobs over there. Do we force all other regions of the world to abide by our own values in order to do business with them or forming relations? If so then we should reconsider our relations with half of the world.

To conclude, I am not going to go as far and say as Mr Berlusconi did, that Russia should become an EU member. I believe that Russia must stay independent and Europe should come closer to it. We need each other, and we can achieve a lot together. Russia with USA and Europe together with Canada perhaps can form a formidable block that will promote prosperity and security to all its member states and the ones allied to it. It is time to leave the cold war behind us and enter a new phase in our relationship with our neighbors.

They are after all European, and have offered a lot to the European culture and heritage. From artists like Tchaikovsky and Dostoevsky to their participation in both big wars of the continent, the unpleasant Soviet regime that spread in eastern Europe, their participation in the Greek struggle for liberation against the Turks, their meddling in the Balkans. Their involvement was not always pleasant or fair, but was it Britain's France's or even America's?

Have them in our side could mean a more positive and constructive Russian involvement in European affairs, keep alienating them and we should be thinking finding alternative oil and gas resources as soon as possible. Besides, isn't the Cold War over already?

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