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“Russian Question” in the Focus of European Geopolitics

Abstract

This article is about a book authored by Thomas Gomart on ten major geopolitical challenges for Europe today, Russia’s return to the club of the most influential world powers being one of them. A natural partner, Russia is being increasingly alienated from Europe and reciprocates to it by taking a diverging path. Is this emerging geostrategic r irreversible? This question is of critical relevance for the future of the both parts of the continent. An analysis of Europeans’ perceptions of the balance of geopolitical interests of Western Europe and Russia provides a key to understanding the reasons behind the growing divergence between them. Thomas Gomart, Director of IFRI (Institut français des relations internationales), the leading international relations think tank of France, is a top French expert in geopolitics who also specializes in Russian politics. His views and recommendations largely echo key foreign policy statements and actions of Emmanuel Macron, which reveals a high degree of their representativeness of French political elite views. Thomas Gomart's forecasts respond to the most urgent needs of European geopolitics from the angle of the interests of France which is committed to acting on behalf of the European Union and aims to position an expanded Western Europe as an independent center of power in the emerging world hierarchy. For Russian readers such publications are interesting from two points of view: they give an idea of the direction in which this type of research is going and of the methodology used in geostrategic forecasting. In particular, the book demonstrates significant cognitive changes in the analysis of international behavior of Russia. They stem from the new European reality, as represented, in particular, by Europe’s political and intellectual elite which has been molded by the 70 years of NATO’s existence and almost 65 years of the European Homo Atlanticus project. The overall conclusion is rather disappointing for Russia. Europeans regard its growing power as a challenge, not as an opportunity to join efforts to strengthen the continent's position in the face of the intensifying US-China rivalry. Moscow sees this as a break with the main pillar of French diplomacy — its Gaullist tradition, whereas, in fact, it merely reflects, in the spirit of classical realism, current assessments of the balance of power in Europe and the world. Any motivation for returning to partnership has decrease, firstly, due to Russian leaders’ flat refusal to adopt the Western model of convergence and, secondly, because of the forecasts of the weakening of the country's economic capacity. The growth of Russia’s military might clashes with the interests of Western Europe. If Russia turns to China, driven by the asymmetry of economic opportunities, it risks taking a subordinate role, if not a marginal one, in the global Great Silk Road project. At the same time, Russia, a great continental power spanning China and the European Union, in the absence of any common ground and with its continued estrangement with Western Europe, may find itself outside the main stage where future geopolitical and geoeconomic action involving the West and the Indo-Pacific region will take place.

Keywords:

methodology of geostrategic analysis; geopolitics of Russia; geopolitics of France; Sino-American confrontation; prospects of globalization; Indo-Pacific region.


Authors: Evgeniya Obichkina

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