Year XXXIX, 1997, Number 2, Page 85

 

 

RETHINKING EURO-ATLANTIC FEDERALISM*
 
 
For all its difficulties and setbacks, the process of integration and federalisation has reached a stage far more advanced in Europe than in any other part of the world. The situation in Europe is in marked contrast with the global situation; indeed, in the world as a whole, hardly any progress has been made, even since the end of the Cold War. This is why we probably need a concept which provides a link between the spheres of European and world federalism. For the same reason, there are important lessons to be learned from the European experience if we really want to further the principles of federalism throughout the world.
Even in Europe, where the economic and cultural differences are far fewer, the process of creating working supranational structures took several decades. There is no reason therefore to think that this can be achieved quickly or at once on a global scale. Moreover, it is highly predictable that the model of world organisation in any foreseeable future will resemble that of contemporary Europe which has 1) the OECD — an all-inclusive forum with little or no decision-making power, dealing primarily with external aspects of its members’ behaviour, and 2) alliances between countries sharing the same basic principles and values, with institutions vested with the power to make mandatory decisions on behalf of their members and to implement them (EU, NATO). The UN can already be seen as a rough world version of the OECD and, indeed, is often seen by world federalists as an embryo of the future world government. From the viewpoint presented here, however, this is both problematical and risky as failure could seriously jeopardise even the simplest functions which the UN currently performs and which will be needed for a long time to come. Therefore, a world version of EU/NATO/ NAFTA still remains to be created.
As regards the future evolution of the EU, I agree entirely with Francesco Mazzaferro who said, in Moscow in late 1992, that the fundament of the present Europe was the reappraisal and reconciliation of the Latin and German cultures (partly thanks to their postwar “Americanisation”) and that the next task for the EC/EU must be “that of opening our mind to the third cultural component of continental Europe: that of Russians, Czechs, Poles etc...”.
These words, however, were said just at a time when a new policy of the West towards this “third component” was starting to take shape. Until around 1993, the West had tended to demonstrate a uniform approach to the post-communist world. Subsequently, however, and as a result largely of pressure from Germany, another scheme emerged which saw the post-communist area as consisting of two parts: while one of these was considered suitable “to join” Europe, for the other, membership was denied. Moreover, the particular manner in which this scheme was developed gave the impression that there existed no objective criterion governing this division, but rather that there was a sort of unspoken understanding among Western leaders as to which countries “by their nature” could be accepted and integrated and which could not. Apart from anything else, this meant that the cultural and historical differences between post-communist countries, which only a few years earlier may have been perceived as unimportant or at least of only minor significance, now became decisive and practically insurmountable.
What is most amazing is that, at the time, Moscow did not officially display any signs of concern or discontent. Strange as it may seem, the people in power there simply did not appear to appreciate the real significance of what was happening, with all its mid-and longer-term implications. They started to worry only when the next, and in my opinion quite logical and inevitable, step was taken — in other words when NATO announced its decision to expand and embrace those who definitely identified themselves with the “West”.
Since the early 1990s, one of the most popular topics in academic and intellectual circles in Russia has been a concept developed by S. Huntington who suggests that the ideological struggle on our planet is giving way to a struggle amongst civilisations, and that the border areas of such civilisations will represent the main lines of division in the decades to come. As it is certain that Prof. Huntington is not a believer in the federalist ideal, the criticism of his theory which appeared in The Federalist Debate was — despite being in my opinion rather unconvincing — not undeserved.
The reason why Huntington’s views have received such extensive coverage and attention in Russia (probably more than in the US, and certainly more than in Western Europe) seems to be that his account of the motivations underlying Western policies is very much in line with the way Western policies are actually perceived in Moscow. Indeed, if we take a look at the political map of Europe, we cannot but notice a striking resemblance between the projected frontiers of the political alliances of the West (the EU and NATO) and those of the area in which Latin script and the Western version of Christianity have been superseded by Cyrillic script and the Orthodox tradition.
Although any detailed analysis of relations between the EU and Russia goes beyond the scope of this paper, I would nevertheless like to draw attention to two particularly striking aspects. The first is the astonishing extent to which the stereotyped conception of Russia current in Western thinking resembles that of the Russian nationalist opposition, for whom the primordial incompatibility of Russia with the “West” represents the alpha and omega of its political philosophy. By this, I do not mean that all Western thinking can be interpreted in terms of mistrust and hostility; it may even be quite benevolent. But Western thinking is still entirely self-sufficient; it still considers Russia as an alien, and I cannot see within it even the slightest interest or inclination towards “opening our mind to the third great cultural component of continental Europe” as advocated by F. Mazzaferro whom I cited earlier.
As far as Russian relations with the West are concerned, another important aspect is the curious role reversal that has taken place within Russia. In modern Russian history, the attitudes of the state and of society have seldom reflected one another. Under communist rule (at least during its last thirty years), while the state ideology of Russia was strongly anti-Western, society was becoming increasingly sensitive to the ideas and values originating from the West, including its political philosophy. This, along with other factors, finally led to the breakdown of communism. Now, it appears that public opinion in Russia is in fact less pro-Western than the state administration and, what is more, that there have been no moves to change this situation, or even to understand this reversal of roles. Many Russians feel that the hand which Russia, by dismantling its former undemocratic system, held out to the West has gone largely unacknowledged.
It should not be forgotten that in the years of democratic upheaval, two great hopes or, more precisely, two great demands went hand-in-hand in Russia as well as in other EEC countries: on the one hand, the demand for human rights, freedom and democracy and, on the other, the hope that the country might be reintegrated into Europe and into the world as a whole. These two demands, or hopes, are practically inseparable, and if the people are disappointed in the way the second is realised, they are less than likely to remain enthusiastic about the first. This is why failure to create an effective “Euro-Atlantic anchor” for Russia is also a major factor undermining Russian democracy.
The leaders who may finally come to power on this wave of disillusionment (provided present trends continue to move in their current direction) will not necessarily be anti-democracy in the way that the former communist rulers were. Rather, they will probably consider democracy as an instrument which was not, in itself, a bad thing, but one which was seized upon first by the “West” (Western civilisation) who successfully exploited it in order to achieve its own selfish economic and political aims. They will probably not be afraid of it or opposed to it in principle and will argue that, since it has already become a weapon of the “West”, the most effective course of action would be to find something else capable of performing the same function for their civilisation. I strongly doubt, whatever term they may give it — “Euro-Asian”, “Pan-Slavic” or whatever — that they will ever succeed in turning Russia into a separate civilisational entity, although attempts to do just this may in the end cost Russia, and not only Russia, just too dear. Ironically, the cost may be high precisely because Russia is, in fact, not as “alien” to the West as most people in Western Europe (together with Russian nationalists) usually think.
The currently complicated, even tense relations between the Ukraine and Russia provide an illustration of what I am saying. As an independent state, the Ukraine was in sore need of a sense of history and nationhood that was distinguishable from that of the USSR or Russia. However, because the two peoples were, historically, too closely linked, this problem, when tackled in a rational way, proved very difficult to solve. As a result, there has been a considerable temptation to resort (to put it mildly) to irrational arguments, and a number of biased (sometimes verging on anecdotal) publications and historical “discoveries” mysteriously sprang up every time there was a worsening in relations with Russia on an official level. But how else was this new nation to stress its newfound independence from its greater and economically stronger neighbour?
Something similar, but on a far greater and more dangerous scale, might be expected if the “Euro-Atlantic anchor” for Russia fails completely and Russia — urged by some “to create the second federal pole” — sets off in search of an ideology to link the parts of this “second pole”, aiming to prove that it is not inferior to the “first pole” (i.e. EU/NATO). Here, I again agree with Huntington when he predicts that dialogue with future Russian leaders (if Russia really does start to look for a way of its own, outside the framework of Euro-Atlantic civilisation) may turn out to be more difficult than with its communist leaders of the past.
Moving on, however, our visions differ. I do not think that Huntington’s description of the world is entirely accurate although, taken as an anti-Utopia, it is provocative and useful. It is a picture of the world that may well become reality if we fail to learn from our history.
I share Huntington’s scepticism over the belief that federalism is a universal notion. Rather, federalism is, surely, a product of Euro-Atlantic civilisation. It is not civilisationally neutral and efforts to play down its Euro-Atlantic roots and origins are not likely to be very successful. Indeed, I strongly believe that we should not make such efforts.
After winning the Cold War, the West, in order to redefine itself, had to choose between three models. The first was represented by maintenance of the status quo but, in view of the subsequent enlargement of the West, this possibility seems to have been abandoned to the past. The opposing model is what I term “open Euro-Atlanticism”. It is absolutely free from all remnants of traditional geopolitics. It opens its doors to all those countries, regardless of their size or location, which adhere to the basic principles proclaimed by the EU and NATO. It is a return to the initial spirit of Euro-Atlanticism which, unfortunately, was partially lost during the long decades of the Cold War. There is nothing unrealistic about this model. Ira Straus indicated four stages, or four generations, in the history of the Atlantic Alliance, the first and second of which were directed against Germany — in WWI and WW2 respectively. Since, in the third generation, the old enemy Germany was included, it is reasonable to suppose that Russia might be included in the fourth generation.
Moreover, I see no reason why this fourth generation has to be the last. There may still be countries which are not ready to join now, or which are even seen as a source of danger, that can be expected to grow and be ready to join the fifth or sixth generation. But it is of course, not as simple as it sounds. By “Atlantic Alliance” I mean something that goes beyond formal membership of the present-day, or even of a reformed NATO, and this makes sense only if each of the parties, the Alliance and the newcomer, are able to think of the other as “us” instead of “them”. But if it was possible with post-war Germany, why should it not be possible with others?
The worst and most dangerous model of all is an intermediate model, something along the lines of a “half-open Atlanticism”. With this model, membership is open to some and closed to others. In other words, it represents a return to a policy which implies the drawing of new lines of division and thus provokes revanchism.
The considerations set forth above probably do not represent the dominant line of thinking in world federalism, characterised by its traditional emphasis on ever wider representation and quick solutions and by the relatively little attention it pays to the economic and socio-cultural aspects of integration. However, the experience of fifty years of European and world federalism in parallel with each other, is extremely instructive. It shows that an effective federation is much more than a superstructure over a series of constructions which vary in height, design and strength. It requires a proper foundation of basic social values which will sometimes have to undergo major modification before it can be built upon. Moreover, this experience gives rise to a “heretical” question: could it be that, instead of world federalism, it will eventually prove to be European (or, more precisely, Euro-Atlantic) federalism which eventually unites mankind?
 
Oleg Abolin


*This heading includes interventions which the editorial board believes readers will find interesting, but which do not necessarily reflect the board’s views.

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