Greece’s new Syriza government may alarm Brussels, but there is more behind Greece’s affinity for Russia than can be explained by party alliances alone – as polls have shown, keeping Athens in line on Russia policy may be trickier than expected.
Europe needs to craft a short-term strategy to contain Moscow’s power and a long-term strategy to reengage with Russian interests. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, “To endure is all.”
It will be hard for the EU to admit that its postmodern dream of an eternally peaceful European security order is out of reach. But given Russia’s aggression, that is what it must learn to do – while bolstering its defenses.
Setting a positive agenda, reaching out to Russia’s remaining civil society, and pursuing a mixture of containment and engagement can build a more effective relationship with Russia over a long time frame.
If the West really wants to build a new relationship, then it has to understand Russia much better than it does today. Here are a few recommendations on what to avoid when patching up relations with Moscow.
Germany’s old Russia policy, an attempt to build a “modernizing partnership,” is dead and should be buried. The beginning of 2015 saw Berlin searching for a new way forward, informed by recent events.
Since reunification Germany’s partners have prodded the country to take on a leadership role in security policy. Now Germany’s finally agreed to take a seat at the table – as long as it is not the head.
Syriza’s election in Greece turned discussion in Europe once more to the possibility of a Grexit. Cutting Athens loose, however, would not help Greece, and do little to repair the eurozone’s remaining problems.
The United Kingdom has been accused recently of stepping off the international stage, leaving Germany and France to run the show. The notion of British retreat, however, needs a more nuanced assessment.
Mainstream politicians need to stop pressing the snooze button and wake up: Protest politics and xenophobic populism are endangering Europe’s liberal democracies and open societies. They must be addressed.
Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, Chinese foreign policy is becoming more ambitious. Consequently, new China policies are needed. Europe should build on past German successes.