Towards a greater Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok

Last Wednesday, June 22 2011, was the anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. On 22 June 1941 at 4:00 am, the radio announced the start of the German act of aggression against the Soviet Union. From June 22, 1941 until May 9, 1945, that is to say a little less than four years, this European civil war cost Russia 27 million deads. 27 millions, here is the number that for the Russians symbolizes this tragic period in the History of Europe. June 22 is a traumatic Russian collective memory, a
black day (the beginning of the war) but also the reminder that the USSR was definitely not ready militarily against such an aggression. The first
months of the war were disastrous for the USSRand the German troops invaded relatively easily Western Russia. The French people clearly understand the meaning of this tragic period, since the pattern of blitzkrieg and disaster was the same in France, at least at the beginning of the war. The battle for France began May 10 1940, and lasted only 42 days as on June 22 1940, the Petain government signed the armistice, acknowledging the military defeat of France and accepting the occupation of the country. 

From spring 1942, although on the brink of the abyss, the Russians were able to react. German troops were pushed out of Moscow and the battles moved south and to the Caucasus. The terrible battles of Kursk and Stalingrad contributed to destroythe German military potential and tofrustrate Hitler’s purpose for Europe. We know how the History went on: the Red Army continued the war until it reached Berlin, where the capitulation was signed May 8 1945, shortly before midnight.
At that point and during almost a half century of Cold War, Europe got cut into two, the East and the West being separated by the Iron Curtain. In 1989, with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the breakup of the USSR and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, one could think of a real thaw in Europe. But the fast expansion of the EU and of NATO eastward created new concerns. From 1989 the physical border that the Berlin Wall represented was replaced by another invisible border, just as pernicious, that hadsimply moved further east. These ”clichés inherited from the past and hovering over Europe” as the Russian Prime Ministerrecently said[1], allowed this psychological boundary to flourish. But those stereotypes and this mistrust datee from abygone period (the Cold War) during which Russians and Westerners faced each other risking a fourth world war which nobody wants to imagine what it could have been like.
But a new frontier could be reborn in Europe, embodied today by the willingness of Americans to install a missile shield on the continent, which would separate Western Europe from the Russia-Ukraine-Belarus zone, and constitute a new kind of sword of Damocles over the Europe. Yet, as I wrote in my previous column[2], it is possible to erase this boundary. For example, on Friday, June 17, 2011, for the first time in the History ofNATO, a country member (France) delivered substantial military equipment to Russia (the Mistral contract), thus breaking this morbid distrust of some Western decision makerswho perpetuate a Cold War mentality. Of course, some U.S. congressmen voiced their discontent, and the Latvian government has said they felt concerned, but this is unimportant: the Mistral contract fits into a much broader picture.

The inauguration last week of a common monument to the memory of the Russian expeditionary force that the Tsar had provided to France in 1916, as well as the story of the heroic Normandy-Niemen squadron that nobody can forget, both
underline that a rapprochement from Paris to Moscow is not only a historical reality, but is also already running. A reel entente is not only possible  and feasible on the continent, but in the 21st century it has become especially vital. Some of the Central and Eastern countries who thought that to get out of the Soviet umbrella had justified the entry under the umbrella of the European Union and of NATO in order protect themselves from Russia, have probably made a fundamental mistake. Indeed, the Europeans interests in 2011 do not any longer necessarily coincide with those of the 1990s. 
With the awareness that the post-Soviet or Russian threat no longer exists, one can even wonder what is the interest of Europe to be under the military supervision of NATO, an organization that served during the Cold War, as his Secretary General Lionel Hastings Ismay underlined when he said NATO was used to «keep the Russians out, the Americans inside and the Germans under guardianship”.
Furthermore the 51 countries of the European space do not coincide either with the space of the European Union (27 countries). In terms of security and economy, a much larger architectureis surely necessary. Therefore, the future of Europe in gestation, as it now prefigures itself, is likely to head towards a further integration between the East and the West ofthecontinent. The sstrengthening links of the two Western European
, France and Germany, with Russia (incarnating the Eastern power of the continent) is the sign that slowly but surely, the continental Europe is uniting and thatthe Paris-BerlinMoscow axis is taking place.This continental alliance desired by the General de Gaulle is also the project supportedanddefended by theRussian leaders today, whetherweconsider the statements of Vladimir Putin on creating a community ofeconomies from Lisbon to Vladivostok [3]orof Dmitry Medvedev proposing to create a pan-European security architecture [4]. Thisarchitecture ismostly needed in a world in turmoil ifEuropewants to establish the necessary means to preserve peace but also to go throughthe 21st century as a sovereign and independent entity.


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