Putin has long tried to balance Europe. Now he is working on resetting it.

During his 22 years in power, Vladimir V. Putin has worked to carefully balance Russia’s position in Europe. He eat yourself with a capitalized number he is being bullied others, and searched economic integration like him grilled lamb European Values.

Even after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, relations deteriorated and Moscow upset several European countries with large-scale misinformation and military flight almost missedit reached out to others – if not exactly winning them over, then at least keep diplomacy open.

However, with the Ukraine crisis coming this winter, Mr Putin is openly accepting something he has long avoided: hostility towards Europe as a whole.

More Europe respond to the threat of Moscow With military reinforcements from the east and pledges of economic sanctions, masking deep internal disagreements, Putin escalated again. And instead of emphasizing diplomacy in European capitals, he addressed it mainly in Washington.

This shift reflects Moscow’s view of European governments as American puppets cast aside, as well as its assertion that it is a power above Europe rather than a country. unusually powerful neighbors. It also shows Russia’s ambition to no longer simply manage but to completely re-establish the European security order.

But in seeking to authoritarian Europe, even if only because of the question of relations with Ukraine, “There is a risk of pushing Europe together, amplifying more hawkish voices and capitals,” says Emma Ashford, who studies European security issues at the Atlantic Council, said. group.

“And there is a risk of pulling the US back, even if it is trying to push the US out of Europe,” Ms. Ashford added of Moscow’s approach.

Mr. Putin has not completely abandoned Europe. He had a call with Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, on Friday. And he may still retreat from the crisis in time to restore European relations, or seek to do so once the dust settles.

However, if he persists, analysts warn that his approach could leave Europe more militarized and divided, albeit with a smaller Moscow ally East. and much weaker than during the Cold War.

The Kremlin has repeatedly signaled that, although its concerns with Ukraine may have gotten to this point, it is looking for something broader: a return to the days of order and security. Europe’s security is not negotiated in dozens of capitals but is decided between two great powers.

“In the late 1960s, direct interaction between Moscow and Washington could create a political framework for a future development,” said Vladimir Frolov, a Russian political analyst, Written Moscow’s ambitions.

This is by no means a matter of arrogance or ambition for great power. It also reflects a growing belief in Moscow that the deal has, in fact, been.

After Russia annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine in 2014, hit with economic sanctions by Western governments, the crisis is meant to be resolved by negotiations between Moscow and Moscow. and Kyiv, Paris and Berlin.

Despite Washington’s pressure, they called on Europeans to resolve the issue in the hope of a stable balance on the continent.

But while the letter on the so-called Minsk agreement nominally meets Russia’s demands, the Kremlin believes Ukraine has given up.

The conclusion in Moscow, in 2019 or so, is that “European states are unwilling or unable, perhaps not, to force Kyiv to comply,” Ashford said.

It also reinforces the long-held view in Moscow that Germany’s economic power or France’s diplomatic capital lies in a world shaped by tough military power.

“They’re insignificant, they’re irrelevant, so there’s this issue in Moscow that we have to talk to the US because they’re the only things that really matter,” added Ms Ashford.

The military power among the member states of the European Union, which has been trying to establish itself as Moscow’s interlocutor on Ukraine, has essentially declined relative to both the United States and Russia in recent years. . This was exacerbated by the departure of Britain.

At the same time, clear divisions within Europe over how to deal with Russia have made it difficult for the continent to find a coherent approach. The departure of Angela Merkel, Germany’s longtime leader, and Mr. Macron’s failure as an informal leader in Europe have often left Europe straddling the US-led status quo. .

Jeremy Shapiro, research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told the Brookings Institution: “Outside of Paris and Brussels, everyone is pretty desperate for US leadership in this crisis. conference this week.

All of this means that Russia has somewhat verified that Europe is a puppet of the United States and does not really need to get involved on its own, he added.

While Mr. Putin’s exact plan for Ukraine remains, by design it seems, a mysteryhe has insisted that his agenda extends to the whole of Europe.

In previous crises over Ukraine, Russia’s goals were narrowly focused on that country, largely toward keeping it out of alignment with the West. It has managed to avoid causing too much European opposition, and even managed to win European help in defending its interests in Ukraine.

Now, perhaps as a result of the forced focus on Ukraine failing to achieve its goals, Moscow is require an overhaul to Europe’s own security architecture, by ending or even reversing NATO’s eastward expansion.

Such a change, however, would mean a change in the rules that have run the continent since the end of the Cold War. And it meant formalizing a boundary between West and East, with Moscow being granted dominion over the latter.

In other words, rather than seek to manage the post-Cold War order in Europe, Moscow wants to overturn it. And that means trying to coerce not only Ukraine, but Europe as a whole, makes the standoff with the continent not only tolerable but also a means to an end.

“The most powerful state militarily on the continent does not see itself as a stakeholder in Europe’s security architecture,” said Michael Kofman, a Russia scholar at CNA, a think tank, wrote in an essay this week for the War on the Rocks website.

Given that Moscow is tearing down that infrastructure instead, or even trying to pull it down, Kofman added, “European security is still far more volatile than it seems.”

Mr. Putin’s willingness to accept widely hostile relations with Europe could strengthen his hand in Ukraine, by demonstrating that he is willing to risk even the collective wrath of the continent to pursue his interests there.

But no matter what happens in Ukraine itself, the forging of hostile relations between Russia and Europe will put them on a path that brings uncertainty and risk to both.

Cycles of “sanctions, diplomatic expulsion, and various forms of retaliation” could easily play out according to their own logic, escalating in ways that hurt both sides, Kofman wrote. Both Russia and Europe are economically vulnerable and have faced volatile domestic politics.

Relations between Moscow and European capitals are rarely warm. But for the most part, they have accompanied, overseen, among many other common concerns, the energy trade between Russia and Europe on which almost the entire continent depends.

There is also a risk for the United States: getting pulled deeper into a part of the world it hopes not to emphasize and focus instead on Asia.

In the short term, a divided Europe seems to be at risk from exactly what Moscow has long sought to avoid: more American power in eastern Europe and greater European unification. however, despite his aversion, against Russia.

“The approach that the Kremlin is taking towards Europe right now, at least, seems to me rather short-sighted,” Ms. Ashford said.

The most worrisome possibility, some analysts say, is not that Putin is lying or that he doesn’t see these downsides – although they may be true – but rather a choice, dividing Europe. Europe turned against him for his sake. interests in Ukraine, which he is willing to make. Putin has long tried to balance Europe. Now he is working on resetting it.

Fry Electronics Team

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