One of David Cameron’s early messages to the party he once led was ‘we need to stop banging on about Europe’. We all know how that worked out. Now though it seems people everywhere are banging on about Europe. In this context the fiction being authored states that there will be a great modern European war and Russia will somehow be the aggressor.
To say Russia is largely indifferent to Europe would of course be a simplification. Every great power is concerned with every region of the world, especially a neighbouring region. But Russia’s overall interests are not in places which have become increasingly hostile to her, let alone places whose currencies are collapsing, whose economies are stagnating and whose workforces cannot survive without the manual assistance of foreigners.
Russia is far more interested in her neighbours to the south and east. Between the October Revolution and 1945, when Russia suffered loses to her territory in Europe, early Soviet leaders turned elsewhere to establish cordial relations. The first three states that the Soviet Union established formal relations with were Afghanistan, Iran and Republican Turkey. Whilst events following 1945 drew the Soviet Union back to Europe, more recent events see Russia turning elsewhere.
After the First World War, all of the great remaining land empires of Europe and the near east collapsed, including Imperial Russia. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth collapsed in full after the Napoleonic Wars and the Swedish Empire collapsed in the 18th century. For all of the devastation this caused, the Soviet Union remained more intact as a successor state to Tsarist Russia than for example a small landlocked Austria did vis-à-vis her once vast and multi-ethnic empire. The great maritime empires of Europe gradually collapsed after 1945, leaving the Soviet Union as the undisputed power in and around Europe.
Russia’s long history has seen her engage in as many conflicts with Eastern powers as Western powers. But whilst many are busily disguising Cold War style novels as serious pieces of international political analysis, there is a fact emerging which is far more interesting than the fiction. In spite of Russia fighting centuries of wars with Persia and the Ottoman Empire, today Iran is moving ever closer to Russia. Turkey, an unreliable ally to anyone as long as she is under Erdogan, is acting to mend ties with Russia. India has recently thanked Russia for being a steadfast ally ever since India emerged as a sovereign state. China whose post-Stalin relations with the Soviet Union were dreadful to say the least, has emerged as one of Russia’s most valued long term allies. Russia’s solidarity with China in the ongoing South China Sea dispute is demonstrative of this.
Lastly, the Arab world which was subjugated to Ottoman rule in the same century during which Ivan I united Russia, increasingly views Russia as an honest, reliable partner for peace and prosperity. Russia continues building new alliances in South America, no longer the exclusive property of American interests.
In other words, once one extricates one’s self from the European bubble, one sees that far from being isolated, Russia is not short of political friends. Who is isolated Russia or Europe? A quick look at a map let alone a table of global populations and growing economies provides a definitive answer.