Coups in the Kremlin
What the History of Russia’s Power Struggles Says About Putin’s Future
For anyone who is a believer in the integration of Europe the present political conjuncture must appear somewhat paradoxical. On the one hand, there is a discernible thaw in relations within the Community itself. The resignation of President de Gaulle and a change in French foreign policy (which is none the less real for being denied) have permitted the completion of the Common Market's agricultural policy, some sort of a start has been made on planning a common monetary policy with the Werner Report, and the crucial negotiation for the enlargement of the Community is now under way. After seven years of relative stagnation it might seem as though the creation of an integrated Europe had been resumed-to end perhaps in the emergence of a larger and stronger economic entity which, by the very fact of its greater freedom of action, will hardly be able to avoid political decisions and, hence, concerted political action through appropriate institutions. (By "Europe" is meant not only the Six of the Common Market but also those other West European countries with whom they have close political, economic and cultural relations. Such a definition, moreover, does not exclude the so-called "neutrals," or Spain and Portugal, and it might be hoped that at some point it would be possible to extend it to countries in Eastern Europe.)
This is what a "European" might hope, and, to introduce a personal note for a moment, particularly an English "European" who has seen his own country notably suffer from isolation and lack of creative political tasks over the last seven years. But it would not be realistic to let the more cheerful atmosphere at present reigning in Brussels conceal the fact that, in the seventies, European integration will be something of a race against time. In the past history of the Community timing has, of course, always been important. The creation of the Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and the signature of the Treaty of Rome in 1957 depended upon the determined exploitation of political opportunities which presented themselves for quite brief periods. It is only necessary to imagine what would have happened if the Treaty of Rome had remained unratified in May 1958 to appreciate how narrow the margin was. Similarly, it is possible to identify a number of trends in world politics which in the decade to come will work against the emergence of a Europe unified politically as well as economically.
The aim of the founders of the European movement was political rather than economic. They intended to create a new center of power in the world, linked no doubt by an alliance to the United States, but also potentially capable of generating its own policies and making them effective whether inside an Atlantic framework or, if necessary, outside it. This aim coincided at the time with the purposes of American foreign policy which demanded the strengthening of Western Europe against a Russian military threat. And that threat (which can hardly be simply dismissed) in itself helped to convince West European governments that unity was desirable. Thus in the fifties and early sixties the policies of the two superpowers flanking Western Europe-intentionally or unintentionally-abetted the work of the builders of supranational institutions, whose endeavor it was to give the Europe they were constructing more control over its own destinies.
In the seventies, however, the case is altered. The policies of the superpowers as well as their relationship to each other have changed, and with that change has come a number of trends in international politics which threaten to preëmpt the choices that might otherwise be open to a political Europe. Just as the new candidates for entry into the Common Market will find that certain decisions have been taken and cannot be changed, so a political Europe beginning to emerge in the late seventies will be liable to discover its freedom of action limited by international decisions in which it has had no say and which its component parts have been too weak to affect. Moreover, those component nation-states themselves, by their factionalism and fragmented policies, may also prejudice the potentialities of a unified European policy.
The most reasonable aim of such a policy would be the appearance of what the present writer has called elsewhere "a regional Europe," not seeking a global role but content to defend its own immediate interests in Europe and to exercise economic and political influence on geographically adjacent areas-in the first place on the countries lying around the Mediterranean basin. The foreign policy of a regional Europe has been sketched out by the association agreements already negotiated by the European Economic Community. In North and West Africa and the Middle East there are countries which will inevitably receive some of the fallout from a prosperous and industrially advanced European region-much as Mexico at present receives economic advantage from its common border with the United States. And it is probable that economic interest on the part of Europeans will be followed by political involvement. In the case of the Middle East the need to secure the continuation of oil supplies makes it certain that there at least will be a necessary theater for European diplomatic activity, perhaps in directions anticipated by France's present courtship of the Arab states. These are some of the lines along which the foreign policy of a regional Europe will develop.
How would such a prospect now strike the flanking global powers-the United States and Russia? American policy is still officially favorable to European integration, whatever skepticism about supranational institutions may reign in the White House. But the objections that have recently been voiced at the results of the Common Market's agricultural policy and to its association agreements show that quite early manifestations of European policy-in the economic sphere but with political overtones-can be unwelcome in Washington. There is perhaps some misunderstanding here. There is also some lack of logic. American support for European integration was an enlightened policy in which the rise of a serious commercial competitor was accepted for political ends. But, now as then, those ends cannot be attained without the means (e.g. the common agricultural policy and its effects on American agricultural exports), and if this was not realized from the beginning, then it ought to have been.
Similarly, the association agreements of the European Community can be regarded as the beginnings of that reinvolvement of Europe with the underdeveloped countries which American diplomacy has constantly recommended. It was never very probable that such a reinvolvement would take place without some economic profit accruing to Europeans, but it would be missing the point not to see that the association agreements can be a stabilizing factor-politically and economically-for the areas in which they operate, as well as a means of helping countries which, like those of West or North Africa, badly need it. Here is another instance of an American political objective being accompanied by economic disadvantages whose impact had not been fully realized.
Since the United States has a trading surplus with the European Economic Community at present, it can hardly be claimed that the commercial damage done by the Community to American interests is very great. A trade war, supposing that anyone wished to embark on so suicidal a step, would probably harm Americans more than Europeans. None the less, commercial competition may increasingly become a factor in lessening American enthusiasm for further European integration. And if American policy ever passed to the stage of an active dislike of the emergence of a political and economic Europe, then the United States would be in a position to encourage those forces in Europe which are still resistant to an extension of supranational institutions. Such an evolution would hardly be in the interests of the United States, but it cannot be totally excluded. The rise of an integrated Europe is as adapted to the Nixon Doctrine of letting Europeans settle their own affairs as it was to earlier American pressure on them to fortify their institutions, but in the heat of commercial rivalry this fact may come to be forgotten.
As for the Russians, not surprisingly they have no wish to see a new power arise on their western frontier. Even without communism it cannot be imagined that any Russian régime in the seventies would be anything but hostile to the further progress of European integration. This hostility has deep roots in history and the facts of power. In the fifties and sixties the presence of the Soviet Union as an adversary could help to speed the movement for European integration. Now, a more flexible Russian diplomacy and, above all, the possibility of an American withdrawal from Europe (itself the consequence of a loss of American self-confidence following on the Vietnam war) have created a situation in which West European countries feel that they must arrive at some sort of modus vivendi with an Eastern neighbor whose military strength looms even larger than it did 20 years ago. That Herr Brandt should have chosen this precise moment to inaugurate his Ostpolitik is, no doubt, due to domestic considerations, but also to a feeling that contacts with Moscow had better be established while American backing is still available. President de Gaulle's desire-still residually present in President Pompidou-to become a sort of European interlocuteur valable for the Russians also assumed that there would be an eclipse of American influence in, and support of, Western Europe.
The consequences for European integration of the series of negotiations with the U.S.S.R. now beginning, and ranging from German Ostpolitik to the European Security Conference proposed by Russia and its allies at their Budapest meeting of March 1969, remain to be seen. But they are unlikely to be favorable. A "European" must believe that any attempt to reach lasting arrangements with Russia in Europe would have been better delayed until the process of unification was further advanced and a specifically European voice could make itself heard.
The potential danger of the present German government's Ostpolitik is twofold. First, there is the fact that West Germany is simply not an equal negotiating partner for the Soviet Union. It is no criticism of Herr Brandt and his colleagues, though it is a criticism of the present fragmented state of European politics, that at this crucial moment Bonn has not been able to receive the support and counsel which a unified European view of what constitutes a settlement in Central Europe would have afforded. Since no such agreed European policy exists, it is little use lamenting its absence. But no consultations with the object of elaborating one have ever taken place, and it is hard not to feel that the states of Western Europe have neglected their own interests in a manner which they may come to regret.
The government of the Federal Republic has indeed got itself into the uneasy position of being dependent on Russian goodwill for its own internal political success. An Ostpolitik which began as the cautious exploration of possibilities has now become the essential ingredient of Herr Brandt's policies. The very fact that there can be discussion as to whether Moscow will choose to aid him by concessions on the Berlin question or will reserve its favors for a successor Christian Democrat régime suggests that his government may have lost some of its freedom of action. The euphoria which reigned in West Germany following the conclusion of the Moscow treaty, the approval voiced by politicians and public opinion polls, make any retreat all the more difficult. Here again the advantageous position gained by Russian diplomacy is not the fault of the German negotiators. It was very much inscribed in the facts of an unequal dialogue.
It may be that the Soviet Union will decide to make concessions on Berlin (perhaps by granting the so-called "human alleviations" of which so much has been heard) with the object of securing the ratification of the Moscow treaty. It would seem to be to its advantage to do so. For the treaty itself, despite the fact that its text contains nothing limiting the possibility of future European integration, none the less could be used as a lever to further Russian interests in Western Europe.
What, for example, would happen if at some future date in the seventies the Soviet Union declared that it regarded some proposed step toward European unity-no doubt, in the field of defense-as incompatible with the Moscow treaty? Theoretically, all a German government would have to do would be to stand firm and repeat that the treaty contained no such veto. Juridically, it would be in the right, but this would do nothing to lessen the political pressure exercised by the threat to reactivate the campaign against "German revanchism," to cancel trade agreements and to hamper communications with Berlin. In such a case Bonn would have to make a solitary decision whether to resist Russian pressure, since the threat to denounce the treaty would simply be the continuation of the bilateral relationship which led to it in the first place. It may be that the German government of the day would stand up for itself and its European principles, but it would be as well if those committed to the creation of an integrated Europe-both within the Federal Republic and elsewhere-were to realize that the future may well see some such clash between European policy and Ostpolitik and be ready to react to it.
If the Moscow treaty contains potential hindrances to further European integration, the same would be doubly true of a European Security Conference. Europeans would go to such a conference without a common attitude either among themselves or between them and the United States. German commitment to Ostpolitik, French desire to play a leading part, British fears about European security-these attitudes add up to nothing that can be called a common European interest, and a demonstration of disunity on such an important occasion would leave disruptive traces behind it. Despite the eagerness of a number of European governments to come to the conference table, it seems certain that the general European interest would be better served by delay-at least until after the completion of the negotiation for the enlargement of the European Economic Community.
Any such conference would undoubtedly see the Russians striving to attain a triple objective: (1) to hasten American withdrawal from Europe; (2) to gain formal acceptance of the status quo in Eastern Europe; and (3) once again to inhibit further European integration, especially in the field of defense. The first of these points can be more easily discussed in the context of bilateral arrangements between America and Russia and the effect of these on the European future. The second Russian aim would raise in an inconvenient form for West Europeans the whole question of the future of Eastern Europe. For though they must perforce recognize the de facto Russian domination beyond the Elbe, it would none the less be highly embarrassing to be asked to embody it in durable arrangements for the future of Europe. Not only would this discourage such velleities of national independence as already exist within the Russian empire, but it might also prejudice what is bound to be the uncertain future of relations between Eastern and Western Europe.
For monolithic though the present Russian régime may look at the moment, forces are clearly working for change within Soviet society which may in time crack the bureaucratic carapace that contains them. The liberalization- or at any rate the open emergence of political conflict-within the Soviet Union may come sooner than now appears possible. When it does come, it may well be accompanied by convulsions of one kind or another which will have the effect of concentrating Russia's attention on its own domestic affairs. In this event, the satellite régimes in Eastern Europe will not be unaffected. Indeed, one would expect that a relaxation of Russian attention would leave very little remaining of the carefully constructed chain of people's democracies. In view of these possibilities, in view simply of the large question mark written over the political future of the Soviet Union, it would seem undesirable for Europeans to bind themselves formally to accept an indefinite Russian suzerainty over Eastern Europe, or to make engagements which might hamper the resumption of normal relations with the countries of the Balkans and Central Europe.
Nor should Europeans accept any arrangements arising out of a European Security Conference which would restrict their freedom of action either in constructing an integrated Europe or in determining the policies to be pursued by it once constructed. It is perfectly possible that there might be a Soviet attempt to suggest that NATO and the Warsaw Pact should be recognized as the only two military alliances in Europe accepted within the framework of a security pact. Such a proposal would mean that solely European military arrangements could be objected to as infringements of such a pact. This is a purely hypothetical instance, but it is easy to think of other ways in which the results of a European Security Conference could place obstacles on the road to an integrated Europe. The basic principle of what might come out of such a conference would presumably be an acceptance on all sides of the status quo in Europe, of a balance of forces which has, at any rate, the advantage of being already in existence. But it is precisely a change of that status quo which the appearance of an integrated regional Europe, beginning to take on political shape during the seventies, would mean. Realistically, any permanent arrangements for Europe should take into account the possibility of this new entity, but it is a major purpose of the Russian proposal for a Security Conference at this moment that they should not. On the contrary, arrangements should emerge from such a conference that would help to abort or shackle it.
A Russian diplomatic offensive combined with an American desire to withdraw to a greater or lesser degree from military commitments in Europe have therefore reversed the conditions of the fifties and produced a conjuncture which is unfavorable to further European integration. And something of the same limiting effect can also be discerned in the bilateral negotiations now being carried on between the United States and the Soviet Union. Any united Europe worthy of the name must have a defense structure corresponding to its attainment of political integration. That defense structure will certainly have to cover the nuclear weapons already possessed by two West European powers.
Yet agreement in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) at present being conducted in Helsinki would probably have for effect the limitation of European capacities in the nuclear field. However much the current American administration may favor the idea of European unity, it would be expecting too much of it to suppose that in talks so vitally important for the United States it could easily refuse to accept a point in the name of the hypothetical rights possessed by a political entity which has not yet made its appearance. And the Russo-American talks on the Middle East (where West Europeans have an urgent interest in the continuation of oil supplies from the Persian Gulf) will produce the same result. The European view of these matters will not be heeded unless the European voice is heard-and not merely the vociferations of individual nation-states. Whatever the goodwill of American negotiators, they will not take into consideration a mere absence.
Like Great Britain in its current attempt to enter the Common Market, a future political Europe is constantly in danger of being committed (and therefore limited) by the results of negotiations at which it is not represented and which it will be powerless to alter. If the lines of future European security are to be sketched out between America and Russia, then the odds are that they will be so drawn as only to leave room for a Europe feebly integrated and politically impotent. This will not necessarily be due to any hostility-on the American side, at any rate. But in any arrangements made here and now about European security, the two superpowers will not easily agree on the complex calculations necessary to estimate the role of an emergent Europe and also probably have little interest in making the effort. They will not be concerned with waiting for a European Godot. They will hardly care to imagine what form his appearance might take.
In the event of a détente between Russia and America going as far as genuine agreement over European security, then the freedom of action of a future political Europe might be restricted to a point where it was unable to emerge at all. Since political action tends to be created by political opportunity, it might reasonably be supposed that a Europe finding itself in an international subsystem would not feel it necessary to produce a strong political reaction to its own condition. Indeed, an agreement on European security between the United States and Russia, accompanied by a withdrawal of American forces from Europe, would logically make of Western Europe a neutral zone (though not a "third force"), creating a Europe à la Suédoise which would make up for lack of power by the assumption of stern moral attitudes toward the international shortcomings of others.
If, on the other hand, relations between the United States and the Soviet Union deteriorate, then American policy can be expected once more to do all it can to hasten European integration. In that case, however, the policies of a united Europe would be an adjunct to American global policies. It is the state of muted hostility between America and Russia, which neither polarizes the world into military alliances nor supervises it in the name of a series of bilateral agreements, that gives the maximum freedom of choice to a political Europe-as, indeed, to all emergent centers of world power. The present uncertainty of relations between the two superpowers is probably, however, a transitional phase of world politics-another reason for Europeans to hurry if they wish to achieve what the founders of the Common Market had in mind: political unity and independent power.
Despite the subdued euphoria which followed the Hague conference, those who are engaged in constructing a future Europe must realize that time may not be on their side. Not only has the result of their labors begun to impinge on the interests of Russia and America, but the superpowers themselves have now reached a point in their relationship where the seventies may well see decisions taken between them on the subject of a general European settlement with or without a European Security Conference. The possible area of independent European decision is being narrowed, but without such possibilities there will be no imperative need for political machinery to take collective European decisions. Why surmount all the obstacles to common political action, if at the end of the road there is nothing to be done with the institutions that have been forged? A European settlement based on the status quo and guaranteed by the two superpowers might well act as a soporific on those forces which, hitherto, have made for European integration. It would certainly act as a powerful argument against them on the part of those who wish to let sleeping dogs lie.
Up to now a sense of danger and diminution have been the best spurs to European unity. Existing European institutions were created after Korea and the Berlin blockade, and after Suez. Now there should be an equal sense of urgency. It should be realized, for instance, that if the present British negotiation with the Six fails, it is unlikely that the European voice will have any influence at all on events during the seventies. In a sense the important thing about this and other negotiations for the enlargement of the Community is that they should be got over quickly. Until they are, no other European task-certainly no political task-can be begun. And it will be precisely in the seventies that the European Economic Community will need to embark on political tasks, to take that major step forward on pain of ceasing to progress at all.
Just how the transfer from the economic to the political level will be achieved-supposing that all goes well-is not easy to foresee. It would be logical for a beginning to be made in the field of defense; but because of Germany's special position, this would have to deal with conventional rather than with nuclear forces. Something, indeed, might be done in the way of a nuclear agreement between Britain and France, but this would have its importance in the context of Anglo-French relations (and hence as a preliminary to Britain's entry into the Community). An arrangement which left Germany as odd man out could hardly be the starting-point for further European integration.
Yet some steps must be taken and some thinking done if Europe is to have any influence at all on the new international conjuncture which is now in the process of formation. Immediately, the negotiations for the enlargement of the Community can be speeded as far as is possible. European statesmen could also think seriously about how they could extend common policies into the area of defense. Meanwhile they might note that the places on the board are nearly all occupied in the international game of Go and do their best to keep what freedom of action they still have. That is, they should judge international events by the freedom they leave to the Europe of the future and refuse to acquiesce in arrangements that diminish it. If they are not prepared to act now in the name of an emergent Europe, then they can hardly be surprised if the ideal of European unity turns out to be one of history's more transient dreams.
For the United States this would not be a happy conclusion. An enlightened American policy helped to encourage European integration as a means of stabilizing and perpetuating the success of the Marshall Plan and increasing European security. It was perceived at that time that a powerful and independent Western Europe was in the interest of the United States, and this is, no doubt, still true today. It is also true that a European settlement arrived at without heeding specifically European interests would be unlikely to produce stability and would imply a retreat on America's part from the most creative sector of its foreign policy over the last 25 years.
A Europe ceasing to move toward common policies-that is, toward an eventual strengthening of its political and military position-would imply either the indefinite presence of American troops on the Elbe or the acceptance of a neutral Western Europe with all the uncertainties that would accompany it. Whatever the Department of Commerce may think, agricultural surpluses are a bad starting-point for the consideration of questions like these. Over the next years Europeans will show whether they are sufficiently resourceful and energetic to take their destiny into their own hands in time to prevent it from being decided for them. It would be as well if the United States continued to accord such positive efforts as they can make to the encouragement and understanding that have previously been available.