No victory comes without a price tag. The end of the Cold War, which the West believes it won (in fact, the real victor was economic common sense) lured Western societies into 25 years of self-aggrandisement and a hubris of allegedly universal liberal and democratic values. Today, in fact, the illusions of the 1990s are a far cry from the present state of the world. Within a couple of years, multipolarism, polycentrism, and cultural relativism have all replaced the unquestioned certainties that used to power NATO and EU expansion, as well as EU integration until as late as 2010.
The illusions are in shatters. But while politicians and mainstream media struggle to repower, to reset history on the path of what used to be called progress, few intellectuals dare to face the sea change that, in hindsight, will be the hallmark of the early 21st century. An example of how that can be done in a constructive and, with all modesty, pioneering way is the book Core Europe and Greater Eurasia, a collection of contributions by renowned geopolitical experts. Edited by Peter Schulze, co-founder of the Berlin-based Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC), the book was recently published by Campus Verlag, Frankfurt and New York.
Core Europe and Greater Eurasia starts out with a review of the comprehensive peace order in Europe: “Myths, Narratives, Mistakes, and Perspectives”. A rare admission, one is tempted to comment with a tang of irony regarding “mistakes”. In fact, mistakes committed by representatives of both sides, Russia and the West. And the mistakes are not polished over here. Walter Schwimmer, ex-General Secretary of the Council of Europe, discusses the EU’s future; the Italian Raffaele Marchetti muses about the EU’s choices beyond exclusive transatlanticism; University of Kent lecturer Adrian Pabst fathoms the perspectives for a Greater Europe beyond core EU and economic Eurasia.
So far for the entrée. Vasily Fedortsev, head of the Baltic Regional Information and Analytical Centre at the Russian Institute for Strategical Studies, focuses on threats that concern Europe as a whole, such as terrorism, migration, etc. Will a trans-European answer be feasible? Fedortsev bets on a time-proven on-off relationship in his chapter “Germany, Russia, and the Future of Security in Europe”. Peter Schulze even goes as far as conceptualising a concrete roadmap in “Steps Towards a Collective European Security Policy”. And the former long-time speaker for foreign policy at the social-democratic faction in the German parliament, Karsten D. Voigt, competently discusses the competing geostrategic concepts for European security.
Finally, the inevitable references to the other players on the Eurasian landmass: China, coming back after more than a century of humiliation, India emerging in China’s wake, the future of a sovereign Central Asia, and so forth. Anna Kuznetsova, program coordinator at the Russian International Affairs Council, analyses the different perceptions of “Greater Eurasia”, be it from a Russian, Chinese, or a EU point of view. Jacopo Maria Pepe of Johns Hopkins University links the European/Eurasian topic to the Chinese infrastructural megaproject One Belt, One Road, which aims to revive the age-old transcontinental trade routes between Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia. Titled “Implications for Europe and Germany”, his contribution is even more relevant today, as many Western observers discount the Chinese project as just some sort of PR move, while they are unable to grasp the extent to which the acquisition and construction of ports, roads, and railway systems across Eurasia will reshape economic realities in the decades to come.
“Core Europe and Greater Eurasia” is the product of DOC workshops and conferences on the island of Rhodes and in Berlin from 2016 to 2017, a volume of some 220 pages comprising texts from 13 authors. In essence, all of them are concerned with the one overriding question: “Quo vadis Europe?”. Europe, where are you heading? The continent that ostensibly ruled the entire planet for a hundred years and more, finds itself, a good half century after unwinding its numerous empires, deeply irritated and estranged. What next? “Core Europe and Greater Eurasia” may not be the answer, but at least the question is out in the open. Quo vadis Europe?