Berlin, 30 October 2019: Andrey Grachev, former spokesman and advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev, and author of Gorbachev’s gamble: Soviet foreign policy and the end of the Cold War, joined the DOC last night for our Meet in Mitte event series, to discuss the relationship of Europe and Russia 30 years on from the landmark moment of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Andrey Grachev was ideally placed to provide unparalleled insight into a critical event of modern history, and bearing it in mind, reflect on how to build this East-West relationship going forward.
DOC CEO Jean-Christophe Bas, in his opening remarks, framed the evening’s discussion under the question of “building a common home”, on which Grachev elaborated, “The real question is what went wrong? The great paradox is that for every anniversary, there are less hopes, and an increasing number of fears”.
The fall of the wall marked a monumental moment and the end of a feature of the European landscape that many considered permanent. A feeling of optimism swept through Europe, and opportunities for peace appeared boundless. However, Grachev says, something has gone wrong: this year the Doomsday Clock remained at last year’s dangerous position of two minutes to midnight, a position last seen in 1953, due to renewed fears of nuclear risk.
With regard to the dangerous situation that Europe and Russia are facing today, Grachev mentioned the many voices in Europe expressing concern that enlargement of the EU is endangering the initial project of integration. Geopolitically, Grachev believes Europe finds itself in dire straits: “Thrown out of the Middle East, and no longer holding any interest for the USA”. The American withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty this past August poses the threat of a renewed arms race and a return of missiles to the European landscape, and as Grachev remarked, “we are not protected from any potential accidents”.
The expansion of the EU, and of NATO to Russia’s very border contributes to the suspicion between the West and Russia. The feeling in Moscow is one of rejection and exclusion. This need not have been the case, says Grachev, since Mikhail Gorbachev’s Glasnost opening towards the West had real potential for moving forwards in such a relationship. According to Grachev, had the West maintained its promises that NATO would not expand eastward, and Russia been absorbed into the structures of Europe, we would not be witnessing the uncomfortable situation of today. “Russia is not allowed in the European home”, which means it is turning to the East, to China. Russia will become “the junior partner of China”, just as the EU has been the “junior partner of the US”. Grachev believes this development to be “unnatural”, it is “separating Russia from its European family”.
Following a lively Q&A session involving, among others, a UN representative, and members of the Bundestag, Grachev expressed his optimism that Russia continues to think its future is with Europe. A common history and culture speak for something. Europe is Russia’s “natural home” and partner, more so than the developing troika of Vladimir Putin, Ayatollah Khomeini and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Frequent talks between Putin and Emmanuel Macron, and visits to Angela Merkel, are a reflection that trust can be rebuilt, through dialogue and moderation.
Grachev’s talk emphasised the element of missed opportunity and misunderstanding between the East and the West following the fall of the Berlin Wall. However, he believes that it is never too late to start anew: “Russia is at a crossroads in its history, and Europe may play a part in choosing its path”.
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