In fact, Russia is everywhere. It is not, as Barack Obama needlessly and humiliatingly asserted, a mere regional power. It makes its "different" voice heard, from Venezuela where it supports Nicolás Maduro’s regime, to Syria where it successfully defended the regime of Bashar Al Assad, not to mention Iran, where it denounces the excessive pressure of the United States against the Mullahs.
A worrying interventionism
Yet, it is in Europe that Russian "interventionism" is most worrying, if not most visible. What does Moscow want? Recovering its international status through the fear that Russia inspires? "You fear me, so I exist again. " Is its ambition as ideological as it is strategic? In an otherwise ironic, but mostly disturbing turnaround, is it following China's footsteps and intending to demonstrate, along with Beijing, the superiority of centralized authoritarian models over the Western democratic illusions?
If this is the case, Russia not only favours the nature of its regime, but also chooses its geography, thus confirming the thesis of the German-born historian Karl Wittfogel (1896-1988), who spoke of "Eastern despotism" to describe the nature of Russian power.
Nevertheless, in a geopolitical world characterised by the rise of China and the partial withdrawal of America, Europe and Russia should naturally move closer together. For Russia, the threat comes from the East. Its major ambition should not be to destabilize Western democracies but to balance Chinese power. The concept of "alliance of authoritarian regimes" does not stand up to scrutiny any more than that of "alliances of democracies" launched by the United States at the beginning of the 21st century and that has shown its limits in the Middle East. To compete against China, Russia needs Europe and the United States. It directly faces one of the longest international borders in the world with China. By seeking to weaken and divide Europe - by encouraging the rise of populism - Russia is mistaken. It is playing Beijing’s game, not its own. It makes no sense to divide and conquer if the main beneficiary of that strategy represents the greatest threat in the long run.
To have its cake and eat it too
A rapprochement between Europe and Russia is therefore legitimate, even necessary, as long as it takes place according to a clear mode of action and is guided by simple principles. It is not a question of Europe betraying its values.