This article is the English version of Roman Kuźniar,
« Sur la Russie : penser européen », published in Politique étrangère, Vol. 85, Issue 1, 2020.

Photographie d'arrière-plan par Maximalfocus (Unsplash) représentant le drapeau de l'Union européenne projeté sur un bâtiment ainsi que le drapeau flottant. Au premier plan, couverture du PE 1/2020.

Physicists tend to say that their discipline is a burial ground of misconceived theories. It is quite similar with European countries’ attitude towards Russia. There have been many ideas and good intentions, but most failed. This also pertains to Polish conceptions, of which there have been many. Their failure resulted from the fact that they would usually be situated in the sphere between illusion and wishful thinking. Illusion refers to the assessment of the nature of Russia’s politics, whereas wishful thinking refers to that which could be achieved in politics towards Russia if we live up to the country’s expectations. This was the case for the first two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reappearance of Russia on the European geopolitical scene.

The change in the situation began with Russia’s act of aggression towards Ukraine. It was not only about the very aggression, but also about Moscow’s new approach towards the West. The strongly anti-European rhetoric that accompanied the operation came as a surprise to Western European capital cities. The change and surprise somewhat resembled the situation in the period just after World War II. Back then, the recent ally with Nazi Germany suddenly bared its claws. Stalin advanced the thesis about the inevitability of war with imperialism. For a moment, Western public opinion had difficulty in acknowledging that good-natured “Uncle Joe” suddenly turned out to be an existential threat to the free world. Admittedly, Vladimir Putin did not declare the inevitability of war with the West, but again we have a situation that resembles “the Kennan moment”…

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