November 24, 2008
Moscow’s overarching ambition toward Europe is to expand the “Eurasian space” in which Russia is the dominant political player. For Moscow, “Eurasianism” involves two interconnected strategies: transforming Europe into an appendage of the Russian sphere of influence and debilitating Euro-Atlanticism by undercutting Europe’s connections with the United States.
The most effective and realistic long-term Western strategy toward Russia needs to combine “practical engagement” with “strategic assertiveness.” Practical engagement focuses on the pursuit of cooperative relations where Western and Russian interests coincide, as in countering international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or in the resolution of regional conflicts where Moscow can play a constructive role. Strategic assertiveness, as an essential complementary approach, must focus on vital long-range Western interests where Russia’s negative policies can be effectively countered by the European Union and NATO working in tandem to strengthen transatlanticism. As a primary principle, all NATO-EU allies must avoid compromising core interests through agreements with Russia that sacrifice one Western security priority to gain Kremlin support in another arena. Such compromises not only undermine Europe’s commitment to expand democratic security but also permit Russia to implement its Eurasian agenda.