In Berlin on March 8, 2012, the European Council for Foreign Relations hosted a discussion under a catchy title: "More Europe for Germany?". Participants—Wolfgang Schauble (finance minister), Jurgen Trittin (Green Party parliamentary faction), Armin von Bogdandy (director of the Max Plank Institute for Public International Law), and other panelists—made a strong case for deepening the European integration project as the remedy against the current eurozone crisis. Overall, the discussion seemed to contravene the Russian comprehension of the EU as a declining political community. Most Russian politicians, and some experts, see a growing institutional weakness of the EU, which Moscow discards as a powerful international actor. Yet in spite of such skepticism, Russia often—explicitly or implicitly—refers to the EU experience in explaining its long-term plans in what it calls its “near abroad,” including the mechanisms of the Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. However, the question of whether Russia is capable of imitating the EU integration model remains open. The German debate on Europe is shaped by three key issues. First, the Germans raise a seemingly simple question: What is power in today’s world? Their answer is that power has less to do with military force and more with a combination of economic innovations and “soft power.”
Second, Germany looks for more aspects of supranational integration, weakening nation states’ monopolies on solving financial and budgetary issues at their liking. The ideas of a supranational federation and “post-classical” nation state [again] resonate in German public debates. Third, the Germans remind us that the EU is a democracy project, a sort of “republic Europe.” They insist that the EU is not only an elite institution, but also a space for business, trade, education, and trans-national civil society. In Europe it is not unusual for a head of the government (e.g., Angela Merkel in Germany) to openly support a presidential candidate in another country (e.g., Nicolas Sarkozy in France), as well as for a presidential candidate (e.g., Francois Hollande in France) to campaign in a foreign country (e.g., United Kingdom) where his numerous compatriots reside. In Russia, Belarus, or Kazakhstan this would certainly be treated as “interfering in domestic affairs.” On all three accounts, the Russian vision of post-Soviet integration radically differs. Russia still believes that its strength derives from huge extractive resources and military potential. It keeps a nation-state-centric imagery of international relations. Moreover, it pays little attention to the variety of normative signifiers, intentionally marginalizing the issues of democracy in dealing with neighboring countries. All of this means that Russia and its key partner in Europe, Germany, have different policy philosophies, and dissimilar attitudes toward integrative projects. It seems that not only Germany needs “more Europe,” but Russia as well. Andrey Makarychev is a Guest Professor at the Free University of Berlin, blogging for PONARS Eurasia on the Russia-EU neighborhood.