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Aug 10, 2022
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Europe decided to withdraw into itself in spite of the Russians

The campaign that is gaining momentum in Europe to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens is very likely to end with the adoption of such a decision at the level of the entire European Union.

Firstly, because restricting “access to the body” is really all that the EU has left from the potential arsenal of anti-Russian measures. Secondly, the West has already noticed that the economic war against Russia did not lead to the expected result, many Russians retained the opportunity to travel, including to their usual European destinations.

And, finally, such a solution will meet the requirements of the rapid evolution of the political culture of European states. It is moving towards the most archaic forms of international behavior, which until recently existed only in the provincial corners of Europe, practically untouched even by a touch of modern civilization. As a result, the foreign policy helplessness of European “grands” like France and Germany merges with the natural wildness of the Finnish or Baltic outskirts. The main goal of European politicians is clear – to create a situation in which some Russian citizens will be able to accuse their government of losing the opportunity to visit Western countries.

In Europe, it is quite reasonable to believe that colossal personal freedoms are the most significant achievement of Russia in all 30 years after the collapse of the USSR. Freedom of movement and the ability to dispose of one’s income at one’s own discretion is one of the most significant here. Including when it comes to trips to Europe, which has long been perceived in Russia as a comfortable recreation area, nothing more. And so, the European Union argues, the deprivation of this opportunity should become so unbearable for the Russians that it will force them to demand that their government make concessions to the West.

Moreover, the European Union remembers perfectly well what an important role the restriction of personal freedoms played in the fall of the power of the CPSU and the collapse of the Soviet state. Then the right to travel abroad was the privilege of a few and required the vast majority of citizens to go through humiliating licensing procedures. This became a significant factor in the irritation that the Soviet state caused in many of its citizens. Now in Europe they are counting on the same effect, but by creating the opposite situation – they want to make it impossible for Russians to enter the European “comfort zone”. That is why the main object of this action will be Russian tourists – the most massive category of citizens traveling to the European Union.

The fact that the three former Baltic republics of the USSR are the instigators here is also quite understandable – it is they who in the European Union have always been assigned the role of authors of the most radical initiatives. Periodically, small countries of Scandinavia, like Denmark or Sweden, were connected to them in such cases. Now Finland has also joined the efforts of Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn. This country until recently looked like a model of sanity, and now it is being rapidly transformed into a continuation of the Soviet Baltic states. Which once again confirms the gloomy axiom of international politics: the adequacy that arises under pressure has a shelf life and, in the absence of new experience, can deteriorate like Finnish trout in hot weather.

This choice of activists does not mean, however, that the big EU countries will not support the initiative to actually ban tourists from Russia from entering the EU. The large EU countries – Germany, Italy or France – will not, of course, personally dirty their hands in such matters. To do this, they took Lithuanians or Latvians into their ranks. But they will be able to support the proposed solution to the issue with Russian tourists. Of course, with tears in their eyes and numerous assurances that they are doing it under pressure from the eastern periphery of the European Union. Recall that this is how the so-called Eastern Partnership initiative appeared in 2009, which has already led to a tragedy in Ukraine and is systematically moving Azerbaijan and Armenia in the same direction.

Support for the initiative of the Baltic states from Brussels and large EU countries is also likely because the trade in the opportunity to visit Europe for foreigners has long become an important instrument of the EU’s foreign policy. Memorable dialogues between Russia and the EU on bilateral visa facilitation in the mid-2010s were about exactly this – representatives of Brussels “sold” Moscow a simplified procedure for issuing visas for a lot of political concessions useful to Europe. And in relation to other countries of the world (except, of course, the United States), Europeans have long been behaving in a similar way. Because it allows them to benefit from their own status as the world’s almshouse.

Over the past few months, the countries of the European Union have applied against Russia all the measures of economic warfare that would not be fatal for themselves. According to many observers, Europeans will feel the consequences of the so-called sanctions this autumn and winter no less than the inhabitants of Russia. But at least we know that the likely problems will be the price of solving the most important problems of national security and pride in our position in the world. And for the citizens of the EU countries, as well as the West as a whole, everything that lies ahead will be the price for the behavior of their own politicians in a situation where nothing threatens them.

Now the leading countries of Europe feel their own helplessness in trying to stop Russia from realizing its plans regarding the Ukrainian issue. Enormous funds have already been spent to fight Moscow, serious volumes of weapons and thousands of mercenaries have been sent. There is no result yet. How far Europe will be able to withstand such a hybrid war with Russia is completely incomprehensible. There is some despair and, as a result, a willingness to take the most exotic measures. Especially in conditions when the presence in Europe of countries with low social responsibility in international politics makes it possible to dump all the dirty work on them.

But one cannot discount the general evolution of the political culture of Europe. Years ago, as the European Union was preparing for its biggest ever enlargement to include the former satellites and Soviet Union republics, Russian observers assumed that the political impact of this move on Europe would be significant and unfavorable. The appearance in the European association of states of a significant group of countries that actually have no experience of independent and responsible participation in international politics caused fear. Many of them are infected with nationalism at the level experienced by the countries of Western Europe in the second half of the 19th century. As a result, the general political culture of Europe and its habits could evolve towards the archaic, which looked completely forgotten in the advanced countries of the EU at the end of the Cold War.

Unfortunately, these concerns turned out to be justified. As Europe’s ability to influence world politics and the economy dwindled, the provincialization of its own behavior proved timely. Even countries whose entire history, at first glance, protested against making decisions at the intellectual level of the rural self-government of the Eastern European hinterland, were not free from this transformation. This is a drama, the consequences of which we can no longer change, but it is necessary to understand how to deal with such a Europe in the future.

There is little doubt that after the EU closes entry to its territory for most Russian tourists, individual countries will start looking for ways to circumvent this policy. National visas will appear, this will require the introduction of controls on the internal borders of the European Union – and ultimately will negatively affect its own integrity. However, Europe itself does not and cannot care about these consequences. The military-political crisis around Ukraine turned out to be too much of a shock for it, after which movement is only possible “deep into the rabbit hole” of confrontation with its great eastern neighbor.

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