Gorbachev’s ‘Common European Home’ and its relevance for Russian foreign policy today
At the end of the 1980s the Soviet Union’s last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, launched the idea of a ‘Common European Home’. It was part of his campaign for New Political Thinking in foreign policy, which aimed to deideologise the Soviet approach to international affairs, and positioned the country firmly within a European political community and civilisation. While the concept Common European Home has faded away with the Soviet Union, many of its supporting ideas resonate in Russia’s foreign policy discourse under Putin. Four similarities stand out: the preference for a multipolar Europe without dividing lines, indivisible and collective pan-European security, free trade from Lisbon to Vladivostok and intra-European relations founded on international law. But some fundamental characteristics have changed. First, the context of Russian-European relations has altered substantially and many ideas are now used in an antagonistic context, to reject Euro-Atlantic hegemony. Even if the wording often remains similar, the emphasis is now on Russia’s sovereign and independent path. Secondly, the core idea of a unified European civilisation has been replaced by the notion of competition between civilisations. Hereby Russia claims to represent genuine European values, giving the latter a strongly conservative interpretation. Finally, the Eurasian turn in Russian foreign policy has undermined the centrality of Europe in its discourse. Rather than envisaging a collaborative Europe, Russian and EU integration initiatives are seen as rivalling. This evolution of Russia’s vision on Europe did not change abruptly with Putin’s ascent to power but built up gradually in the decade before the Ukraine crisis, against a background of escalating tensions and growing distrust.
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