Amid all the EU’s troubles over refugees, Schengen and the common currency, it’s easy to forget that in one regard, the Union has been extremely successful – strengthening peace on a historically belligerent continent.
In just two generations, Europe went from a war-torn arena to a model of democracy and prosperity. Germany and France – at each other’s throats since the fall of the Carolingians – now thrive in the embrace of free travel and trade.
Yet fears remain: Russia, looming, when it isn’t surging, across the EU’s eastern frontier, continues to dominate any security discussion like the elephant (or, in this case, bear) in the room.
So why not work some of that common market magic on our neighbor to the East? By and large, Russia is culturally European, having bequeathed Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky and Kandinsky to the world. With Russia’s strong energy ties with the West and with countries as far flung as Azerbaijan or Armenia on the EU’s diplomatic agenda, the Federation begs a footnote.
Russia’s greatest concern – losing its “sphere of influence” – is not unfounded, considering the many ex-SSRs seeking EU-ship. But what if Russia and Europe’s sphere were one and the same? Naturally, it would take time (it took 18 years for Russia to join the WTO), but perhaps an invitation to the clubhouse would be more effective than blackballing them with sanctions.