MOSCOW (RIA Novosti political commentator Vladimir Simonov) - France's "Non" vote to a common constitution for the European Union has disappointed Moscow.
The Russian leaders commiserate with the failure of President Jacques Chirac, who took a considerable risk urging his fellow citizens to vote for the constitution and now the future of his rightwing-centrist Cabinet has been put into question. If Chirac goes, Russian President Vladimir Putin will lose a reliable ally in Old Europe, a man whose understanding of the role of Europe in the global lineup of forces is very similar to his own.
The Kremlin saw a vital idea that Chirac voiced, in one form or another, in all his statements on the political advantages of adopting the constitution. The French president said that Europe needed the constitution to strengthen the European Union and hence protect the continent's interests from the powerful United States.
Indeed, a more closely integrated Europe relying on a common constitution would become more receptive to the ideas of France, Germany, Russia and, since recently, Spain. The goal of this "new Entente" is to level off the global balance of powers, which has been tilted dangerously in favor of the US.
This March Paris hosted a summit of the four leaders, who mostly analyzed America's conduct on the world scene. The four leaders stated that their criticism of the Iraqi war had been proven correct in the last few months. Despite the widely publicized success of the Iraqi elections, the U.S. is bogged down in that country and the withdrawal of 150,000 soldiers has been put off indefinitely.
This noticeable withering of the status of hyperpower, as French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine had described the U.S., is changing the nature of Europe-US partnership. It is turning from the Atlantic and unconditionally universal into selective, when the interests of the sides are clashing increasingly often.
The U.S. is not happy about Europe's plans to create a defense system outside NATO, the ratification by many European countries (including Russia) of the Kyoto protocol, and the European capitals' protests against Washington's attempts to reduce the authority of the International Criminal Court.
As a result, the idea of Paris, Berlin and Moscow of creating a constructive counterbalance to America's frequently arrogant foreign policy based on military might, an idea which Madrid is supporting now, is gradually acquiring practical proportions. The adoption of a common European constitution could make the idea popular in the framework of the European superstate, which would gravitate, by definition, from Atlantic influence to a more independent role in global politics.
This counterbalance should not be viewed as anti-Americanism. Any democracy acts better when it has a healthy opposition; likewise, the U.S. would certainly draw positive experience for harmonizing its foreign policy from the alternative global center of power, should it be outlined more clearly.
I think that the constitution would have also curbed the appetites of new EU members to serve U.S. interests.
Poland, which has been labeled America's Trojan horse in Europe, would have thought twice before buying 48 U.S. F-16 fighters for $3.5 billion. If Warsaw seeks military assistance across the ocean, why then does it request economic assistance this side of the Atlantic, trying to get as much as possible from the common European treasury? If Europe had a common constitution, this question could be formulated as a suit against Poland.
Poland and the EU newcomers from the Baltic have permitted numerous anti-Russian attacks in the last few months. These seemingly disjointed actions have a common denominator, "the Big Brother syndrome." After breaking out of the stifling embrace of the Big Brother (the Soviet Union), these states have not buried the complex of historical complaints rooted in the "bad old times." The European newcomers are fuelled by a desire to pay Russia back for the injustice done to them in the Soviet era.
But Old Europe proceeds from the belief that the anti-Russian alternative suggested by post-communist radicals will not benefit the EU. Without a strong and influential Russia nearby, it will remain a vulnerable island in the ocean of global instability. The new quality of Russia's relations with the 25-member Europe should be promoted by the agreements on the four common spaces in the economy, external and internal security, science and culture, which were signed in Moscow on May 10.
Old Europe and the newcomers differ radically in their interpretation of the importance and role of Russia in Europe. This contradiction damages the newcomers more than it can damage Russia. The new member states, unable to find their place in the common European policy, are trying to reinforce their standing with the help of the U.S.
The constitutional treaty of the united Europe, if all 25 member states ratified it, would only strengthen the positions of reasonable European forces that call for equitable partnership with Russia.