Milan’s World Fair illustrates the emptiness of Europe’s dictated words with respect to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Has anyone noticed that Putin’s relations with both Greece and Italy have a different flavor from those with Germany and France? This is not a coincidence. Both Italy and Greece have had important Communist and Socialist parties since the end of World War II. Both have very active left-wing trade unions, and Italy was the fulcrum of the Eurocommunist movement that arose in the seventies, partly inspired by the Prague Spring of 1968 and the protests that rocked Western Europe, in particular France.
And although Putin is in the same 60ish age group as Merkel and Hollande, he is closer in style to the fortyish Renzi and Tsipras and the Spain’s Podemos head, thirty-six year old Pablo Iglesias (maybe thanks to all those sports he practices…).
But I don’t want to give these personal details more importance than they deserve. What is significant about Putin’s relationship with the two younger men who head Europe’s troubled southern countries is that all four are against the form of capitalism that the United States and the world’s major industrialists are bent on imposing on the world, and which is at the root of Europe’s troubled economies. The same holds true for his relationship with the Pope: though the Western and Eastern Churches have been at odds for centuries, that time is long past, and unlike his Soviet predecessors, Vladimir Putin attaches great importance to religion.
The mainstream press took note of Putin’s meeting with Tsipras a few weeks ago over the debt crisis in Greece - which is also an Orthodox country, by the way - when he invited Greece to join the Eurasian Union that links Russia to China by way of the central Asian countries. It would not surprise me if Italy were to receive a similar invitation. Under Washington’s watchful eye and long arm, the members of the European Union know they must continue to mouth adhesion to sanctions against Russia, but it is certain that the Milan World Fair is only one of many ways in which European countries can bolster ties with Russia until the time comes when they can officially end the rules that hurt both.
While most pundits are observing France and Germany for tangible signs of readiness for a historic break with Washington, Europe’s southern tier can quietly go about putting in place the first building blocks of a real Eurasian union. I have just discovered the 1904 Heartland Theory of Halford MacKinder, to which I could have paid tribute when I wrote ‘Une autre Europe, un autre Monde’ published in 1989, whose main argument was that Europe had no reason to fear the Soviet Union because it did not stand alone with that giant country but shared the Eurasian landmass with several other powerful entities, including India, China, and the Middle East. Mackinder wrote that whoever controls ‘the heartland’, i.e., the Eurasian landmass, controlled the world, and Vladimir Putin’s Eurasia Union, whether or not he is aware of Mackinder, does just that.