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“I see Russia as the successor state of the Empire of Byzantium.”

By Sylvain Rey



Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House

La Revue Défense Nationale launched, in March 2011, its first Russian issue, directed by Olivier Védrine and Vassillii Badouline. Below are some of Mr. Védrine’s responses to Le Courrier de Russie (LCDR), on the diplomatic relationship between France/ Europe and Russia (read complete article here):

LCDR : What is the orientation of your magazine?

O.Védrine. : Our magazine, La Revue Défense Nationale seeks to present and explain the French strategic conception to the rest of the world. The Russian edition of our magazine must translate, in Russian, the main essence of this strategical thought. As I am myself a lecturer at the European Commission, I hope that this review will become a hyphen between the European Union and Russia. I teach geopolitics and I believe in the necessity of close ties between France and Russia, between Europe and Russia. A Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis is a visionary political concept. I believe in a Eurasian economic area stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.

LCDR : Could you expand on that?

O.V. : As I see it, this Eurasian space represents a common interest area, successively occupied by different empires: from Alexander the Great for Greek civilization and Caesar for Rome, through Charlemagne to Napoleon on the one hand, and Russian imperial expansion after Vladimir the Great. All the great emperors have realized that there was a common space. But they chose to bring it into existence through force, and their attempts ended in failure. Every great unification is moved by a common ideal; every political organization is based on commonly-shared ideas. Without these preconditions, economic cooperation is unconceivable. Hence my belief that the first battle will take place in the sphere of ideas. The Russian edition of the Revuegoes along these lines.

LCDR : What is the main divergence today between French and Russian strategical thought?

O.V. : This common space of cooperation inscribed between the Atlantic and the Ural is precisely at the heart of contemporary French geopolitical thought. Within this space, Russia has refused to join NATO, giving her a de factoindependence. From the Russian point of view, aligning [herself with NATO] is a difficult thing to conceive. I see Russia as the successor state of the Empire of Byzantium.

LCDR : What will your magazine bring into the Russian landscape?

O.V. : A better understanding on both sides. The media, some of them at least, have badly damaged Russia’s image abroad. To give an example, when wildfires were raging across Russia last summer, it felt, seen from France, as if the whole country was nothing but smoke and flame. Yet, my friends in Moscow told me, when I called them, that the situation was not as bad as it was reported. There are tendencies in France to soil Russia’s image, leading to misunderstandings. We must rectify this perception, encouraging intellectual debate within the bounds of democratic spirit. Russians are ready to undertake such a debate.

[For example, the first edition of our magazine publishes an article by Jean-Christophe Romer, who denounces contradictions in Medvedev’s military doctrine as set out in an official document]. Russia declares that NATO represents for her “an obvious danger,” without however presenting “a military threat.” Yet, elsewhere in the document, NATO is, on the contrary, described as a potential partner in preventing armed conflicts.

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3 Comments

  1. It’s a pity that the interviewer did not ask him to say more about his vision of Russia being the successor of Byzantium, how this identity permits a cooperation with Western Europe or prohibits membership in nato, etc.

  2. It would have been a great idea indeed to expand on this. It is unfortunate however that the magazine will be available only to a few, mainly students and military, unfortunate because a vision such as Védrine’s truly deserves to gain more popularity here. But I think it shows that there is still a difficulty here in admitting that there can be a different European model…

  3. Do you have any sort of ‘access’ to Vedrine? Perhaps you could have a discussion with him.

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