Germany's unipolar moment in the EU. What does it mean for Russia?

Cameron and Merkel

Germany's unipolar moment in the EU. What does it mean for Russia?

Dmitry Suslov
National Research University - Higher School of Economics

The internal balance of forces in the EU has changed irrevocably. From now on, Berlin will be the sole and indisputable EU hegemon.

The European Union has entered a period of sweeping transformation unlike anything since 1992, when the Maastricht Treaty was approved. The political tsunami unleashed by the "wrong" choice made in the UK referendum – where ordinary people rose in revolt against the elites, globalization, migration and the outside world as it is today and is likely to be in the future – closes out the chapter in the EU's history that began in 2005 with the failure to approve the European Union's draft Constitution.

That period was characterized by sluggish integration and the swelling tide of a comprehensive crisis – economic, managerial, foreign policy, and, most importantly, integrational – something that the European elites were desperately attempting to represent as merely a string of tactical setbacks rather than a system-wide crisis. Given the fundamental differences between member-countries over where the EU should go and what it should become, the EU was in every way avoiding any discussions on the fundamental issues, including its future, its strategic goal, and the trajectory of integration. Some members – West European continental countries – favored further integration. Others – the UK, Poland, and to a certain degree the Netherlands and Hungary – wanted to freeze integration or even roll it back. Germany was the informal leader of the former group, the UK the latter. Reluctant to draw attention to the rift, the EU bureaucracy was plastering over cracks without addressing the deeper structural problems.

Brexit has put an end to all this. The precarious balance between supporters of more or less integration was disrupted. As France grew weaker economically and then politically, the UK became the second power center after Germany and the leader of a number of countries, both East European and those uninvolved in any integration projects (Schengen, Eurozone). More than that, it was one of the main pillars of US influence in the EU, aimed at ensuring European integration does not create an independent power center unattached to the United States. And now this country is withdrawing from the EU!

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