Read the original text at Die Welt.
Russia has a long memory, no matter where - in the Kremlin or in barracks, and it is longer than the American Republic. It used to be an English colony when the tsarist state had long played a role in the developing powerful European chorus.
Those who are now thinking of the Russian future place, which it is seeking for in Europe after the end of the Cold War and in the cold post-war present time, but without a success, would do the right thing if refresh the different and sometimes even contradictory traces of this role. All of them, without exception, exist today too.
If you today walk through the halls of the Kremlin's treasuries, you will learn something about diplomacy. You will learn things not only by the gifts of the Western envoys who knelt before the king but also by the example of all the royal silver, which Europe bought in Augsburg to humbly present it to the ruler of all Russes and involve him in alliances and anti-alliances.
Nowhere else were the diplomatic gifts preserved in such splendor and abundance, as in the Kremlin. Tsarist silver served little to practical applications. It existed as a sign of dignity, a symbol of power and, if necessary, a currency reserve, which could be melted down and sold. What remains of this silver is enough to remind us of Russia's changing struggle for leading role and security.
It began when France and England, Spain and the Netherlands were fighting for the hegemony and balance of power, and Ukraine was taken by Russia. However, Russia reached the European level only with the Great Northern War, at the time when the Spanish war for succession to the throne took place. Peter the Great conquered the Baltics, contemporary three Baltic States. The power belonged to the tsar, but estates, crafts, and commerce belonged to his German-Baltic subjects.
As the guarantor power of the Hubertusburg Peace (1763), Russia reached the next step on this ladder after the Seven Years' War, almost a world war. This treaty approved the five European major powers and became a constituent document of the European community of powers: since then nothing should have happened contrary to Russia's interests.
The division of Poland proves that these words were not empty. Russia's claims to power have embraced Europe. In 1783, the Russians took Crimea from the Turks and thus came closer to the Mediterranean Sea.
In the Napoleonic era, Russian soldiers appeared in Central Europe, thereby making it clear that the tsar does not want to remain deprived of large-scale consolidation of land. While in 1806 Prussia was almost destroyed, Tsar Alexander and the French emperor dreamed of the division of the world; they have dreamed about a condominium without England and, as it turned out in 1812, but these plans were short.
The great army was the victim of Napoleonic megalomania and Russian winter. In response, the Russians marched through Germany and settled in Montmartre. The main problem of Europe was then how to get rid of them again. In order to force the Russian bear to leave, they even wrapped a Polish goose for the trip. Since then, the Holy Alliance has meant an alternate guarantee of maintaining the status quo.
Since then Europe has lived under the watchful eye of Russians ("sous l'oeil des Russes"). And this was not an empty threat. The Duchy of Saxe-Weimar was forced to abolish the constitution under the pressure of the tsar. The Russians mobilized against the "Spring of Nations" in 1848/49, the national policy of unification of Prussia, and threatened with war.
The defeat in the Crimean War of 1853-56 completed the list of imperial triumphs. The king, who demanded a protectorate over Christians in the Ottoman Empire in the name of Orthodoxy, came across a British veto that pushed for war: it was a maritime route to India and the Khyber Pass in Central Asia.
Diplomatic support was provided only by Prussia. In 1866 and 1870-71, the king thanked by not reacting to the victory of Prussia. However, since then, a dispute began between the German Reich and Russia over the heritage of Austria-Hungary, which almost without interruption moved to the world war of 1914, which became a disaster for the tsarist empire and led to a revolution, civil war and the fall of the empire.
However, Russia is neither as weak as it seems to be, nor is it that strong. However, a hundred years ago, it has lost Finland and the Baltic states. But the Communists were confident that sooner or later they would be able to win back all the lost territories and Germany in addition to the help of their usual revolutionary double strategy.
Stalin wanted to see how the Western capitalist countries would degrade with each other in order to act at the last decisive moment. For this, the pact with Hitler was useful. However, the Barbarossa plan brought the Soviet Union to the brink of collapse, and Germany was plunged into a catastrophe.
The Allies planned the division of Germany, but not of the whole world; the Russian empire had to do it on the land, and the American naval power had to deal with its area.
In those years when only the US had nuclear weapons, it tried to use its technical superiority in water and in the air in order to prevent Russian domination by means of strategic balance. Not like in the 1920s, the US checked Russian aspiration to power and with the help of the "Marshall Plan" and NATO showed that they came in order to stay.
Thus, in 1949, in the short period of American nuclear superiority, a Western line of defense arose. Since then, the long nuclear peace has been provided by mutual intimidation.
However, with the change of epochs in 1989-90, bipolar power geometry lost its importance. There were no forces and plans for creating a "new world order", in 1990 was proclaimed by the President Bush Sr. Instead of seeking a new balance of power, the West came closer to the borders of Russia.
From the point of view of international law, this was not prohibited, however, from a political point of view, such a step was risky. At that time, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the American Security Adviser, who was often quoted, wrote that Russia would once again become an empire, but without Ukraine it is impossible.
The future strong man, Vladimir Putin, has realized the ambiguity of this situation. But the West, especially the EU, did not comprehend this warning. Now Russia looks at the ruins of the past, re-creates the individual parts, and thinks about the future.
Marx and Lenin are already in the past. But what about the rest? For Putin, the history of Russia has not ended yet, an irresistible vision of the Eurasian world power looms before him. He does not hide that Russia is everywhere where Russians are.
The West should know what this means.