From the personal archive of a Russianist, installment thirty-three

Diary notes –  23 October 1991 – Michael Emerson as a barometer of European foreign policy

 Saturday morning is rushed because we’ve got a midday lunch gathering organized by the Harvard Club in downtown Brussels to hear Michael Emerson, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission in the USSR – speaks on “Unification and Disintegration: the EEC and the Soviet Union.”

Apart from the luncheon meal itself – a fine ragout of venison washed down with an ’83 Bordeaux, this event is infuriating. Emerson shows himself to be a scatterbrained pompous fool carrying out a narrowly selfish EC policy that does no credit to its national sponsors. The meaning of his speech is that while the EEC grows and integrates, the Soviet Union is falling apart. Emerson is a voyeur, a jotter of personal impressions who evidently is gathering material for some future book of memoirs, nothing more. He remarks in passing that his year of international affairs at Harvard in the  mid-80s was the happiest year in his life – and so it must have been because this is no man of action.

His task is to execute the EC policy of keeping the Union together at all costs – parallel to the task of the EC firefighters in Yugoslavia’s civil war. It  is a dishonorable task. The U.S. wants the Union preserved, wants to keep the corpse of the USSR alive to co-host the mid-East process and to get Mikhail Gorbachev’s signature on some more pretty disarmament agreements. The latest unilateral disarmament proposals of the U.S. show that even this function is superfluous – the sides can disarm effectively without negotiating.  However, why does the EC want to preserve the corpse of the Soviet Union? To keep in its peoples and prevent a flood of refugees from spilling over into Western Europe? To avoid having still more applications to the EEC club at a time when it is fighting internally over completion of the federal union among the 12 and is about to negotiate widening to embrace EFTA?  Here is the key to it all. And this is pitifully narrow vision – inadequate and unworthy of the historic opportunity before us.

Soviet and East European membership is a football in the contest between the UK and France/Germany over the meaning of the Euopean integration. Here is why they back Gorbachev and Yavlinsky.  They were forced to acknowledge the independence of the Baltics, but they bitterly resist independence for Ukraine and other republics. They turn a blind eye to the powerful force of nationalism, which they pompously denounce as egoism, while they themselves combine unseemly squabbling over sacrifice of national rights before a common currency and foreign policy.

To my thinking, all the republics of the USSR should get out from beneath its wreckage as fast as they can. It is their obligation to realize their national potential before re-uniting in any supranational body of any kind. I steam as I listen to Emerson and then to the equally pompous and fatuous speakers/questioners.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2020

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