The Universal Peace Federation is dedicated to the promotion of good relations, good partnerships among peoples, nations, religions. Our Founder, Dr. Sun Myung Moon, envisioned all of humanity as one global family under God, living together in mutual respect and harmony. UPF’s presence throughout Europe and Russia is aimed precisely at fostering dialogue, understanding and cooperation.

Recently I reviewed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s “Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization,” prepared for the 67th Session of the General Assembly. He discusses his “five year action plan” that focuses on areas such as sustainable development, prevention of conflict, security, countries in transition, and women and youth. He then mentions two factors that are necessary to enable the fulfillment of the action plan, and these are, first, partnership, and secondly strengthening the organization.

In speaking of partnership, he says, “It is my conviction that the global problems we face today are simply too complex to be solved by governments alone. They require collective and coordinated action by government, by the private sector, by civil society, by academia, and by international organizations and multilateral development banks. Over the next year, I will develop a comprehensive proposal which seeks to harness the power of partnership.”[1] [UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, “Report on the Work of the Organization,” 2012, p. 18]

I believe the theme of partnership between Europe[2] and Russia is very timely, and very necessary if we are to establish a truly stable and peaceful world. Both the European Union and Russia are major players on the global stage in terms of their political, economic, military, and cultural significance. Between the two, they make up three of the five permanent members of the UN’s Security Council. The European Union’s population is a half billion and Russia’s 140 million. Europe has four members [UK, Germany, Italy, France] of the G-20 plus the EU itself, and represents the world’s largest economy. Russia is a member of the G-20 and a major player in the global economy, with vast resources.

The EU is Russia’s largest trading partner, with more than 50 percent of its trade being with Europe.

As an American, I don’t represent either Russia or Europe. But, sometimes outsiders see things that are useful for insiders. The US’s relationship to Russia has been a difficult one; and, in some respects, on the geopolitical level, over issues like Syria, Kosovo, Georgia, missile defense systems, etc., the “cold war” continues. At the same time, on the “people to people” level, Russians and Americans have many similarities, and tend to be mutually respectful and even fond of one another. Surely Americans admire Russia’s high culture in literature, ballet, dance, and the arts, as well as the sciences, not to mention sports.

The US’s relationship to Europe also has had its ups and downs. In many ways Europe is like America’s elder brother. We’ve inherited so much from the “old world” and often taken what we’ve received and turned it into something not always admired by the Europeans. Take the English language, for example, or the “hamburger” or the “French fry.” America’s founders were transplanted Europeans and products of Europe’s high cultural, intellectual, and spiritual traditions.

Being here in Vienna I am especially reminded of what was in many ways a major transformational moment not only in European history, but world history, the legacy of which remains with us today. I am speaking of the legacy of Austrian Prince and Foreign Minister Metternich and the forming of the Concert of Europe in 1815 following the horrendous Napoleonic Wars. For, despite its limitations, the Concert of Europe was arguably the first major example of international partnership and cooperation for the purpose of preventing future wars. The Concert of Europe set an important precedent, even for its critics, for the rise of internationalist ideas and movements, including eventually both the League of Nations and the United Nations, not to mention the very concept and idea of “internationalism,” a term which, even though quite ordinary today, was somewhat radical at the time it was coined by the utilitarian philosopher, Jeremy Bentham.

A recent book by Mark Mazower, The Old, New World Order,[3] explores the significance of the Concert of Europe in the unfolding of the history of the development of internationalism, international law, international institutions, and the emerging concept of global governance, which manifested itself eventually in the formation of the League of Nations and the United Nations.

Mazower reminds us that Henry Kissinger’s doctoral thesis[4] at Harvard University was on the significance of the Concert of Europe comprised of the “victorious Big Four of the day, Austria, Russia, Britain, and Prussia.” Mazower quotes Prince Metternich’s right-hand man, Friedrich von Gentz, a former student of Immanuel Kant, who saw within the Concert of Europe something unprecedented in previous alliances, namely, “a principle of union, uniting all the states collectively with a federative bond, under the guidance of the five principal powers.”[5]

To radicals and revolutionaries, the Concert was too conservative. For example, Russia’s Tsar Alexander was inclined toward the establishment of a “Holy Alliance of Christian powers.”[6]       

Just as the 19th century was a fascinating time in history, we also live at a fascinating time, particularly when considered through the lens of states, or nation states. Surely Russia’s history throughout the 20th century has been most tumultuous and dramatic. Both Russia and Europe have striven for some form of federative unity rooted in an internationalist ideal, yet each opted for very different ideologies and approaches.

Since the time of perestroika, there have been a wide variety of developments, including the rise of post-Soviet states, especially in the Balkans, or the former Yugoslavia. Eastern Europe has in many ways been a front line of the challenges and opportunities facing both Europe and Russia.

Moreover, as has occurred throughout the world, there has been a significant rise, in both Russia and Europe, of non-state actors and trans-state actors, including transnational civil society movements and faith-based, religious movements.

Europe to some extent is the birthplace of the modern nation state, characterized by sovereignty, the centralized state, and enforceable rule of law, dating back to 1648 and the Treaty of Westphalia, which more or less set the foundation for understanding states as the primary units of social and political organization, and securers of peace.

The concept of security linked to the core principle of national sovereignty is perhaps the most central raison d’etre of the state. The centralization of power has had the effect, not without exception, of protecting citizens both from other citizens who may be inclined to murder, rape, plunder, or seize assets, and from external forces who may want to claim territory, resources, or otherwise bring harm to the people.

The history of war and conflict over the centuries has had its effect on the respective attitudes of Europeans and Russians toward one another. These experiences give rise to a mutual and reasonable distrust of one another, rooted in historical memory.

Indeed, there are challenges standing in the way of better relations. Nevertheless I remain hopeful. I also believe NGOs such as the Universal Peace Federation have a very significant role to play.

I want to underscore three programs areas where UPF may be helpful in developing better relations between Europe and Russia. These are: (1) interfaith dialogue, (2) peace and security symposia, and (3) youth service projects.

Interfaith cooperation: Europe and Russia have differing religious histories. While both have largely Christian roots, Russia embraced the Orthodox tradition, while Europe has been predominantly Catholic and Protestant. To some extent, the difficulties that have divided Russia and Europe are reflected in and reflections of the division within Eastern and Western Christianity. Interfaith dialogue can address these differences and yield greater understanding and mutual respect.

Furthermore, both the Europe Union and Russia face challenges of non-Christian communities, especially Islam. Increased focus on interfaith dialogue is important in this respect.

Peace and security symposia: UPF has begun developing a series of Peace and Security Symposia in Washington, DC, and in Jerusalem. It would seem that a center for peace and security discussions featuring academics and other experts from Russia and the European Union would go a long way to helping improve understanding and cooperation, and confidence building.

Symposia in Washington, DC, have focused on topics such as human trafficking, the Arab Spring, and the conflict in Syria. Programs in Jerusalem are only just beginning with an initial program on Israeli resilience in the face of contemporary challenges from its neighbors.

Youth service projects: UPF has encouraged youth service projects for the sake of peace, working through the Religious Youth Service programs. Young people who come together to serve others have an opportunity to learn from one another and develop people-to-people bonds that will last a lifetime. Such programs involving young people from Europe and Russia will be very productive toward building good relations.

Dr. Thomas Walsh

Author: Dr. Thomas Walsh

President, UPF International

Dr. Walsh is the President of UPF International and Secretary General of the Sunhak Peace Prize Foundation. He has been a teacher, author, and editor specializing in the areas of interfaith, religious studies, peace studies, philosophy, and social theory. Dr. Walsh serves on the International Council of the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations and the International Coalition for Religious Freedom. He has contributed to and edited more than 30 books related to interfaith, peacebuilding and renewal of the United Nations.


[1]  Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, “Report on the Work of the Organization,” United Nations: New York, 2012, p. 18.

[2] More specifically the term Europe is best understood as European Union.

[3] Mark Mazower, The Old New World Order, Penguin, 2012.

[4] Henry A. Kissinger, A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereacgh and the Problems of Peace 1812-1822, Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

[5] Mazower, p. 4. 

[6] Mazower, p. 7.

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