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Stephen Blokmans says Western relations with Russia will not improve

Stephen Blokmans says Western relations with Russia will not improve

Relations between the European Union and Russia have never been worse since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The reasons are quite clear from the Russian side – the slide into an authoritarian regime and economic problems that led to the search for hypothetical enemies on which problems could be tempted. do you agree? Or did the European Union itself contribute to this deterioration? And if so, is that what you did or what you didn’t do?

Since the rise of Vladimir Putin, who rose from the Soviet KGB and the environment of corrupt politicians in Saint Petersburg to the highest Kremlin circles and into the presidency, Russia has witnessed a gradual increase in the pressure of the Secret Service on the country’s political system and economic workers. . Putin created a vertical police state with the aim of securing the interests of himself and his friends and ensuring the longest possible functioning of the regime. No wonder, then, that he must necessarily stifle all his opponents, both domestic and foreign, who stand in his way. All of this has been well documented by a number of independent investigative journalists since the fall of the Soviet Union, most recently in the amazing videos of Alexei Navalny and his team.

The European Union, of course, is a completely different animal in this geopolitical zoo. I would say that the European Union seeks a multilateral solution, based on the rules of the international system, built into its DNA. It is located across from the Kremlin’s “way of working”. No wonder, then, that with differing principles and methods, these two types of political power are at the fore when dealing with overlapping issues. The EU is ill-equipped to deal with authoritarian and kleptocratic regimes, both inside and outside the union. They learn hard, slowly, but I hope they learn.

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Today’s world appears to be divided according to the geopolitical shift that pits democracies against authoritarian regimes and vice versa. This can be seen more clearly from Joe Biden’s arrival in the White House. I think that this contradiction will deepen, and Putin will contribute to this, because he is necessarily a victim of his own confrontational logic.

Did the European Union contribute to this deterioration? Some people say the EU has been strategically short-sighted in assessing the true intentions, but also the limits under which the Putin regime acts, both domestically and internationally. At that time, the Russian bear provoked negotiations on association agreements with Georgia, Moldova, and in particular Ukraine, which contain deep and substantive clauses on free trade. When Putin realized belatedly the pro-Western trends – political, economic and organizational – in these countries – after signing the agreements, he responded by reviving or inciting conflicts – in Georgia, Transnistria and especially in Ukraine by seizing Crimea and destabilizing the Donbass. Should the EU have come up with more CBMs at the time? There were 28 member states with very different geopolitical and geoeconomic attitudes toward Russia, as well as a lengthy decision-making process, which is usually fairly interactive and leads to opinions being embraced in the form of the lowest common denominator. Perhaps it was collective shortsightedness. We didn’t see what would happen. The Baltic states and Poland failed to impress Germany, France or Italy.

The visit of EU High Representative Josep Borrell to Moscow in February was generally seen as disastrous. Was it wrong to go there? How can Russia’s hateful behavior be prevented? Did they tell Borrell that they considered him a representative of the old school of “realpolitik” which they considered old and naive?

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More importantly, Mr. Borrell has a mandate from the European Council to negotiate with Russia in the form of five guiding principles. One of them is to ensure that Russia engages in a peace dialogue in order to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, which is a major thorn in the road to relations between the two sides. Another guiding principle is that Borrell, along with the Russians, should identify selected areas of cooperation to ensure that diplomatic channels remain open.