"Spitting" from "Single Window"
The European Union continues to cut the "branch" on which it "sits".
Relations between Russia and Europe are experiencing a crisis. The traps of the civil war in Ukraine, against its people by Western "friends" do not work. Reluctantly, the West still considers the Minsk agreements valid. The old sanctions remain, new ones are being introduced, and new provocations are being invented, including interference in internal affairs.
In recent years, everything has returned to the rhetoric of the Cold War. Russia was elevated to the category of "major threats", or rather opponents, allegedly threatening "Western values", security, and economic interests. First of all, its invulnerability in the field of security irritates. Three decades have passed since Moscow readily left Germany and Central Europe, but in the end it did not weaken its defense capability. The importance of NATO in this new reality is deteriorating, and the European Union is developing a new role for itself as a regional controller of political orders.
Some European capitals are ready to play out scenarios written by qualified authors who wish to remain anonymous. The European Union continues the sanctions pressure, mastering the tools of covert political influence on its sovereign neighbours. Until the recent visit to Moscow of J. Borrel, the chief diplomat of the united Europe, such champions of "European values" as Poland and Lithuania led the persecution of Belarus. The provocation with the "Berlin patient" was unsuccessfully played out. As the meeting with Borrel showed, the European Diplomacy is ready to interfere in the affairs of Russian justice.
Collective Europe in the "EU-NATO" format warmly welcomed the return of the Democrats to the White House and seems ready to work against Moscow in PACE, OSCE, UN, OPCW, and other areas. During a session of the Munich Security Conference, President Biden encouraged the allies and accused the Russian authorities of trying to "weaken the European project and NATO", as well as of intending to "undermine transatlantic unity". According to him, "It is much easier for the Kremlin to threaten individual countries than to negotiate with a single and strong transatlantic alliance." The space of the "democratic world", according to Biden, now extends only from Rome to Riga.
For Washington, the high level of trade and economic cooperation between the European Union and Russia is unacceptable. Nord Stream-2 in this regard has become a "red rag". For Moscow, the bureaucracy of the European Union, which was formed in 1992, provided a kind of "single window" for relations and contacts with European partners. Brussels' special relationship also added credibility, including at the global level.
According to data for 2019, Russia was the fifth most important export market for the European Union, providing 4% of exports of products of European companies, and the fourth largest supplier (7% of imports). Russia provides the EU with up to 25% of oil supplies, 38% of natural gas supplies, and more than 40% of coal supplies. Finland, Estonia, Slovakia and Lithuania depend on Russia for 75-100% of their gas and oil imports. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Hungary, Austria, Poland, and Romania rely on Gazprom for 75-100% of their gas imports. The Netherlands' dependence on Russian hydrocarbons is 25-50%.
Germany is provided with Russian oil by 25-50%, natural gas by 50-75%. In 2020, Germany ranked second among Russia's trading partners after China. Russia exported $ 18.5 billion (€21.9 billion) worth of goods to Germany. According to Eurostat), imported goods from Germany for 23.4 billion dollars (€23 billion). according to Eurostat data). Mineral fuels, oil and products of their distillation account for more than 80% of Russian exports.
According to the data of 2020, the foreign trade turnover between Russia and the EU decreased by 21.3% compared to 2019 to 218.8 billion dollars. Exports to the European Union fell by 27.9% to $ 136.7 billion, while imports from the EU fell by 7.4% to $ 82.1 billion.
The EU's share in the total foreign trade turnover of the Russian Federation decreased in annual terms from 41.6% to 38.5%, while China's share increased from 16.7% to 18.3%.
Presenting the program of the German presidency in the EU in the second half of 2020, A. Merkel said that it is advisable to limit relations between the EU and Russia to the level of "peaceful coexistence" (friedliche Koexistenz). The EU Ambassador to Russia, Markus Ederer, suggested in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the translation should be corrected, suggesting as a variant the term "compatibility" (friedliches Miteinander), as a "warmer expression", according to him.
The relationship is being reviewed on both sides. In the case of the European Union, Washington is involved in this process, as well as London. Russia is forced to reconsider the place of the European Union in its priorities, to change the essence of relations with the extensive bureaucratic machine of Brussels. Hoping for a change in the direction of normality, Moscow expresses wishes that apply not only to the European Union, but also to NATO. Indeed, with the exception of Finland, Sweden, Austria and Ireland, as well as Cyprus and Malta, the composition of NATO is the same as that of the European Union. The merger of the "military-political Brussels" and the "Economic-political Brussels" has become a factor determining the attitude towards Russia.
The desire to weaken the ties of this interdependence, and specifically to weaken the dependence of Europeans on the United States, is unlikely to find understanding among European neighbours.
Moscow also expects a more rational policy from NATO on the eastern borders of this organization, which requires a direct dialogue with the leading countries of the alliance. Dialogue must first be restored, and the United States has the final say in this.
Finally, Russia considers some of the Mogherini’s "five principles" to be an obstacle to normalizing ties. These principles of the EU's "strategy for relations" with Russia were adopted in 2016 and include: (1) implementation of the terms of the Minsk-2 agreement, (2) relations with the Eastern Partnership countries and Central Asia, (3) reducing dependence on Russia in the energy sector, (4) cooperation with Russia in "selected areas" (Iran, North Korea), and (5) support for civil society in Russia.
Is it realistic to expect a convergence of positions on all these issues? As history shows, normalization and convergence of positions can also be the result of the crisis that has already begun.
The true position of Russia in Europe and in the world was rethought only after Vladimir Putin's speech at a conference in Munich in 2007. The reasons for the pause can be found in the general euphoria of the 1990s, the naivety of Russian experts, diplomats and politicians, and the deceptive goodwill of Western partners. But the key danger to normal relations between Moscow and Brussels was hidden under the camouflage net of military and political intrigues of the United States and NATO.
It is believed that it was the leaders of the Eastern European countries which convinced President Clinton to accept them into the alliance, although Washington already had a plan to "rein in" Russia, keeping Europe under its control.
Advisor of Clinton on National Security Tony Lake, from his first days in the administration, promoted the idea of expanding the "space of democracy". Secretary of State M. Albright was also a strong proponent of expansion. The Partnership for Peace program, presented to Moscow as an alternative to NATO expansion, turned out to be a smokescreen. By the way, Senator Biden, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, actively supported the expansion of the alliance.
In 1999, NATO was joined by Slovakia, which closed the first wave of expansion, following Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. This year was a turning point for Moscow in its relations with the "military Brussels". The Alliance, above all Washington, rudely intervened in the process of the collapse of Yugoslavia, showing who is the boss in the "European house".
The "second" and "third" waves of expansion of the alliance followed, which in 2004 reached the borders of Russia at the expense of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. It is noteworthy that all four countries of the "first wave" and the "Baltic trio" were admitted to the European Union in 2004.
As soon as the Atlantic Alliance was expanding, the approach of Brussels to Moscow was cooler. In 2014, sanctions for the Crimea followed, and relations finally deteriorated. High-level summits were frozen, as were meetings of Russian ministers with European commissioners and the President of the European Commission. All sectoral dialogues were stopped. The de facto break in relations has already taken place, but not at the initiative of Russia. What will become of the formal relationship is still difficult to say. Their rupture or suspension would mean for the European Union a "loss of face", an international status, and would threaten the European bureaucracy with a weakening of its position.
It is likely that Washington would welcome such a course of events and would continue to undermine the bilateral relations of European countries with Russia, primarily focusing on Germany. This would be a logical continuation of what has been going on for decades. America is not comfortable without officially declared "enemies". To paraphrase Biden's words during the Munich Conference, "The US authorities, with the help of the European Union and NATO, are trying to weaken Russia and its allies. It will be easier for the White House and European satellites to deal with Moscow, undermining the stability of Belarus, inciting Ukraine, and fueling distrust of the Putin regime."
The Kremlin still prefers restraint in its choice of words. All that the press service has said so far: "This is not an attitude of friendship and partnership, to our regret. This is an attitude, at best for us, of deterrence, < ... > and at worst, of direct confrontation." George Kennan, originally an ideologue of the "policy of deterrence", being a very old man, called the expansion of NATO" the fatal mistake of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era."
The cautions made by George Kennan in his "long telegram" on deterrence the USSR in 1946, still sound true today, but in relation to US: "reject the idea of respect and inviolability of treaties" and "unlikely to respect the previously signed agreements, if deemed them unprofitable for themselves."