“At a crossroads”

Friday, 2021-04-16 10:10:43
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EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. (Photo: Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs/TASS)
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NDO – Following his recent visit to Russia, European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said that relations between the two sides are “at a crossroads”.

The comment was made in the context of Moscow- Brussels ties continuing to plunge without sign of improvement.

The Russia-EU relations have turned cold since 2014 following tensions regarding the eastern part of Ukraine. Many analysts stated this relationship is currently at the lowest level since the end of the Cold War. The recent moves also showed that the two sides seem to be “disconnecting” in their bilateral ties. Shortly after the EU foreign-policy chief concluded his visit to Russia, Moscow expelled three European diplomats in retaliation for the EU’s previous expulsion of three Russian diplomats. Recently, Russia took a tough stance to protest EU sanctions against Moscow. For the first time in 30 years, the Russian military turned down an invitation to participate in a European security conference. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov even declared that the country was “ready to completely terminate relations” if the EU continued to impose harsh sanctions on Moscow. Meanwhile, the EU side has not shown any positive moves towards improving relations with Russia. Last month, the European Parliament even issued a resolution declaring Russia no longer a “strategic partner” of this bloc.

The reactions from both sides show that Russia and the EU seem to be in a period of “mutual disillusionment” in the complex relationship between these two partners. In addition, the deteriorating political trust, changes in the world context and the adjustment of the two sides’ foreign policies have made it difficult for Russia and the EU to reach a common voice. On the Russian side, the country recently advocated pursuing multilateral foreign activities and limiting its foreign policy focusing on Europe as in the past. Russia’s interests have now been driven towards other regions beyond the “Old Continent”. Meanwhile, the EU has also made changes in its approach to Russia. Following the tensions between the two sides regarding the situation in eastern Ukraine, the EU has pursued economic sanctions on Russia and worked to prevent Russia’s political influence in the region. In fact, the sanctions imposed by the EU and the Western countries against Moscow in recent years have hindered Russia’s economic growth, while also putting pressure on the Russian government and affecting the country’s global influence.

Commenting on the prospect of Russia-EU relations in the coming time, analysts said that the two sides would not be able to soon “warm up” the current bilateral relationship that is being faced with turbulences. Even the “insiders” also lack confidence in the restart of Russia-EU ties in a positive direction. After the recent visit to Russia, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy stated that the meeting between him and the Russian Foreign Minister showed that “Europe and Russia are drifting apart.”

In the context of the complicated relations between great powers and a new cold war on the verge of being formed, the failure of Russia and the EU in healing bilateral relations will push the EU closer to other partners. According to analysts, drifts in Russia-EU ties not only harms the two sides’ interests but are also detrimental to the international community in addressing and dealing with global challenges such as climate change, trade liberalisation, and handling of armed conflict hotspots.