However, those who expect from the EU any innovative ideas about the relations with Russia, waiting for a serious disappointment. This conclusion arises after the publication of the EC Ministers of foreign Affairs of the five "guiding principles" in relations with Moscow.
The principles or logic?
First, and foremost, the principle applies to the observance by Russia of the Minsk agreements on Ukraine as the main condition for improving relations. This is nothing new. But these agreements must comply with and Ukraine. Permanent crisis, the authorities did not allow Kiev to decentralize the country to provided in the agreements date of December 2015. But why should the EU's relations with Russia remain frozen?
The most reasonable in this situation would be to coordinate between all parties a more realistic timing of implementation of the agreements. In parallel, the EU should clearly spell out what penalties the result of any actions of Russia will be removed, instead of just repeating the General principles, without any link with the need to comply with their obligations and the Ukrainian side.
Some of the stated principles contradict each other. One of them says that the EU intends to "selectively interact" with Russia in resolving international crises, such as ending the war in Syria, control over the implementation of Iran's obligations on its nuclear program, counter-terrorism, etc. Simultaneously, expressed the intention to strengthen relations with countries of the Eastern partnership (EAP) and Central Asia.
The mention of the EAP countries can be attributed to political and bureaucratic inertia — the rejection of the EP program, which invested a lot of political capital, would mean the EU losing face (although the case of the EU here is at variance with the words — what are the obstacles created by certain powerful countries to introduce visa-free regime with Georgia).
But the inclusion of Central Asian countries cannot be explained by anything other than the desire to provide notorious the EU's energy security by reducing dependence on Russian gas — especially since another principle speaks directly about it in the context of "strengthening the internal stability of the EU".
Not accidentally, the European External Affairs Service (EEAS) suddenly resumed its lobbying of the European Parliament for ratification of the last Treaty on cooperation and partnership (DSP) with Turkmenistan. The EU seeks to connect the country to the "South stream" gas to Europe, bypassing Russia. But the process of ratification of the agreement was frozen by the Parliament in 2011 in view of the flagrant violations of human rights in Turkmenistan. Besides, in the EP it is reasonable to believe that cooperation in the energy sector it is possible to manage and without DSP. The zeal of the EEAS rather is explained by the desire to make Ashgabat a certain air of respectability necessary for the status of partner of the EU. To this end, the officials of the EEAS, despite the information of all reputable human rights organizations of the world, trying to convince MEPs that the situation with human rights in Turkmenistan is improving.
Diversification of energy sources is certainly necessary. But it is not clear why the EU believes that the Central Asian satrapies will be in this matter a more reliable partner than Russia. Not to mention the reputational costs for the EU are ready once again to sacrifice principles for short-term and also very vague benefits.
Thus, the EU is sending a signal about the intention to surround Russia with countries willing to act contrary to its interests, and to deprive her of a share of the gas market, but at the same time to cooperate in those areas where interests coincide — for example, in Syria, Iran, the fight against international terrorism or the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.. It says that the EU is not ready for an open confrontation. But selective cooperation — inadequate strategy: its potential will be limited until then, until there is progress on the main issues — the Ukrainian settlement and the lifting of sanctions. It is difficult to expect full cooperation from Moscow, when condemning her as the aggressor and insist on maintaining the sanctions.
The American factor
An additional factor which has an impact on EU policy in relation to Russia is the upcoming presidential election in the United States. American hawks inside the Obama administration (Pentagon, CIA), and out of it — Hillary Clinton, Republicans, neo-conservative think tanks, some media — annoyed by the relatively moderate policies of the current President. They are actively working to tie the hands of the next President, whoever they are, and to return to a policy of harsh confrontation with Russia. For example, in Syria, so laboriously achieved in February, the truce actually broken by the "rebels", with the direct support of the CIA and NATO member Turkey. Support of the jihadists from the point of view of the US had no other purpose but to respond to "Russian aggression" in Syria, show Russia who's boss.
If the United States after the election of a new President will revert to a tougher line against Russia, European leaders will be in an unenviable position. They will have to choose between increasing pressure from various business lobbies in their own countries in favor of lifting the sanctions against Russia and the TRANS-Atlantic solidarity, in other words, following in the footsteps of American politics. Given previous precedents, and the fact that the hardliners in Europe, there is a risk of relapse into further confrontation. In this case to the forefront of NATO will come with it revived the doctrine of the bloc confrontation in which Russia is the main enemy. This, in turn, will lead to an escalation of retaliatory measures c Moscow, including of a military nature - the approach of the troops to the borders of NATO, the actualization of nuclear deterrence.
While there is still time to avoid such a scenario. But for this the EU needs to formulate a clear, realistic agenda of relations with Russia, starting with a clear roadmap for the lifting of sanctions, not a set of General and often contradictory principles. There is no guarantee that Moscow would reciprocate, but the relationship with Russia is too important for the EU to at least not try to return them in a more constructive direction.
The author of the article expresses his personal opinion and not the official position of the European social Democrats, in which he works.