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Policy Articles as a weapon in Russia’s confrontation with the West: a pro-Kremlin publication was released in Germany

Russia and the EU: the road to responsibility” – this is the title of an article in the May issue of the FLEET (Fresh Look at Eastern European Trends), a publication of the Regional Office for Cooperation and Peace in Europe of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Vienna. The policy article  “conveys the Kremlin’s key messages, and does it in a subtle and elegant way,” said Vasyl Myroshnychenko, a foreign policy expert and a co-founder of Ukraine Crisis Media Center. The article was jointly written by a Russian researcher Pavel Kanevsky, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Lomonosov State University and by a Ukrainian Mykola Kapitonenko, expert at the International Center for Policy Studies and Associate Professor of Institute of International Relations of Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University.

“Russia and the EU: the road to responsibility” “ conveys the Kremlin’s key messages elegantly and subtly”

Vasyl Myroshnychenko

«There is a general consensus in the EU that politically Russia is not likely to democratise any time soon, while its geopolitical interests are interpreted as violating the very essence of current international rules and norms », ​​the article said. 

Its authors explain that in the present  situation no grand cooperative framework is feasible. The policy article  expresses Moscow’s position in relations with the West in a disguised manner, which, according to Myroshnychenko, is interested in easing or lifting sanctions, advancing cooperation  with the EU in all areas except for political, securing Ukraine’s non-alignment with NATO  and achieving a halt in Ukraine’s aspiration to join the European Union. Vasyl Myroshnychenko draws attention to the following statements in the article by Kanevsky and Kapitonenko:

« – Anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the US and the EU are obviously not enough to significantly change Moscow’s policies. A further imposition of high costs would include more military buildup, preventive measures, demonstrations of hostility, and the like. However, a set of measures of this sort could make Europe an even less secure place.

– Russia finds itself almost isolated from an increasingly integrated European space, which, in turn, only reinforces the securitisation of domestic and foreign policies in Moscow. As a result, Russia acts not particularly responsibly towards the EU because it is disillusioned by the shape of its institutions, which in its own turn is the consequence of the inability to become part of these institutions or at least benefit from them.

– The EU, in turn, does feel some responsibility towards Russia, but only in terms of minimising security risks and defending its economic interests. Some states have more at stake because of their trade flows to and from and energy dependence on Russia. Others, mostly in Central and Eastern Europe, are much more skeptical… However, as the history of the Cold War teaches us, even in the atmosphere of strong disagreements actors must not lose their sense of responsibility towards each other”.

The Social Democrats are now in a ruling coalition with the CDU/CSU and are represented in the government, in particular by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Today, everyone is discussing the results of talks conducted in Berlin by the Deputy Head of Putin’s administration Dmitry Kozak, who is now in charge of the Kremlin’s policy towards Ukraine. Therefore, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that such briefs, co-authored by Russian and Ukrainian experts in the field of international relations, fit well into the folders of German leaders and civil servants involved in policy-making towards Russia and Ukraine. I have one question for Mykola Kapitonenko: WHY?

Vasyl Myroshnychenko

The authors give their recommendations on how to establish greater cooperation between Moscow and the European Union. Political commentator  Myroshnychenko calls these tips “the most interesting” in the article:

  1. First, both Russia and the EU must clearly demonstrate how they envision and fulfill their responsible policies towards each other, international organisations and other states that are often victims of the misunderstanding of intentions in Russia and the European Union… The cases of Armenia and, until recently, Moldova demonstrate that both sides can cooperate and align their interests with the interests of the respective states.
  2. Both sides must ensure at the very least the continuation of limited cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as economic cooperation, public health, cybersecurity, terrorism, migration, environment, culture, science, and education. Taken together, real actions in all of these areas could build a number of bridges that would bring Russia, the EU, and states in-between closer to developing a joint agenda. Political values remain the most contradictory part of the cooperation. The EU must act as a guarantor of basic democratic principles and the rule of law, but at the same time acknowledge historic and cultural differences in Russia and also, to a different extent, states in-between, who travel on a non-linear path of democratisation.
  3. The interests of the respective actors should be defined and articulated as clearly as possible. For example, why does Russia want some control over Ukraine? Why does Ukraine want to join NATO and why are some NATO member states so eager to offer Ukraine NATO membership? Why would the EU want to play a role in Eastern Europe? Often positions of states seem incompatible at first sight. But talking about interests might clarify mutual threat perceptions and open up space for compromises. For instance, if Russia perceives NATO or EU membership aspirations as a threat, security compensations, guarantees and procedures should be considered… Russia also may be better off with a stable, prosperous, and predictable neighbourhood.

According to Myroshnychenko, the policy article is also cynical about international law. The opening paragraph says that “since there is no world government or global police, following the rules should be the best rational strategy in the long run.” At the same time there is not a single reference to Russia’s blatant breach of international law with the illegal annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine. There is also no mention of Russia’s violation of the UN Charter, Paris Charter of the OSCE or other conventions. However, the final paragraphs of the article call for better cooperation on the multilateral level including the UN and the OSCE. 

Vasyl Myroshnychenko points out that the Friedrich Ebert Foundation is the fund of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. “The Social Democrats are now in a ruling coalition with the CDU/CSU and are represented in the government, in particular by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Today, everyone is discussing the results of talks conducted in Berlin by the Deputy Head of Putin’s administration Dmitry Kozak, who is now in charge of the Kremlin’s policy towards Ukraine. Therefore, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that such policy articles, co-authored by Russian and Ukrainian experts in the field of international relations, fit well into the folders of German leaders and civil servants involved in policy-making towards Russia and Ukraine. I have one question for Mykola Kapitonenko: WHY? ” – foreign policy expert Myroshnychenko asks.

We remind, previously Brussels-based think-tank released an article calling for relief of sanctions from Russia.

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