The European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs recently published a draft report with recommendations for the EU leadership on how to build relations with Russia. The document sets out five principles to underpin the cooperation of the European countries with Moscow.
In particular, the Committee suggested focusing efforts on combating Russian interference in the internal affairs of the EU. Interference in the sovereign affairs has long been a hallmark of the Kremlin.
“It is especially important not to succumb to the temptation to sacrifice the national security interests of allies and partners for the sole purpose of resuming dialogue with Russia,” said Brendan Boyle, rapporteur of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
Consolidating efforts to counter the security threat to European countries must become an integral part of measures by which Europe tries to offset the Kremlin’s ongoing aggressive efforts. Imposing sanctions and toughening financial monitoring of Russia’s actions abroad are aimed at preventing Russia’s economic crimes abroad.
In addition, the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs recommended that Brussels should support a part of pro-democracy society in Russia, using the successes of the Eastern Partnership programme as a source of inspiration for the vast majority of Russians.
According to the report, the principle of “democracy support” presupposes confronting Russian-language, pro-Kremlin propaganda, which the Kremlin “generously” uses as an important part of the Russian government’s hybrid war against the democratic world society. For this purpose, it is recommended that the European Union create a Free Russia Television TV channel with 24/7 airtime.
The authors are convinced that “the EU should adopt and announce a strategic vision for its future relations with a democratic Russia, which should include a broad offer with conditions and incentives such as visa liberalisation, free trade investment and modernisation programmes, and a strategic partnership; it should also convey the potential benefits that it is willing to offer in return for a democratic transformation of Russia.”
Predictably, possible “anti-democratic” results of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Russia are of concern to European parliamentarians. The European Union must be prepared not to recognise Russia’s 2021 parliamentary elections and to exclude Russia from international parliamentary assemblies if the elections are declared rigged.
In March, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg accused Russia of “aggressive behaviour” and said it was necessary to restrain its actions, as well as strengthen the Alliance’s defence and increase its funding. In turn, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said that the reason for big armaments spending was “Russia’s behaviour.”
European politicians pay attention to deterring Russian aggression. At this point, they proposed that the EU, together with NATO and international partners, should press Russia not to “interfere” in the region and to return “the occupied territories in the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood.”
If Russia continues aggressive threats and military actions, the EU should be ready to call for the exclusion of Russia from the SWIFT payment system. In addition, the EU leadership is asked to draw up a plan to cut its dependency on Russian gas and oil, at least while incumbent leadership is in power.
The draft report of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs includes, among other recommendations, the recognition of Bellingcat investigations as the basis for new sanctions. That is, to officially recognise the Bellingcat’s investigation as a source of truthful information. So, the Kremlin faces if not a catastrophe, then at least extremely unpleasant consequences. After all, Bellingcat has collected so much evidence of crimes committed by the Putin regime since 2014 that new, well-founded sanctions against the Kremlin can be imposed every day at least.
However, it is difficult to rely on the “reasonableness” of the Kremlin’s foreign and domestic policies in the near future. That is why Europe is trying to minimise to the utmost the risks posed by this “neighbour” and preserve the democratic heritage of European countries.
Yuri Fedorenko, analyst, public relations expert
The author’s opinion does not always coincide with the opinion of the editorial staff