The European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Borelli concluded his visit to Moscow on the 6th. He said that the EU-Russia relations are far from satisfactory, but diplomatic channels between the two sides should be kept open.
The day before, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared relevant personnel of the Swedish, Polish and German diplomatic missions in Russia “unpopular” and asked them to leave the country in the near future.
Analysts believe that Russia’s move is intended to send a strong signal to the European Union to refuse it to interfere in Russia’s internal affairs.
Although this matter has not affected Russia-EU cooperation on the “Nord Stream-2” natural gas pipeline project, Russia-EU relations face a lot of resistance to get out of the trough due to differences within the EU’s position on Russia and the United States’s efforts to force the EU to join hands to contain Russia.
The European Union pressures Russia
The website of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on the 5th that Russia has protested to Sweden, Poland and Germany against the participation of relevant personnel from the Swedish and Polish Consulate General in St. Petersburg and the German Embassy in Russia on January 23.
According to the relevant provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Russia declared the relevant persons “unpopular” and asked them to leave the country in the near future.
The illegal activities mentioned in the statement are related to Navalny, a Russian opposition figure. Last year, the European Union, NATO and some Western governments accused Russia of using neurotoxicants against Navalny, but Russia firmly denied it and called on Western countries not to politicize the matter.
When Navalny returned to Russia from Germany on January 17 this year, Russian law enforcement agencies arrested him for violating probation regulations on many occasions. On January 23, supporters of Navalny organized marches in Moscow and other cities without approval. On February 2, the Moscow City District Court sentenced Navalny to three and a half years in prison for fraud.
Borelli began to visit Moscow on the 4th of this month, one of the purposes of which is to put pressure on Russia and call for the immediate release of Navalny.
He strongly condemned the expulsion of EU diplomats from the European Union countries and rejected the Russian accusations against these diplomats. Sweden, Poland and Germany also objected to the expulsion and related allegations by the Russian side.
Russian Presidential Press Secretary Peskov had previously made it clear that Russia did not intend to listen to statements from other countries on the Navalny issue.
In a meeting with Borelli on the 5th, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said: “The main problem we all face is that the relationship between Russia and the European Union is abnormal, the two major players on the European continent. This situation is certainly unhealthy and does not benefit anyone.”
Russia sends a strong signal
Gao Fei, vice president of the Diplomatic Academy, believes that Russia’s decision to announce the expulsion of diplomats during Borelli’s visit is to send a strong signal to the European Union that it cannot go beyond the bottom line and interfere in Russia’s internal affairs.
Gao Fei said that the development of Russian-European relations faces many obstacles.
After the expansion of the European Union, the differences between the internal “Old Europe” and “New Europe” factions have become increasingly obvious, and the “New Europe”, especially the Eastern European countries, generally have a strong attitude towards Russia.
The Navalny incident partly reflects the differences within the EU over Russian policy.
Akopov, a columnist of the Russian News Agency, believes that if the EU is to become an independent power center in the 21st century, it needs to develop normal relations with Russia, at least strategic dialogue, and preferably a strategic partnership.
If the EU only wants to continue to be a “part partner” of the United States in transatlantic relations, it can maintain the current instability of relations with Russia without any change.
Akopov pointed out that European leaders are very clear about the purpose of the “Navalny trap” – just like the Ukraine problem.
Europeans should not play a role in the Anglo-Saxon “play” that isolates Russia.
“Nord Stream-2” has not been affected
Just as tensions between Russia and Europe are intensifying, the “Nord Stream-2” project connecting Russia and Germany began to lay submarine gas pipelines on the 6th.
The day before, German Chancellor Merkel held a video meeting with French President Macron.
At the online joint press conference after the meeting, Merkel said that due to the Navalny incident, Germany will extend sanctions against some Russian officials, but Germany’s attitude towards the “Nord Stream-2” project has not changed.
Macron said that the construction of the “Nord Stream-2” project is an important step to form a more independent European energy strategy, and hoped that France and Germany would reach a high degree of agreement on the “Nord Stream-2” project.
The “Nord Stream-2” project aims to lay a natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Seabed, which will double Russia’s gas exports to Germany when completed. At present, more than 90% of pipelines have been laid.
The United States strongly opposes the Nord Stream-2 project and announced sanctions against the enterprises involved in the project at the end of 2019.
Affected by this, the project was suspended for a time. Recently, around the Navalny incident, there have also been continuous calls for the suspension of European-Russian cooperation and the “Nord Stream-2” project within Germany and the European Union.
Go Fei said that in the long run, Russia and Europe are mutually needed, especially in the field of energy. Russia is the world’s main natural gas producer and Europe’s main source of natural gas.
There is a strong interdependence between the two. Therefore, despite the twists and turns of Russia-EU relations, the possibility of interruption of the “Nord Creek-2” project is unlikely, because Europe has invested a lot of money and the project is about to be completed.
At the same time, Gao Fei pointed out that even if the “old Europe” factions such as Germany and France are pragmatic and try to strengthen cooperation with Russia, they will be constrained by the United States.
When there are voices within Europe that take different positions on Russia, the United States tends to support the “New Europe” and take a tough attitude towards Russia.
The United States has two purposes: first, to continue to contain Russia strategically; second, to maintain its alliance system in Europe, divide and control Europe.
Under the continuous interference of the United States, there are many obstacles to the development of Russian-European relations.