The EU is trying hard to establish a consistent foreign policy and speak with one voice given that it represents 450 million people. It is difficult when Merkel and Macron want to grab the limelight since they represent the 2 most powerful countries measured by population and total GDP. Then there are 25 other countries who are full of political leaders who also see themselves as “Very Important People”.
It is therefore no easy task for Charles Michel, President of the European Council, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament.
It is even tougher for EU’s Foreign Minister, Joseph Borrell, who could have a shorter title than:“The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy & Vice-President of the European Commission”.
Borrell’s visit to Moscow to meet Foreign Minister Lavrov was forecast by all the media to be a failure and was subsequently said to be a failure by the same media because the Russians announced the expulsions of 3 diplomats from Moscow. Words like “humiliating” and “embarrassment” were used to describe the result of the meeting.
It was quite clear that Borrell knew what was waiting for him when boarding the plane for Moscow because he had previously announced the reason for the visit – Navalny’s attempted murder and his imprisonment, the brutal treatment of protesters, the Russia’s partition of Crimea and the illegal hacking of our digital infrastructures.
It was obvious to him and the whole world that the Russians would give him a hard time. They have been trying to break up the EU’s unified position for decades, and Putin popularity has been receiving the lowest ever polling results from Russian’s tired population. It was clear that the Russians would not roll out a red carpet for Borrell, who is not a leader of state nor the most senior EU leader.
The fact that Borrell received a wet towel is good because that shows the whole world what the Russias are up too.
The moral of the story is that we must engage in polite and proactive dialogue with the Russians no matter how badly they behave, while actively telling them of the consequences of bad behavior that include trade and travel sanctions.
It is well known that such sanctions only have a limited impact on countries like Russia but doing nothing should not be an option. Sanctions get reported and noticed by Russians no matter how much the state propaganda machine tries to play such them down.
Russians need to trade and to travel. They depend heavily on fossil fuels and forestry products.
We also need these same products and access to their markets. They are our neighbors and neighbors should not fight but be courteous to one another. It is be better to be friends but that is not always possible, as is the case just now.
Thus, Finland’s Foreign Minister Haavisto’s planned visit to St. Petersburg on 15.2.2021 to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov must be welcomed without trepidation and without too high expectations.
The ministers are expected to discuss the arrest and detention of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, EU-Russia relations and the current situations in Nagorno-Karabakh, Belarus and Ukraine.
Finland along with the rest of Europe have soundly objected to the treatment of Navalny. The Russians are not being threatened by the EU, and we have no reason to fear meeting with them. They are being treated cordially by high-ranking EU leaders and our ministers in a respectful manner. It is their problem if they cannot reciprocate!
Photo: Finnish Government from Wikipedia