Respond, constrain, dialogue: it is around this triptych that Josep Borrell, the high representative of the European Union for foreign policy, articulated the “Strategy” that the heads of state and government have asked him to define for their next discussion on the relationship with Russia. A complex exercise, which will be on the menu of a European Council on June 24 and 25.
Mr Borrell, faced with one of these apparently impossible missions devolving on the coordinator of the Union’s foreign policy, would obviously have wanted to add a fourth verb to his proposal, namely “to unite”, when he presented the text, Wednesday June 16, in Brussels. Because its recommendations will have to be detailed and translated into action after being voted unanimously. “If the member states approve them, they will have to enforce them and not let Russia divide us, insisted the Spanish manager. Unfortunately, we cannot always find unity ”, he added, educated by the lessons of the past.
For political, economic, strategic or energy reasons, the Twenty-Seven find it difficult to speak with one voice in the face of Moscow, except when the Russian power really crosses the “red lines” in terms of violation of human rights, international law or large-scale disinformation actions. “Russia does not want to discuss with the European Union, it prefers to speak directly with some of its members and the will of some is to go it alone”, also deplores Mr. Borrell.
Russia’s structural weaknesses
His draft strategy is, in any case, cautious and takes care not to immediately target one or the other capital. Even if a renewed cooperation with the Kremlin appears to him as “A distant perspective”, it does not exclude it entirely. He describes Russia as “A global player”, “the biggest neighbor” of the Union, and as a possible partner in a series of areas of interest to the Twenty-Seven: climate and environmental policy, the fight against terrorism or international relations, in particular given the involvement of Russia in Syria, in the Black Sea, or in the Iran nuclear deal. In large-scale energy policy, too, since 26% of oil and 40% of gas imported into Europe is of Russian origin.
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