For the time being, the European Union should focus on making the relationship with Russia more predictable and stable. That’s all there is to it now that “a new partnership with Russia seems a long way off,” said EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.
EU leaders, who will discuss relations with Russia next week, had asked Borrell for advice. The relationship between Moscow and Brussels has now reached a low point since the Cold War, both sides agree. Earlier this year, Borrell made a futile attempt to change that on a visit to Moscow but was blown away and made fun of.
The EU must look for ways to “gradually turn the negative spiral into a predictable and stable relationship”, says Borrell. According to the foreign chief, the relationship with the big neighbour is significant for the union, but he misbehaves. The country is “undermining international law”, seeking to divide the EU and its member states and suppressing opposition and violating human rights at home.
The EU will push Russia back where necessary and stop it while also seeking contact with Russia, Borrell said. Brussels must push back if, for example, Russia violates human rights or bullies allies. And thwart Moscow’s attempts to undermine the EU by arming itself against, for example, Russian state hackers.
But also continue to look for cooperation in, for example, the fight against the coronavirus. And don’t abandon ordinary Russians, especially human rights activists and civil society, but help—all in the hope of moving the Kremlin to a more constructive stance.
Earlier this week, the EU agreed with the US to better coordinate its dealings with Russia. US President Joe Biden will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.