In October this year, members of the European Union reached a consensus to impose new sanctions against Russia. On the basis of the agreement among the EU members, six senior officials of the Russian security service were sanctioned and deprived from entering the EU member countries because of the alleged poisoning of Navalny. Evidence indicates that in order to impose more pressure and sanctions on Russia, there is division among EU states. Some believe that Europe is in need of Russia for resolving issues such as the climate change, Ukraine crisis and many other areas and therefore there should be no new wall between the West and Russia.
Russia has reciprocally warned that people are in charge of the foreign policy in the West who do not understand the need for respectful talks; perhaps there is a need for Russia to cut its relations with them and if geopolitical cooperation with the Russian government is not workable, as claimed by the chair of the European Commission, this will happen. Russia in general considers restrictions imposed against it as illegal and unilateral and believes that only one institute in the world is entitled to impose punishment on countries and that is the Security Council of the United Nations.
Europe has been always a serious critic of human rights in Russia and has demonstrated its seriousness in the case of Navalny poisoning and his arrest after returning to Moscow Josep Borrel, the foreign policy chief of the EU, has expressed regret over the mass arrest of participants in the protests organized by Navalny supporters and the use of force against protestors and journalists. In his belief, people should enjoy the right to protest without fear from suppression and Russia should respect its international obligations. Borrel’s protest came before his travel to Moscow to demand the release of Navalny and speak about normalization of relations between Moscow and the European Union. This is the first visit by a senior European diplomat to Russia since 2017.
Moscow, in response to the human rights pressures of the European Union and the United States, has criticized the policies imposed by the EU countries and has announced that the exacerbation of the global economy is blamed on a model of Western liberal economy which has resulted in the intolerable growth of social, racial and ethnic discrimination in addition to other tensions even in countries with apparently age old civil and democratic institutes. Excessive pressure is being applied on countries that are opposed to the controlling role of satellites, illegitimate sanctions and restrictions in the financial, technological and information sectors. The era in which efforts were made to create a centralized global and unilateral order has reached an end.
The issue of necessity of stopping or advancing the Nord Stream 2 gas project administered by Russia’s energy giant Gazprom especially in Germany is now on the spotlight. Under circumstances in which a group of German officials are calling for the completion of the gas transfer pipeline, and it is even said that 90 percent of the project has been completed, they consider this project as very important for the supply of the future energy of Germany and the Europe. They even believe that various issues should not be linked together. However, another group of officials are calling for a tougher stance towards Moscow and are recommending that Europe should not be dependent on Moscow and Russia’s gas. Even this could be used as a lever of pressure.
The European Union, in the current year, is preparing itself with new instruments for the future concerning the prevention of imposition of extraterritorial sanctions used by the United States against companies involved in constructing the Nord Stream 2 project. Evidence indicates that Joe Biden, like Trump, will oppose with the Nord Stream 2 project the completion of which has been slowed down since 20 December last year with intensified US sanctions. He believes that Nord Stream 2 is basically a bad deal for Europe. From the viewpoint of the United States, this pipeline would end in stronger dependency of Europe on Russia. The issue of differences over this gas pipeline has resulted in severed relations in general between Russia and Europe. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is in fact a geopolitical hostage. It is planned to transfer an annual 55 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea. The United States wants to sell its own gas to European markets. Therefore, it is imposing sanctions and restrictions and forcing its European allies to cut their cooperation with Russia. Another theory is that this controversial pipeline should not turn into tension and create an obstacle on the way of resumption of relations between the two sides of the Atlantic under the leadership of Joe Biden.
Many of the Eastern European countries feel that their interests will be jeopardized with the completion of this project. The European Commission too has raised some main issues about this pipeline. From the viewpoint of Borrel, Nord Stream 2 is not a common project of the Europeans but it is a project in the hands of Germany. If we separate the issue of ideology from the Nord Stream 2 project, then it becomes clear that there are many points hidden behind such a difference. Proponents of this pipeline such as the former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder believe that this project is under construction to supply energy required for the next generation and attacks on Russia are not compatible with the view of the majority of the German society. The liquid gas the US wants to export to Germany would create environmental pollution and is more costly for Germany.
It is foreseen that Americans that are worried about their own sales market and the security interests of states located in the east of Europe will not terminate the sanctions imposed in December 2019 on the companies involved in this project. They may even encourage Europe to impose more sanctions on Russia in order to prevent it from completing the project. Without doubt, high consumption and increasing demand in the European Union in the energy sector due to shortage of resources and the need for importing energy especially from Russia as the biggest owner of the world’s gas resources are considered as factors which could be used by Moscow as a geopolitical tools for the implementation of their goals in the political and economic spheres.
In recent years, relations between Moscow and Brussels have weakened. The Russia’s weakness remains its economy which is still in recession. The share of Russia in the global economy is reducing on an annual basis and the significance of Russia as an economic partner of Brussels is gradually declining. Russia and the European Union have adopted for many years the policy of patience towards each other and each side is waiting for the other to take the first step or confess to their past mistakes and or review their past approaches.
The European Union countries and Russia are categorized among the countries with the highest number of Covid-19 cases. Notwithstanding, the European Union has not reduces its sanctions against Russia in the aftermath of the outbreak of corona virus. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the European Union is now facing the most serious crisis of all times since its establishment. In Brussels, people are not yet ready for a serious discussion on the strategy of the European Union in relation to Moscow. In the economic sector, there are more problems now between Moscow and the European Union. The rapid reduction in the price of oil has disrupted the foundation of the export of Russia to Europe and the reduction in the revenues originating from the imposition of new US sanctions against Moscow has forces the European companies to follow and comply with them.
Even though relations between Russia and the European Union are normally expected to improve, due to the poisoning of Alexi Navalny and the open support of European countries such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Canada and the United States for the unconditional release of Navalny, such relations will be so much fragile. The European Union, the President of the European Parliament and President of the European Commission have called for the immediate release of Navalny and criticized Moscow’s confrontation with the protestors. Such European negativity towards Kremlin will continue in the future. If the European Union and US President Joe Biden are united in the same front relations between the European Union and Russia would remain constant or probably worsen. In case of such occurrence, Moscow as against the past in which it had special attention to the expansion of relations with the Western powers due to an increase in differences with Europe and severance of relations with the West, would make efforts to improve and enhance its relations with other countries such as China and Iran.