Speaking in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Morteza Makki commented on the history of differences between Russia and the European Union and said: Russia has a lot of tensions with the West, especially the European Union, and the tensions are more than common issues and cooperation.
Makki added: Russia, as the successor to the former Soviet Union, remains a major and influential neighbor in the course of developments in Europe and many of the world’s critical centers.
The expert further remarks: After a period of cooperation and convergence between Russia and the West during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin and the rise to power of Vladimir Putin with an aim of reviving Russian identity and nationalism after the period of Russia’s weakness during Yeltsin’s presidency, we see challenging relations between Russia and Europe and the United States.
According to the expert, with the expansion of NATO to Eastern Europe, the United States tried to justify both preservation of the existence of the NATO alliance and advance the policy of restraining Russia on its borders.
He stressed: Along with NATO development, Europe and the United States tried to limit Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics through velvet revolutions and the use of soft power.
Makki noted: This policy in Georgia and Ukraine caused serious tensions between Russia and the West.
Saying that although in 2003 Western countries were able to overthrow Shevardnadze in Georgia with the Velvet Revolution and replace him with Saakashvili and bring Yushchenko to power in Ukraine in 2004 instead of the pro-Russian president, he said.: But Russia did not remain silent in the face of those activities by Western governments, and in 2008, during the crisis in North Ossetia and Abkhazia, it caused serious tensions between Russia and the West.
He explained: Under such circumstances, the Westerners tried to mediate between Russia and Georgia and retreat from their position on Georgia’s accession to the NATO alliance, recognizing a Russian sphere of influence and tried to minimize tensions in relations with Moscow; but during the Ukraine crisis in 2014 and annexation of Crimea to Russia, there were serious tensions between the West and Moscow, and the United States and Europe imposed a series of economic and political sanctions on Russia.
Makki continued: In the six years since the annexation of Crimea to Ukraine and the separatist crisis in eastern Ukraine, the efforts of Western governments, especially Europeans, to exert political and economic pressure on Russia and force it to retreat from its positions have been fruitless and the cold relations between Russia and Ukraine have become more complicated.
Referring to bilateral relations during Trump’s presidency, he said: During Donald Trump’s presidency, given the former US president’s interest in Putin, Europeans were deeply concerned about the closeness of Russia-US relations and tried to prevent normalization of relations.
He added: Allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election have largely blocked Trump from reconsidering relations between Moscow and Washington especially since the two parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, were opposed to closer relations with Russia.
He said Biden’s coming to power with regard to the belligerent stance of the US Democrats towards Russia, will bring view points of the European and US governments to Russia closer to each other.
Explaining the current situation, the expert continued: The return to Russia of Navalny, a prominent figure opposed to Putin, his detention by the Moscow government and a series of mass demonstrations held against Putin in different Russian cities, are good excuses and tools for Europe and the United States to put pressure on the Russian president.
He stressed: Of course, there is no common view on how to contain Russia in Europe. On the one hand, Eastern European countries are more inclined to escalate tensions in relations with Russia. On the other hand, Germany and France, the two driving forces of the European Union, believe that cooperation and close relations with Russia should be sought to create mutual cooperation and interdependence, thus putting pressure on Russia.
According to the expert, the Nord Stream 2 rolling pipeline contract was signed and implemented between Germany and Russia with the same purpose; a pipeline, of which more than 90% has been built and with its completion a major part of the energy need of Germany and some other European countries will be met. Currently, about 18 European countries receive part of their energy from Russia in varying amounts.
Makki concluded by saying: The series of developments that have taken place in Russian-European relations over the past three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union show that European and American governments see Russia not as a partner but as a competitor and try to use various means, especially the soft power to put pressure on Vladimir Putin and push the policy of restraining Russia from its sphere of influence into Russia.