Afifeh Abedi told the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations that in spite of the European’s threatening approach towards Russia, the policy of Europe towards Russia should not be considered as unified as they have a lot of deep differences of opinion towards Russia which are influenced by different factors and interests.
She refferred to the recent remarks of the European Union statement that the Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs should propose options for further restrictive measures such as sanctions against Russia.
Asked about lack of agreement among European leaders on holding a meeting with Putin as well as the remarks of the German chancellor on cooperation and closer relations with Russia, she said “given the previous tradition on the basis of which Mr. Putin participated in the summit meetings of the European Union upon agreement with some EU states such as Germany and France, some of the countries mainly from Eastern Europe opposed the probable presence of Putin in the EU summit meeting.”
Merkel had said that EU summit had discussed under which circumstances European countries would be ready to cooperate and establish closer relations with Russia and the absence of agreement among the EU leaders.
Difference of opinion among European countries in connection with Russia
Abedi said the opposition among EU leaders suggests differences of opinion inside Europe concerning Russia, adding that European countries agree on adopting a threatening approach against Russia; however, there are differences among them in terms of the type and level of the feeling of threat; therefore, their approaches towards Russia are difference.
She added that “Western European countries such as Germany and France that are considered regional powers believe that Russia’s threat can be controlled with interaction and confrontation and at the same time benefit from the political and economic advantages of such a relationship; however, in Eastern Europe the feeling of threat is greater and closer to Russia as countries in this part of Europe are weaker and non-political and are former Soviet Union states.
This analyst of Russian affairs said Eastern European states consider competition with Russia as non-asymmetric and in the meantime consider Western Europe interaction with Russia as a threat. He added that greater interaction between Western Europe and Russia may affect the political and economic support of Western Europe for these countries as well as the level of cooperation of NATO with them.
Referring to the interests of Russian relations with Europe, she said Russians are aware of such an issue as well as the difference in approach of EU.
“Therefore, in the past two decades, Russians have adopted a difference approach in order to expand interaction with European powers to control tension and ensure their interests. In any way, Russia uses its relations with Europe to increase its bargaining power.”
Realistic ambience in relations between Russia and Europe
Abedi said there is a realistic atmosphere governing relations between Russia and Europe which are also affected by the determination of the two parties, bilateral, regional and international trends.
She added that issues which were raised in the summit meeting of the European Union could be assessed in continuation of the 2014 crisis and the cold war between Russia and Europe.
“However, Russia and Europe despite differences and deep political and security contradictions will continue their interactive and confrontational approach after a series of very big tensions after 2014.”
Germany’s exploitation of differences in Europe
This expert of Russian affairs referred to the remarks by German chancellor that Putin will not take Europe serious if Europeans do not indicate a united stance, and said Germany is seeking its own interests out of these differences. Opposition of some countries with the presence of Mr. Putin in the summit meeting of the European Union has turned into a bargaining chip for countries such as Germany and France against Russia that are interested in this relation. They exploit any condition to secure their own interests.
Abedi said Moscow is aware of the conditions governing the relations between Russia and Europe. However given the interests for Russia in relations with Europe, it does not seem that Moscow would take new escalatory and provocative measures.
“Even in connection with the Ukrainian crisis, Russia would prevent any unilateral measure which could create tension in relations with Europe; however, Russia would not abandon its right to reciprocate provocations by the European Union and NATO and has responded to such measures in the past; therefore, if a new development does not happen, the present trend between Russia and Europe would continue.”
The main message of the stances of the EU leaders for Russia
Asked about the message of non-admission of Putin in the European Union meeting and the emphasis on the imposition of sanctions against Russia, she said the last presence of Mr. Putin in the summit meeting of the European Union was related to 2014 during the crisis in Ukraine.
“Now, the recent position of the leaders of the European Union carries this message for Russia that the crisis of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea to Russia have overshadowed relations between Russia and Europe and if Russia adopts a new aggressive policy in this region, such a relation, which is being reconstructed, may be destroyed completely after several years of costs.”
This expert of Russian affairs said “in fact, despite bilateral determination between Russia and European powers to control tensions, the level of sensitivity in Russia’s relations with Europe is high and new developments and trends may seriously affect this relation.”