Exaggerated expectations

by Gerd Brenner

The transatlantic press complained about the affront allegedly offered by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell on occasion of the visit to Moscow. While Borrell was still in Moscow, Russia expelled three diplomats from EU countries. Well, every coin has two sides. 
  For years, the EU delegation has dominated the official statements of the EU member states, especially in the OSCE, which sees itself as a bridge builder between East and West in difficult times. In the past six years, these statements have been characterised by nothing other than fundamental criticism of Russia in every area. This did not change after Joseph Borrell took office as EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs. 
  For years, EU member states Germany and France have been trying to find a political solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. For years, their NATO ally USA has torpedoed the implementation of the Minsk agreements negotiated by France and Germany, by telling Ukraine that these are a bad deal. Apparently, the Trump administration in particular believed it could get a better deal, as already in the area of the New START Treaty on strategic nuclear arms, in the area of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), in the area of the nuclear deal with Iran (JCPOA) and others. Once again, a loudmouth could not deliver and for years, the revisionism of the Poles and the Balts set the tone of the EU towards Russia. Ukraine, Crimea and other point of issues are only the occasion. It is a matter of principle. If it weren’t for Crimea and the Donbass, they would find something else.
  Russia has always denied that officials of its intelligence services have poisoned Alexei Navalny. The Western states which have accused Russia of doing so have so far failed to provide any evidence that could be used in court. Sanctions actually require more than some desk investigations by internet spies. Several events in the past have shown that it is not necessary to provide solid evidence to justify sanctions. Nevertheless, the EU is constantly imposing sanctions against Russia and threatening new ones. In the latest controversy over demonstrations by supporters of Navalny, Russia accuses European diplomats of taking part in illegal demonstrations. To justify their actions, they said that they had only observed the demonstrations. That may be how it is. Other states instruct their diplomatic staff to avoid government-critical demonstrations in general, because communicating official government views and participating in protests may be incompatible. Sweden, Germany and Poland seem to have a more relaxed view. How would these countries react if, for example, Russian diplomats took part in illegal demonstrations against the lockdown? The question is academic, because Russian diplomats are, from experience, too professional for such games. The height of cheek came from Albania, which expelled a Russian diplomat for contravening COVID protection measures. Probably didn’t wear a mask in the tram? When announcing the expulsion, Tirana also apologised for it. All clear! Brussels had exerted pressure.
  In this situation, Josep Borrell came to Moscow hoping for a warm welcome. From Sergey Lavrov’s point of view, it looked more as if the “good cop, bad cop” game was being played with him. Russia does not allow such games to be played with it. That’s right!

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