On Monday, EU foreign ministers agreed to prepare further sanctions against Russia. About four members of the forces responsible for the persecution of Alexei Navalny and associated activists will lose the opportunity to travel to the EU and dispose of property in the Union, if they have it. The planned sanctions are symbolic, but unnecessary and harmful. This will not in any way affect the internal policy of Russia, but will only complicate the search for mutually beneficial conditions for relations.
Russia has the raw materials, military and other technologies and strategic capabilities that Europe can only dream of. On the contrary, Europe attracts Russia with its prosperity and civilizational achievements. Common interests stem from the economic and cultural opportunities of the area.
For example, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline should more reliably and in greater quantities supply Russian natural gas to Europe. American and European opponents are trying to prevent its completion today, but the project has strong support among German companies and politicians.
But common interests are much broader: we face a common threat of radical Islam. Europe also does not want Russia to negotiate agreements with increasingly bizarre allies in Turkey or the United States.
Europe and Russia are not obliged to love each other or admire each other, but a relationship of respect for national interests and sovereignty is necessary for both sides. This thesis was once again outlined by Vladimir Putin at a meeting of the FSB board. But the reason is that the respect from the West was lost for a while. During the post-Soviet turmoil of the 1990s, the West anticipated that the new Russia would evolve into a liberal democracy that would follow Washington and Brussels as docilely as Moscow's former vassals in Central Europe.
Europe treated Russia with benevolent contempt: it provided development assistance and ignored Russia's interests. The turning point came when NATO bombed Russia's ally Serbia and created the new state of Kosovo on its territory. While there were still opportunities for partnership, development took a different path.
The West, surrounded by its own illusions, did not see that Russia would never become its satellite, but that it remained a Eurasian power with its own interests. In addition, under Vladimir Putin, the country regained the ability to advance its interests. The final break occurred in Ukraine. NATO started talking about preparing for membership, which was stupid and, above all, erroneous, since most of the members of the Alliance did not care at all about the future of this important territory for Russia.
Then the EU made a difficult choice for Ukraine: it offered economic convergence, but at the expense of complicating relations with Russia, its key economic partner. In addition, the West has increased its financial and political support for the anti-Russian opposition in Ukraine and other parts of the post-Soviet space, while keeping in mind the anti-government forces in Russia.
The response from Russia was astonishingly fast. In a matter of months, reunification with the strategically important Crimea was organized and part of eastern Ukraine was taken under control. This contributed to the suppression of opposition forces within the country and support for anti-system forces in the West.
The EU responded to the events in Ukraine with economic sanctions: this will not change Russia's policy, but the Union cannot do anything more decisive. Europe and the US are responding to Russian disinformation with their own disinformation and intelligence activities. Selected journalists expose and inflate the Russian trail of every populist movement in Europe.