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Igor Ivanov

President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004)

The outlines of future relations between Russia and Europe are only just emerging. Yet it is already clear that these relations should not be hostage to the political rhetoric and romantic expectations of the end of the previous and the beginning of this century. It is necessary to take stock of the existing effective forms of interaction in all four spaces and work steadily in specific areas, without reviving old illusions and generating new ones.

On October 12, 2015 I. Ivanov, RIAC President, delivered a speech at the seminar “Russia-EU Relations in the period of Luxembourg Presidency”.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends and colleagues,

On behalf of the Russian International Affairs Council I am glad to welcome all the participants to the Seminar “Russia-EU Relations in the period of Luxembourg Presidency”. Let me extend my thanks to Pierre Ferring, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to the Russian Federation; without his personal commitment and without hard work of the Luxembourg Embassy this event would not be possible. I am also grateful to our old friend ambassador Vygaudas Usackas, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Russian Federation, who has always been very receptive to our initiatives and proposals. Let me express my gratitude to representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry, other governmental agencies, to experts and scholars who accepted our invitations to discuss contemporary relations between Russian and the European Union and joined us here.

Some of you know that half a year ago we had a similar event hosted by the Council on the Latvian Presidency in the European Union. I am very glad to see in this room Astra Kurme, Ambassador of the Republic of Latvia to the Russian Federation, who played a central role in putting together that seminar. My hope is that we are setting a good tradition and our Council would be more than happy to continue it next year with the Embassy of the Netherlands and later with the Embassy of Slovakia in Moscow.

I do not want to dwell on the importance of the relations between Moscow and Brussels or on the critical period of these relations that we are now going through. Neither my intention is to preempt the discussions that will take place today; around this table we have a constellation of the brightest minds with a lot of experience in practically every field of the complex and multi-dimensional ties linking our country to Europe. Let me limit myself to only one introductory observation that I consider to be of particular importance.

About a month ago I had the pleasure to take part in the 20th Annual Conference Baltic Forum in Yurmala, near Riga; my presentation was titled “The Sunset of Greater Europe”. The presentation has got a lot of attention in the Russian expert community. My critics accused me of rejecting the European nature of Russia, of favoring the “Asian” vector in the Russian foreign policy over the “European” vector, of downplaying the accomplishments in the EU – Russian relations accumulated over last twenty years, and so on. I’d like to outline my positions once again.

In my view, the Ukrainian crisis has highlighted the fact that the political elites in Russia and Europe are not willing to meet each other halfway and build a common destiny in the 21st century world. We should honestly admit that the paths of Europe and Russia are seriously diverging and will remain so for a long time. Not for months or even years, but probably for decades to come. This continental shift, the drifting apart of the two European geopolitical plates, will have a huge and lasting impact on both Europe and the world. There will be no return to the autumn of 2013, even if the situation in Ukraine is – by some miracle – brought back to normal. The changes taking place before our eyes are not only radical but irreversible, putting an end to some political projects and opening up opportunities for other.

In the emerging new geopolitical reality, Russia is no longer the eastern flank of the failed Greater Europe and is becoming the western flank of the emerging Greater Eurasia. The shift of strategic accents means that Moscow should invest considerable political capital in developing the mechanisms of EEU, SCO and other multilateral structures of Greater Eurasia. This is especially true since many of these mechanisms are being created virtually from scratch and Russian foreign policy has every opportunity to play active and, in some areas, leading role in their formation.

Having said all that, I’d like to emphasize once again: this does not mean that Russia should turn its back on Europe, renouncing interaction with its European partners and friends. Far from it. Russia has too many bonds connecting it to Europe: history and geography, culture and religion, decades of economic cooperation and a multi-million Russian diaspora in all European countries from Poland to Spain. Moreover, the success of including Russia in various Eurasian integration projects depends greatly on whether Moscow manages to ensure security and stability on its Western flank and to forge new pragmatic and mutually beneficial relations with its European neighbors.

The outlines of future relations between Russia and Europe are only just emerging. Yet it is already clear that these relations should not be hostage to the political rhetoric and romantic expectations of the end of the previous and the beginning of this century. It is necessary to take stock of the existing effective forms of interaction in all four spaces and work steadily in specific areas, without reviving old illusions and generating new ones. For example, Russia and the European Union could concentrate on the sore issue of managing migration. Or on preventing political extremism and terrorism. Or on the subregional mechanisms of cooperation from the Black Sea to the Arctic. Russia and the European Union will remain neighbours and even the fading of the idea of Greater Europe cannot wipe out this reality.

I do hope that the discussion today will touch upon these important and very timely problems. I am sure that we can generate innovative, out of the box ideas and proposals for Moscow and for Brussels. And I believe that the current crisis in the Russian – EU relations will ultimately make both sides more responsible, realistic and more mature in dealing with each other. But that will require a lot of hard work on both sides.

Thank you for your attention.

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Poll conducted

  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
    U.S. wants to establish partnership relations with Russia on condition that it meets the U.S. requirements  
     33 (31%)
    U.S. wants to deter Russia’s military and political activity  
     30 (28%)
    U.S. wants to dissolve Russia  
     24 (22%)
    U.S. wants to establish alliance relations with Russia under the US conditions to rival China  
     21 (19%)
 
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