Misperception and Reality

Could Putin take advantage of Europe if it starts to collapse?

September 25, 2016

Russia dearly wants good relations with Europe and does not want the EU to collapse. Some members of the European Union regard Russia as an enemy, most notably, Poland the the Baltic states. Others don’t regard Russia as an enemy. Attitudes towards Russia amongst other EU members span a broad spectrum, some are more positively inclined towards Russia, others less. The Russian leadership accepts these realities, and is willing to work within the differing frameworks of its relations with individual EU members.

Russia’s problems are mainly with the EU as an ideological quasi state project. The EU wants Russia to deal with the EU center in Bruxelles rather than with individual member states on many important issues. Unfortunately for Russia, EU institutions tend to be ideologically anti-Russian. Moreover, the EU and many individual politicians across its member states regard Russian attempts to deal with individual EU members as attempts to create disunity within the EU. I think it would be more accurate to say that Russia is struggling to break the hold of the ideological EU on its individual members. Naturally, Russia’s interests here tend to overlap with those of the Euro skeptics.

This has become an ideological issue, at least on the EU side. The cause of EU unity against Russia has become a magnet for anti-Russian individuals and institutions throughout the EU. Ideology takes center stage over pragmatism in this issue. Russia’s desire to deal with individual EU members would not appear to threaten any concrete EU interests. It does, however, pose a serious threat to the ideological ambitions of the EU quasi-state.

For example, the interests of individual EU members with regard to Russia’s sales of gas to Europe differ greatly. However, as an ideological project, the EU quasi-state wants a common energy policy. Since the EU quasi-state tends to be anti-Russian, it sees independence from Russian gas as an issue of European security. But many EU members do not see “dependence” on Russian gas as a threat to their security. The Russian South-stream gas pipeline project had support from individual EU members, but the ideological EU center in Bruxelles forced vassal state Bulgaria to torpedo the project although Bulgaria did not want to.

Russia does not want the EU to collapse for many reasons. It would, however, be pleased if the hold of the ideological EU were to weaken. It is precisely such a threat to the ideological EU quasi-state project that is posed by Brexit and similar movements in other EU member states.

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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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