Economist Raivo Vare says Russia was sincere about wanting closer relations with Europe, but priorities were shifted when the Ukraine crisis broke out and no rapprochement is now on the horizon.
"Russia's leadership in politics, economy and analytics is proceeding from the desire to see Russia become an independent global center of influence and to do this, it will have to avoid any dominant affiliation so it can retain some room to maneuver," Vare, a former transport minister, told uudised.err.ee.
"I have seen a fairly similar vision of the future from leading Russian think tanks, one where the US is still at the top, but then is immediately followed by China. The next level is the EU and Russia, but separately."
Vare says even the idea of visa-free travel in Europe is not much of a draw for Russia. "The officials and wealthy people who need to travel already have a long-term visa or diplomatic passports that don't require visas to enter the EU. It has become even desirable to keep the rank and file away from traveling abroad. And finally, nationalizing elites is easier without visa freedom," Vare said.
Vare said Russia had always seen Europe as a technical resource, not a means of social modernization. Europe has seen Russia as a hedge for the decline in its global competitiveness (as a supplier of raw materials and large growing destination market). The EU has clung to the belief that Russia could be pacified in the security policy context, he said.
"This requires concert between both parties," Vare said. "But when higher-priority interests entered the picture, both parties started hoping that after some setbacks, everything could be turned back to a moderate path, like after the Georgia war. Russia was not afraid of acting resolutely and craftily. Europe hesitated for a long tine before it acted and all and is still acting cautiously and still believes in the past normalcy coming back."