Kaljurand: Russia at advantage not just over US, but entire West (2)
Regarding the tug of war being played out by the US and Russian heads of state in a number of current conflicts, one could make the case that Russia, not the US, has scored more points thus far. Speaking on “Reporteritund,” however, Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand found that Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t have the advantage over just the US president, but rather the whole of the West, as centered around the EU and NATO.
"It can be said, for example, that Putin overpowered the EU by occupying Crimea, as this happened in our immediate vicinity, and while we knew what to expect after Georgia, we did not know how to react,” admitted the foreign minister. “I don’t want to draw a comparison to tug-of-war between just Presidents Putin and Obama — really, this is going into conflict with the entire West.”
Considering recent years’ developments, one could say that the goal of the Putin administration was to break down the NATO and the EU’s solidarity. “I don’t think that Putin would try to use the Syrian confict to help break up NATO, but naturally Putin would love to see NATO splinter just as Russia has masterfully played various EU states against one another,” said Kaljurand.
The minister stressed, however, that NATO is currently much more united than the EU, and discussions within the alliance are more unified as well. “It is occasionally curious to see colleagues of mine who tell one story to NATO, but tell a slightly different one to the EU,” added Kaljurand. “It is good to be the Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, as I tell the same story regardless of where I am.”
Moscow has made the Syrian conflict more complex
The Syrian civil war has not left the EU untouched, however, as after Russian began intervening in Middle Eastern conflicts, the number of refugees fleeing the region increased, deepening the migration crisis that had developed in EU states as a result. The deepening of the crisis in turn has led to a rise in popularity of extreme right-wing populist powers, which have received direct or indirect support from the Kremlin.
Kaljurand noted that Russia’s active interference in both the Syrian civil war and the Geneva peace process has made the situation especially complicated and confusing.
“I do agree that migration has torn Europe apart,” she admitted. “If we look back to a year ago, when the committee presented member states with initial quotas for the number of refugees required to be accepted by each country, then this tore Europe apart, and getting over this rift took nealy half a year.”
Kaljurand noted that, in her opinion, there was still a lot of finger-pointing and blaming going on as recently as last summer, at a gathering of EU foreign ministers, but such attitudes started to change as it began to become clear that the crisis would not be going anywhere, and that in-fighting and isolation between member states would clearly not lead anywhere either.
“Russia has achieved the goal of EU member states starting to splinter from one another,” added Kaljurand, “But therein I see some positive as well: it is now understood that if we do not work together, then right-wing, extremist, and populist parties rise to power.
EU will not shut its doors
In the Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs’ opinion, the EU needs to focus on the migration crisis, because political decisions have been made, but they have not been implemented effectively enough, including the securing of external borders, fighting against organized crime on the Mediterranean Sea, or the rejection and return of economic migrants back to their homelands.
This is why the deal signed between the EU and Turkey was so practical and important, added Kaljurand, because the migration crisis had no hope of being solved without help from partner states.
“Europe is not losing its humanity, as we are accepting those refugees who are fleeing from war,” stressed Kaljurand. “We will not be closed to those people who want to come here to work or study. These are just different means, and applications, and a different procedure altogether for entering Europe.”