Many countries consider the visit of EU High Representative Josep Borrell to Russia last week a failure. Head of the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) Indrek Kannik said that while Russia put Borrell in his place, it should not be overemphasized.
"The Russians definitely put him in his place. That much is clear. Whether we can call it degrading or not is a matter of taste. At the same time, I believe we are overemphasizing this entire matter to some extent. Looking at Europe as whole, it was not a matter of historical significance for most countries. I believe that the visit was watched much more closely in our corner of Europe. That is one part of the background here," Kannik said on the "Välisilm" program.
He said that the outcome could end up benefiting the EU in future Russia debates.
"I agree with those who say it might end up benefiting us in the long run. Estonia and several other countries clearly said that trying to negotiate with Russia with this level of preparation and in the current situation is rather foolish. I believe that Borrell's visit proved that. We would do well not to continue rubbing it in, while it has given us a relatively good starting position for future Russia debates inside the European Union," Kannik explained.
Kannik does not believe the visit has portrayed the EU as weak and given Estonia reason to fear for its security.
"The Russians know full well that the EU is the weaker side when it comes to security, while they also do not see it as their number one adversary in these matters. Russia's main opponents in terms of security are USA and NATO, which is where I believe their eyes are turned during times like these. They have considered the European Union's foreign and security policy capacity to be modest all along, whereas they are right in many respects," the ICDS director said.
Paet: High time for the EU to leave behind naive Russia treatments
Estonian MEP Urmas Paet (Reform) told "Välisilm" that Borrell's visit to Russia was not a solo act but was instead sought by most member states and was prepared for over a long time.
"Countries like Germany felt that the high representative needs to go to Russia after four years because relations are deteriorating and a rescue effort is in order. The few voices that said the timing was not right – voices also from the European Parliament – were not heeded," Paet said.
He said that Russia demonstrated it is not interested in improving relations with the EU and rather the opposite is true. "All the steps taken by Russia that day were highly provocative," the MEP remarked.
"That is why I very much hope we will once against see a serious Russia debate in the EU and that the share of naivety in this debate is nearing zero," he added.
Editor: Marcus Turovski