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Digest: Europe has no Russia policy whatsoever, says Toomas Hendrik Ilves

Former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
Former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Does Europe have a Russia policy? Carnegie Europe senior fellow, Judy Dempsey, asked a number of foreign policy experts about their opinion in the matter, former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves among them.

Ilves maintains that the European Union has no Russia policy whatsoever. "The union is divided between national mercantile interests and positions of principle," he said.

While 18 EU member states expelled Russian diplomats as a response to the attack on a former GRU agent with a nerve agent in Salisbury earlier this month, others, most vocally Austria and Slovakia, haven't gone along, Ilves pointed out.

A particularly interesting case is Greece, which is benefitting from European solidarity in the form of the Eurogroup's billions it received, and now failed to support the United Kingdom in its response to Russia, he added.

"There is nothing new in this lackluster response. After the Salisbury attack, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated Vladimir Putin for having 'won' a farce of an election."

Ilves, himself a former ambassador and minister of foreign affairs, also pointed to the fact that despite Ukraine's being in the immediate neighborhood of the union, the EU's high representative for foreign policy recently visited the country for the first time in three years.

Other issues point to the EU's tentative approach to its relations with Russia as well: there hasn't been any action against Russian diplomats in Brussels, and the Magnitsky Act, a response to the death of Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009 and a measure against certain Russian officials, has no chance of passing in the European Parliament, Ilves said.

"Meanwhile, Germany continues to push for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which clearly benefits the Kremlin while subjecting EU member states and Ukraine to potential risk." Like it has been suggested by officials and politicians across the Baltic states and Poland, limiting or stopping the project would hit Russia, but nothing like that is going to happen.

"The end result of the Salisbury attack will be tit-for-tat expulsions by Russia for each sanctioning country," Ilves predicts, with all those country not about to participate in the measures positioning themselves as potential beneficiaries in future deals with the posturing neighbor in the East.

All this means that not only does the EU not have a Russia policy, but that such a policy is altogether impossible, Ilves said.

Read the original article at Judy Dempsey's Strategic Europe.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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