R.us country will not change its postal address. Thus, in the future, Germany and the European Union will have no choice but to have a relationship with the largest country in the world – as a partner, as a competitor or even as an adversary. With regard to European security, they have so far had little success.
In view of the existing tensions, it must be permissible to ask whether the assumptions on which the previous policy is based are correct: the status quo of European security and the relationship with Russia are not ideal, but largely stable; Russia is a state in political and economic decline; the medium and long-term security risks of the policies of the EU and the United States are low.
All three assumptions do not correspond to reality. For one thing, the state of European security is worrying. Disarmament agreements have been dissolved, the neighborhood between the EU and Russia is neither secure nor stable nor prosperous. We may not even have hit rock bottom yet.
It is also questionable whether and when the collapse of the Russian economy, which has often been prophesied for years, will occur. And that in turn calls into question the assumption that sanctions are an effective means of changing course for the Kremlin. Although sanctions have increased the pressure on the Russian economy, it is actually quite stable, flanked by rising oil prices and solid macroeconomic policies.
Moscow is willing to take risks and the West is perplexed
At the same time, the security risks have increased. Russia is also acting and using its military strength to challenge the West. Moscow’s willingness to take risks is high, as is its sense of validity. And the right of veto in the United Nations Security Council unbroken. The risk of serious crises due to miscalculations and the associated misconduct has increased significantly in recent years.
This development does not correspond to the interests of Germany and the EU. Pan-European security cannot be achieved with the continuation of the previous policy. The wish that Russia should buckle due to political and economic difficulties and look to the west again will not come true. Even if dissatisfaction with corruption and a state in Russia that is increasingly distancing itself from society is growing.
Russian RS-24 “Jars” ICBMs during the military parade in Moscow’s Red Square
The domestic and foreign policy development of Russia, so emotionally eyed by the EU and the United States, has led to a frozen mind in both East and West – there is perplexity. The first step is clear: a clear formulation of one’s own interests in European security policy is required.
Above all, this is the neighborhood with which the idea of European sovereignty is closely connected. The EU must ensure that it can project its vision of a stable, more secure and prosperous Europe there. Negotiations on both conventional and nuclear disarmament are another interest. That shouldn’t be left to the United States and Russia.
The instrument for implementation is called negotiation. Under the current conditions, dialogue and discussion are only useful insofar as they prepare negotiations. This is what happened at the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva, it did not happen through the EU, because the negotiation of common interests has not yet taken place.
Negotiating is result-oriented, but the outcome is open; it doesn’t have to produce a result the first time. It is important to at least try and not exclude a result from the outset.
Impossible? Unnecessary? Have not the basic rules for a secure Europe been in place since the Paris Charter was signed in November 1990 at the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)? Which was confirmed 20 years later, also with the signature of the Russian Federation? Everyone should stick to it.
The precarious state of European security makes it inevitable that the EU enter into negotiations with Russia in order to de-escalate the threats in Europe and to initiate a process of stabilization. In addition to the EU and Russia, those states whose threats have increased significantly in recent years, particularly Ukraine, should also be included when formulating interests.
Only then will it be possible to talk about the issues identified by the EU in its most recent joint declaration on Russia – health, climate, the environment and the role of civic participation.
A comment by Nikolas Busse
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A comment by Berthold Kohler
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Friedrich Schmidt, Reinhard Veser and Markus Wehner
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It is high time that Germany and the EU finally act on foreign policy again, not react. The clearer the formulation of interests, which of course cannot be thought of without values, the easier the constant review and adjustment. The Kremlin’s passivity in looking for a way out should be countered by a common policy based on interests and strengths. Heavy? Yes. Impossible? No.