Staunton, September 24 – For several centuries, Europe has been critically important to Russia, and even today it remains a Russian “resource,” Liliya Shevtsova says. “But Russia is doing everything to become a threat to Europe” and Europeans are changing their attitude toward Russia and taking steps that limit Moscow’s ability to use Europe as it has.
“We still do not know,” the Russian analyst says, “when the economic giant, which has preferred to be a political dwarf, but there is no doubt that thanks to Russia, this awakening has begun. The Kremlin hasn’t left Europe with a choice but rather has forced it to recall its genetic background” (echo.msk.ru/blog/shevtsova/2714167-echo/).
In short, at least with regard to trust, “Russia has lost Europe,” Shevtsova argues; and that will dictate a very different relationship than the one that both Russia and Europe have sought in recent decades.
Both Germany and France, the two most important countries in Europe as far as Moscow is concerned, have changed their approach. In the past, Germany bought into the idea that cooperating with Moscow economically would lead to political changes in Russia. But now Angela Merkel and her government recognize that won’t work.
French President Emmanuel Macron has now done what no other Western leader has been willing to do: he has demanded that Moscow “shed light” on the attempted murder of Aleksey Navalny. And the European Parliament has adopted tough resolutions on Moscow and Belarus. Ignoring these moves, Shevtsova says, would be “a mistake.”
Europe is beginning to recognize, she continues, that it has lost more than it has gained from its economic approach to Russia. Investigations into money laundering, reactions to exploitation of dual nationality and anonymity in financial dealings, and scandals involving Western banks are all contributing to this.
Europe is responding already by more closely examining the activities of “politically significant people” in Russia and their “enablers” in Europe. If Europe should vacillate, there are indications that “American financial regulators stand ready” to hold their feet to the fire and keep them up to snuff.
There is a certain irony in this, Shevtsova concedes. Putin wants to repatriate Russian wealth from Europe, but he doesn’t want to lose the interconnections that the presence of such wealth and its Russian owners gives Moscow in its dealings with Europe and individual European countries.
The Navalny poisoning and Moscow’s backing of Lukashenka in Belarus are likely to be seen as a turning point in Russia’s relations with Europe. EU ambassadors blocked the arrest of Belarusian Nobelist Svetlana Aleksiyevich, and Brussels has refused to recognize Lukashenka as a legitimate president.
Moscow may hope that both these developments will soon be forgotten and things can go back to where they were before. Some slippage may happen, but Russian aggressiveness and brutality have so impressed many in Europe that such a course of events is far less inevitable than it may have been in the past, Shevtsova suggests.