Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator
The relationship between Russia and the West, already in a post-Cold War chill, has come under new pressure over the status of Alexei Navalny, and the European Union has threatened sanctions on Russia.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, “Relations have been consistently torn apart by the European Union.”
To understand the current situation and forecast future possibilities, Steven Sahiounie of MidEastDiscourse reached out to Mateusz Piskorski, Ph.D., political scientist, founder of the European Center for Geopolitical Analysis, and editor of Mysl Polska weekly magazine. In 2001, he graduated in Political Science at the University of Szczecin, and in 2011, he received his doctorate at the Faculty of Political Science and Journalism of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan.
Steven Sahiounie (SS): Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov made a statement that Russia is ready to cut all ties with the EU if the EU puts sanctions on Russia. What are the reasons for the tension between Russia and the EU?
Mateusz Piskorski (MP): The main reason is that at least part of EU countries and political elites took an active part in the last plot aimed to destabilize Russia with a huge campaign in support of Alexey Navalny. We don’t know yet, who has inspired all this operation, but it’s already clear enough, that there have been several influential sponsors engaged, first in playing the story about supposed attempt to kill the Russian Internet blogger, and then to organize a PR campaign upon his arrival to Moscow in January. Anyway, if there hadn’t been Navalny, those circles would invent another reason for another wave of anti-Russian propaganda and possible sanctions. If we analyze, who could be interested in creating an atmosphere of confrontation between the EU and the Russian Federation, the answer becomes quite clear: the external power, that wants to prevent cooperation and integration of the Eurasian landmass, from Lisbon in the West to Vladivostok in the East. Only the US has such capacity at present. That is why, to understand what is happening, we should draw a detailed map of American influences in continental Europe.
SS: Since Biden’s administration came into office the pressure on Russia has increased. Do you think that the new US administration is announcing that they don’t want to improve the relationship with Moscow?
MP: I don’t expect any declarations of reset in bilateral relations, like the one, which was once announced by Barack Obama. The US foreign policy is now under the control of people, who are mentally formed by the times of the Cold War. Additionally, we have to deal with the so-called deep state dominance in American politics. The strategy of the Democrats might be slightly different than the one preferred by the Republicans. Trump’s administration tried to use economic warfare as their main tool against geopolitical opponents. Biden’s administration will probably prefer more interference, covert operations, inspiring the so-called color revolutions, supporting anti-system opposition, and the ominous strategy of regime change everywhere. They will be more active in the post-Soviet area, particularly in Belarus and Russia itself. Washington doesn’t want to improve the relations with Moscow. It wants to weaken and destabilize it.
SS: After the increase of tension between the West and Russia will the international agreements between them hold firm or will there be changes?
MP: Fortunately, the US and Russia have lately agreed to prolong the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. Nevertheless, there’s a growing risk, that other treaties and agreements will be ignored or abandoned. After 2014, relations between the so-called West and Russia have been to a large extent frozen. That’s why the treaties and agreements, which are losing their force, are often not prolonged, as there’s no place for negotiations.
SS: How do you see the future of Norde Stream amid the current tensions?
MP: German political class is under the huge influence of two lobbies with completely different interests. One of them is US-oriented, supporting Washington’s policy against Norde Stream-2 and the interests of LNG trading corporations from across the Atlantic. The second one is closely tied to the German industry, which needs much cheaper Russian gas for its further development. For the moment being the most important politicians of the ruling party, CDU seems to be supportive of the project: Armin Laschet, Peter Altmaier. That is why I think, that the project will be accomplished this year. But everything might change and Washington will not give up its endeavors to prevent the European-Russian cooperation in the energy sector.
SS: What action might Russia take to face these challenges?
MP: Moscow has already understood, that the West is not the center of the world and that there are several countries and regions far more important for its policy and trade. China and Asia are on the rise, regardless of the crisis. The Middle East and North Africa region are also willing to cooperate and become an important partner for Moscow. The declarations of minister Lavrov indicate, that Russia is ready for alternatives. Even several more liberal and pro-Western Russian experts start to claim, that Russia is not deemed to rely on the West. That is very important. Russia is ready and willing to become a sovereign pole in the new multipolar system. So the Russian response is ready on the table.