Have All Diplomatic Bridges between Europe and Russia Been Burnt?

In a Dec. 22 interview to the Naples daily Il Mattino, Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin relaunched the idea of a new European security infrastructure, along the lines of the historic 1975 Helsinki conference. However, he said, the “reality is bitterly this: neither the aggressors nor the aggressed accept at this time to sit at the negotiating table”. All efforts must nonetheless be made, so “why not work together to bring about a new, great European Conference”.

The question to be posed, according to Cardinal, is “does Europe still believe in the rules that it gave itself after World War II, thanks to the foresight of its Founding Fathers?… Those principles and rules that Europe gave itself at the end of the conflict sometimes appear to be getting blurred.”

That disregard for its fundamental principles emerges clearly from recent remarks made by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former French President Francois Hollande on the Minsk Accords of 2015, which were officially presented by France and Germany as “a step towards peace”. Both former leaders have now admitted that the intention was never to implement them, but only to give Ukraine more time to prepare for war with Russia (cf. SAS 50/22).

These blunt revelations on the duplicity of the European Union’s policy confirmed the conviction of Russian leaders that there is no one among the West’s elites whom they can trust. That sentiment was expressed by the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, in an exclusive feature for the Dec. 25 Rossiyskaya Gazeta, in which he regretted that “there is no one in the West we can negotiate anything with,…. Normal relations with the West can be forgotten for years, or even decades. This is not our choice. Now, we can do without them until a new generation of wise politicians comes to power there. We will be careful and vigilant. We will develop relations with the rest of the world, which is very big and has normal relations with us,” he pointed out.

Likewise, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told TASS on Dec. 27 that relations between Moscow and the EU are “at historic lows”, and Russia has therefore given up plans for joint initiatives. “Naturally, there will be no more ‘business as usual’ with such counterparties. We do not intend either to knock on closed doors or initiate any joint projects,” Lavrov emphasized. “Fortunately, the European Union is not our only partner; we have many friends and like-minded forces in other parts of the world.”

Nonetheless, indications are that the Kremlin will carefully study potentially constructive developments in Germany, the European country which counts most for Moscow. They have certainly taken note of the fact that shortly before Christmas, Chancellor Olof Scholz intervened to stop the Foreign Ministry’s work on a new National Security Strategy which, according to Berlin sources, was obsessed with cutting off relations with Russia. Moscow has identified Foreign Minster Annalena Baerbock of the Greens as the main troublemaker on the German side. But it will require more than this intervention by Olof Scholz to rebuild a political and economic dialogue with the Kremlin in the future.

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