The panel began with a greeting by Ettore Greco, Director of IAI, and his introduction of the main themes of the panel. The experts discussed the current state of Russian-European relations and gave an outlook to the possible development of them, the antagonism started because of the recent Ukraine crisis, European sanctions to Russia. Greco also referred to the five principles designed by HRVP Federica Mogherini.
Andrey Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, introduced the various activities of the Club and led the participants into a discussion about the key findings, underlining that a constructive dialogue is the key for a fruitful cooperation.
Timofei Bordachev, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, stated that Russian-European relations are now at their lowest point and that Ukraine crisis was the result of such trend that has been developed through the years. The main reason of such poor relations stands in the nature of the post-soviet world order, unsustainable for Russia, and the lack of frankness in defining the true interests of both sides. Russia and EU shall define the fields of their cooperation, standing close, but not together.
Nona Mikhelidze, Senior Fellow of IAI, invited the panel to focus on what is possible to obtain from this mutual cooperation, avoiding to create exaggerated expectations. She highlighted two of the five Mogherini principles as non suitable to Russian interests: a development induced by EU in Asia and the close relation of EU with Russian civil society.
Ms. Mikhelidze pinpointed the main issues in the possible cooperation of the EU and EEU. She firmly believes that any successful result can’t be achieved as soon as the EEU doesn’t have a transparent and fair system of including member-states. The example of Armenia, as Ms. Mikhelidze said, proves that being a part of the EEU isn’t a voluntary democratic decision. The Russian-brokered ceasefire signed by the Minsk group, as she thinks, only deepened the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and pushed Armenia to become subjected to the Russian policy. Thus, building a productive future between Russia and the EU as well as between the EEU and the EU should be based on the complete reviewing of the main principles of Russian policy by making it’s less suppressive. Ms.Mikhelidze’s statement produced a brisk discussion in the audience where the majority of experts decided that the role of Russia in the resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was severly downplayed by her.
Fyodor Lukyanov, Academic Director of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, stated that Ukraine crisis will be over sooner or later, but underlined the lack of a new philosophy of cooperation between the two entities. Russia is in the middle of the review of its latest historical period, in which the country has to solve development issues and relations with the Western world. As it was envisaged 20 years ago, Russia should have been part of an extended West, but both sides share the responsibility of the failure of such process. Russia is integrated in world economy, but not enough to play a significant role in it: such situation dissatisfies the whole Russian community. Europe has been historically seen as a model for the further Russian development, but nowadays that model is not working. There are growing doubts whether there is still valuable to stick to EU framework, while Russia’s eastern neighbors are getting stronger and much more central in the international affairs. What best fits Russian interest would be a double cooperation both with EU and Asia.
Nathalie Tocci, Deputy Director of Istituto Affari Internazionali and Special Adviser to EU HRVP Federica Mogherini, focused on the mistakes made by both sides in the development of the mutual cooperation. She stated that EU is responsible of having acted on an international level without thinking of the geopolitical consequences of its actions. Russia, on its side, was defined responsible of violating international laws because of its dissatisfaction of the post-Cold War situation and of not considering Ukraine’s position during the crisis. But still she said that a future resolution of the current situation will be possible, especially if areas of mutual interest such as climate change, nuclear regulation, science development and infrastructures are taken into account.
The panel continued with a session of Q&A between the experts and the audience on the themes of Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, Ukraine crisis, WTO and the future of Russian domestic policies.
Greco then closed the session, highlighting once again the main themes touched during the panel: precarious state of relations between Russia and EU, need of a shared strategic framework, common management of interests and the need of academic world to help solving the relations issues.