Relations between Russia and Europe: Expert Outlook from Moscow and Rome

Italy is one of the countries that wants to stay out of the "European choir", that is why the opinions in Europe have divided in the last months.

CHIESA, Giulietto

The International Information Agency Rossiya Segodnya has held a Moscow-Rome videoconference entitled "Russia and Europe: current state of relations. Expert outlook from Russia and Italy". On June 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Milan to take part in the National Day of Russia within the framework of the Universal Exposition EXPO-2015. The official part of the working visit to Italy was concluded by a meeting of the Russian president with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and President Sergio Mattarella in Rome.

Relations between Russia and European partners, Italy in particular, are currently under the duress of the crisis in Ukraine and the anti-Russian sanctions that have been in force for over a year. Italy belongs to the EU countries standing for normalization of relations between Moscow and Brussels. Throughout the event, experts have been discussing the roots of the existing problems in the Russia-Europe relations and considered means and opportunities of resolving them.

The participants of press event included experts of the Valdai Discussion Club: Giulietto Chiesa, writer, public figure, former member of the European Parliament, founder of the "Alternativa" political association, Orietta Moscatelli, head of the New Europe Desk, Aska news agency, and Sergei Mikheyev, political analyst.

Orietta Moscatelli noted that in an interview with Italian paper Corriere della Sera Vladimir Putin summarized the principles, positions and motivations Russia followed in relations with the world in light of the Ukrainian crisis in the last year. The expert believes that relations between Russia and Europe are under pressure of the United States and the end of the crisis is hard to predict.

Moscatelli supposes that the Ukrainian crisis today has reached a point when none of the sides is directly or indirectly ready to make the next concrete step towards resolving the crisis. The country is split, detached and in a very complicated state. Ukraine cannot find the strength to implement the constitutional reform recommended by all sides. In the expert's opinion, Russia can present proof of commitment to the Minsk Agreements (Minsk – 2). Europe is in a situation when, on the one hand, it needs to resume the dialogue with Russia and, on the other hand, it needs to stick to the position of the United States of America, which points in an utterly different direction.

The European sanctions would most likely be extended, although no one is really interested in doing so, and Italy is ready to do its utmost to prevent exacerbation of the conflict by the American side, which is quite risky. Italy is one of the countries that wants to stay out of the "European choir", that is why the opinions in Europe have divided in the last months.

According to Giulietto Chiesa, the gist of Vladimir Putin's interview with the Italian paper is to encourage speculations about the various controversial moments that hinder conclusion of an agreement. Italy is in a rather tricky situation, the expert believes, and it concerns both the Russian issue and relations with the US. The latter disagrees with the Italian point of view.

The expert affirms Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni's words that the country hails the fact that Russia has no aggressive intentions. The Ukrainian reckless scheme has turned out to be a tragedy. And Russia is not the one to blame for the tragedy. It was not present in Kiev in the late 2013 – early 2014, members of the Russian embassy were not spotted, unlike, for example, diplomats of the American embassy, who were often flashing on the TV screens.

Russia was forced to react to the situation. All Western media say that the West must react to Russia's aggressive actions. We had Minsk – 1, Minsk – 2, Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Hollande hopped into a plane and arrived to talk with Putin. Does that mean they visited an aggressor on accord? The puzzle does not make sense.

Chiesa also said that Italian private TV channels made three broadcasts commenting on the situation in Ukraine. One of the broadcasts said that Vladimir Putin switched to a peaceful tone, although everyone was being muzzed that the Russian president was always speaking in conflictive tones. The expert assures that Vladimir Putin has never put the dialogue with Europeans on hold, he continued communicating and regarding them as his partners. President Putin is trying to explain that Europe's intentions and interests contradict the interests and intentions of America.

Sergei Mikheyev opines that the situation is obvious. After the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, the West had a chance to create a system of ultimately different relations with Russia and former republics of the Soviet Union. Americans could make the most use of the chance. The West acted as a shortsighted political subject, it started snatching everything unkept, extending its expansion and influence to maximum countries, Russia was given the role of a loser. The situation bred new tensions in relations between Russia and the West. Instead of respecting Russia's interests and using that basis to build a new security system, in collaboration with Europe as well, the West started expanding NATO and ignoring Russia's interests in the post-Soviet space. It was obvious that such situation could not continue forever. Russia is not interested in any conflicts with Europe. Russia and Europe need common security space.

Speaking about the prospects of bilateral relations Giulietto Chiesa noted that Italy had an enormous number of businessmen willing to continue talks with Russia, to cooperate with it. And Putin, being a realistic leader, says that the dialogue with people perceiving the dialogue should be continued.

The videoconference was also attended by Andrei Sidorov, Deputy Chairman of the World Politics Department, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Vera Pavlova, Project Manager at the Italian-Russian Chamber of Commerce, and Germano Dottori, Political Analyst, Fellow of the Strategic Studies Department, LUISS Guido Carli University of Rome.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.