Obediently continuing to follow America’s lead, the European Union is stepping up pressure on non-EU member countries to force them to join anti-Russian sanctions. As leverage, they are using their plans, expectations and misconceptions of European integration.
Russia’s ban on the import of various EU food products into Russia has alarmed Brussels. EU leaders have seen it not so much in terms of specific losses – although these total around €12 billion – as a real threat of losing positions in the Russian market. After all, the ‘sanctions war’ will end sooner or later, and countries in Latin America, Southeast Asia, the CIS and Southeast Europe that traditionally have close ties with Russia will have taken the place of EU exporters.
It is unsurprising that the European Union has hurried to force events, although not to reduce tensions in their own relations with Moscow, but to create new dividing lines and ‘trade fronts’. In fact, ultimatums to join anti-Russian sanctions have been issued to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova and other countries intending to join the European Union. Without committing itself to any additional obligations regarding the acceptance of these countries into the EU or even to cover the inevitable financial losses, the European Union has told them they need to freeze any further development of trade and economic relations with Moscow. EU officials are particularly outraged at the process of state subsidies on deliveries to Russia. It was the rejection of such subsidies that European Commission spokesperson Peter Stano hurriedly referred to as «a constructive approach» to the problem .
To the credit of the above-mentioned countries, Brussels’ ultimatum has been met with adequate evaluation. It stands to reason that it would be difficult to expect the Serbs or Moldovans to categorically refuse considering the EU’s demands. However, their government officials have stated that they intend to further develop relations with Russia. «Europe has called for us not to provide subsidies, but we had no plans to. There is no need,» stressed Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandr Vucic . According to Vucic, «Russia’s retail giants have an obvious need for food produce, and our manufacturers can export everything they have.» Prime Minister Vucic pointed out that it is Serbia’s strategic goal to become a member of the European Union, but that, at the same time, Belgrade «must preserve good, friendly relations with Russia» , while Serbian Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic has been even more explicit, calling for the abolishment of anti-Russian sanctions .
Republika Srpska, which is part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has adopted a similar position. Its prime minister, Zeljka Cvijanovic, has referred to the EU’s appeal to third countries, and particularly to the candidate countries for EU accession, to refrain from any measures aimed at promoting exports to Russia as «hypocritical». «It is rather hypocritical to ask candidate countries that are unsure whether they will even become members of the EU in the next 20 years or not to refrain from anything that may improve their economic conditions,» said Cvijanovic. The Prime Minister of Republika Srpska believes that the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina should «seize every opportunity to export its products to Russia and to other markets».
Moldova is also categorically opposed to conversing with Russia in the language of sanctions and ultimatums, despite all its pro-Western sentiments. Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca has stated that a number of local politicians are calling for the government in Kishinev to join anti-Russian sanctions, although the cabinet’s position is fundamentally different: «The government is not considering the issue.» «I am responsible for the work of the cabinet and can say that we believe we need to continue a dialogue and cooperation with Russia», Leanca stressed .
It is unsurprising that opposition to Brussels’ suicidal anti-Russian policy is growing within the ranks of the European Union itself. A staunch supporter of developing trade and economic ties with Moscow is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. In a recent speech to the Hungarian diplomatic corps, he stated that in order to improve relations with Russia, he will seek support from other EU member countries. He also warned the diplomats against a further cooling of relations with Moscow: «Russia’s response to the EU is growing every day. It is bad, not just for Hungary, but for the whole of the European Union. We need to find partners among the EU member countries who are interested in weakening the impact of this undesirable process of separation» . In this regard, the Hungarian prime minister acknowledged the negative impact of separating the countries of Central and Eastern Europe on the issue of developing relations with Russia. According to Viktor Orban, Poland and the Baltic states are predominantly considering the Russian question in terms of security, while Hungary sees Russia as a business partner and regards other aspects of the current situation as secondary. How Serbia sees Russia will shortly become clear.