Europe Turns Towards Russia in Major Foreign Policy Change
Peter KORZUN | 01.12.2016 | WORLD

Europe Turns Towards Russia in Major Foreign Policy Change

Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, believes that Europe does not need to depend on US foreign policy regarding its relationship with Russia.

In his interview with Euronews, the EU Commission President said that he «would like to have an agreement with Russia that goes beyond the ordinary framework, bearing in mind that without Russia, there is no security architecture in Europe». Mr. Juncker noted that «Russia must be treated as one big entity, as a proud nation». The president emphasized that he «would like to have discussions on a level footing with Russia». He thinks that President Obama was wrong saying that Russia was only «a regional power».

There are reasons to make Mr. Juncker make such a statement at this particular moment.

With Donald Trump in office, the US European policy on is expected to go through drastic changes and a period of uncertainty will last in Washington at least until January 20.

This is also the time the so-called «pro-Russian» politicians gaining more clout in the Old Continent. Actually, they are not exactly pro-Moscow but rather pro-national, putting national interests at the top spots of their priority lists. For them, the interests of their countries are more important than the priorities of the US or the EU. They believe that normalizing the relations with Moscow is what meets the national interests to make it part of foreign policy plans.

Two weeks ago, such leaders came to power in Bulgaria and Moldova. The EU’s image has been damaged in both countries, where the public perceives economic progress as too slow and sees a failure to tackle corruption by nominally pro-EU leaders.

François Fillon - a politician advocating rapprochement between Russia and the EU - won the center-right nomination for French presidency on November 27. His victory means that two «pro-Russia» candidates - François Fillon and Marine Le Pen – will probably face each other off at the presidential election in April 2017.

A presidential election will take place in Austria on December 4. Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party has a good chance to win. According to what he has said during the election campaign, Mr. Hofer will consider pulling out of the EU and visit Moscow, if elected president. He promised «to show my strong commitment to the withdrawal of sanctions against Russia because I am firmly convinced that sanctions hinder communication».

If the Italian referendum on December 4 says «no» to the major government overhaul plans, then a snap election will become a possibility to benefit the Italy's Northern League party, which advocates the improvement of relations with Russia. Its leader, Matteo Salvini, has visited Moscow and Crimea a number of times and called for lifting the EU-imposed sanctions.

Some signs to confirm the trend of changing EU’s policy on Russia are largely kept out headlines. In late October, the EU lifted a cap on Gazprom's use of the Opal pipeline in Germany, opening the way for Russia to expand Nord Stream's capacity and bypass Ukraine as a gas transit route. The Nord Stream-2 has been recently supported by London. German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel is an outspoken advocate of the project.

It has been reported recently that large Western companies, like IKEA, Leroy Merlin, Mars, Pfizer, have started to reinvest in Russia. They are pumping billions of dollars into Russian economy expecting the consumer demand in the country to grow.

There are calls to address European security concerns. A large group of European leaders has recently called for launching a dialogue with Moscow on a new arms control treaty within the framework of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). There is also a group of EU members who have started to openly challenge the anti-Russia sanctions policy.

There are NATO members who express their will to develop military cooperation with Russia. Turkey - a NATO member - has stated it mulls turning towards the Shanghai Cooperation Organization led by Russia and China, instead of trying to join the EU «at all costs».

All these events testify to the fact that NATO and the EU have started a turn towards Moscow. The cooling period of Russia-West relations is becoming a thing of the past giving way to more pragmatic approaches. Mr. Juncker stated the obvious fact – the rapprochement between Russia and Europe is one of the trends shaping the contemporary political landscape in Europe.

Meanwhile, the idea to recognize Russia as a global power and make it part of the global US-Russia-China equation is floated among US foreign policy pundits. In his recent MSNBC’s «Morning Joe» comments, Zbigniew Brzezinski, a well-known foreign policy guru, said, «America is needed to pull together some larger coalition that can deal with global problems. And in that larger coalition America, China and changing Russia could be preeminent». Actually, what Mr. Brzezinski suggests makes remember the Yalta Conference held in February, 1945.

Indeed, the «big three» format talks is the right place to address global issues: trade, finances and global security architecture. Will Mr. Trump listen to what foreign policy pundits say? Anyway, the pivot to Russia is becoming a global trend.

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