Ladies and gentlemen,
Now that international relations have entered a period of radical change, which has overturned the thesis about “the end of history,” we should remember what happened in the relatively recent past. As Russian historian Vasily Klyuchevsky said, “History (…) punishes us for not learning its lessons.”
Eighty years ago, in 1938, an agreement on the division of Czechoslovakia was signed in Munich, which led to the Second World War.
The tragedy of the Munich Agreement highlighted the main pressure points of that period, including belief in one’s exceptionalism, disunity and mutual suspicion, reliance on sanitary cordons and buffer zones, as well as open interference in the internal affairs of other countries. This memory is especially alarming when superimposed on modern realities, the underhanded attempts to distort the truth about World War II and the events preceding it, as well as the rehabilitation of Nazis and their accomplices. Some EU countries have laws equating Nazis and their accomplices with those who liberated Europe and allow the demolition of monuments to those who defeated Nazism.
The experience of WWII and the subsequent polarisation of Europe during the age of bipolar confrontation should have shown European nations that there is no alternative to building a common European home where people will not be divided into “us” and “them.” The very integration project of the European Union is rooted in a desire of the founding fathers to prevent the revival of the logic of confrontation, which was the reason behind many disasters on the continent.
For many years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, in which Russia played a crucial role, we did our best to build a system of equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic region. We dramatically decreased our military capability on our western borders. We advocated the strengthening of common European institutions, primarily the OSCE, and the coordination of an international framework of treaties on European security.
Regrettably, our calls for an equal dialogue and for realising the principle of indivisible security fell on deaf ears.
Contrary to the promises made to us in the 1990s, as documents from the US National Archives have recently confirmed again, NATO continues its eastward expansion. NATO troops and military infrastructure are accumulating on our borders. The European theatre of war is being systematically developed. The implementation of US missile defence plans in Europe is undermining strategic stability. Purposeful propaganda campaigns are underway to engender hostility against Russia among the European public. It has nearly become politically correct in the establishment of many countries to say either bad things or nothing about Russia.
When people in the West speak about Russia’s growing influence, they mostly do so in a negative way. The authors of a report for this conference encountered this as well. I would like to remind you that when Russia was weakened and facing historical trials, our partners said that they wanted Russia to be strong and that any actions by Russia’s neighbours outside the region and other countries are not directed against our interests. We have been given promises regarding the EU Eastern Partnership project. We hope they will be fulfilled and that Brussels will cut short any attempts to transform this project into a Russophobic narrative. Looking at the situation in Europe from the perspective of a zero-sum game can have extremely dangerous consequences.
One such consequence is the internal conflict raging in Ukraine, which was forced to choose between the West and Russia during the preparation of the Association Agreement. It is highly regrettable that the EU, which subsequently agreed to act as guarantor for the February 21, 2014 agreement between the Ukrainian Government and the opposition, proved unable to ensure its implementation and actually supported the anti-constitutional coup. And now Ukraine, a country with huge potential and talented people, has been reduced to a situation where it cannot govern itself. Russia has a greater interest in the settlement of the internal Ukrainian crisis than anyone else. We have the legal framework for this – the Minsk Package of Measures, which was drafted by Russia, Germany, Ukraine and France with Donetsk and Lugansk and approved by the UN Security Council. This agreement must be implemented strictly and in full. However, Kiev is openly sabotaging this in the Contact Group and within the framework of the Normandy format. Moreover, Kiev officials are talking about a military scenario. I am sure that the EU is aware of the dangers of this U-turn.
Regrettably, fresh attempts are being made to force the countries that border Russia and the EU, be they in the CIS or the Balkans, to choose between the West and the East. The German newspaper Die Welt has recently published an item titled “The EU or Putin: Who Gets the Western Balkans?” [EU oder Putin – wer bekommt den Westbalkan]. And this is far from the only example of public indoctrination in keeping with the “us or them” philosophy.
The renunciation of collective Russia-EU cooperation mechanisms, such as summit meetings, the Permanent Partnership Council and industry dialogues, and reliance on pressure have not made Europe a safer place. On the contrary, the conflict potential has grown visibly, and the number of problems and crises is growing in Europe and around it.
The developments in the Middle East and North Africa have shown that the policy of replacing undesirable governments across the ocean and forcing alien development models on other countries not just creates chaos in vast areas but also strikes back with very real problems imported to Europe, primarily a spike in international terrorism, tidal waves of illegal migration and all other related problems.
All this must be taken into account to understand the genesis of the current relations between Russia and the European Union. The Russian authorities invested hard work and political capital in developing mutually beneficial relations between Russia and the EU. But the goal of a truly strategic partnership and a reliable and stable system of relations, which would enhance the joint competitiveness of Russia and the EU, has not been attained. But for this we are not to blame.
To be continued…