2 June, 2018 by Frank Sellers
With America’s increasing unreliability and erratic behaviour both as it relates to international accords and relationships with its allies and partners, especially as regards trade, some within the EU have been looking to better relations with Russia, often considered a villain by the West.
With the advent of the Trump administration, Washington has withdrawn from multiple multilateral agreements, conducted extremely controversial maneuvers and not only threatened but actually applied trade sanctions and tariffs against its partners and allies.
The withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord threatened secondary sanctions on anyone who maintained their commitment to the international accord by keeping up their end in maintaining commercial ties with Iran, also making a diplomatic splash as it is another chipping away at multilateralism and presents very real threats from nations who are considered allies and trade partners.
European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker has said it’s time for the EU to reconnect with Russia and stop “bashing” it, in surprising contrast to those in the West who have been piling blame and sanctions on Moscow.
Juncker spoke to an audience at a Brussels think tank event on EU reform. Though his statement had a few catches, the overall message was conciliatory.
“So we have to come back to, I wouldn’t say normal relations with Russia, but there are so many areas, so many domains, where we can cooperate in a better way with research and innovation and others. Not forgetting what our differences and divergences are. But this Russia-bashing has to be brought to an end,” he said.
Juncker’s call was not entirely conciliatory, though. He said the EU would never accept “what Russia did” to Ukraine and Crimea, referring to the violent 2014 coup in Kiev that brought the current Ukrainian government to power, and the subsequent referendum held in Crimea, which resulted in over 90 percent support for reunification with Russia.
One of the chief arguments for better relations is Russia’s sheer size. “We have to have in mind that the entire territory of the European Union is about 5.5m sq km. Russia [is] 70.5m,” Juncker said.
Yet, Russia’s size (which is actually a comparatively modest 17.1m sq km) didn’t stop the EU and its allies from jeopardizing diplomacy with a mass expulsion of Russian diplomats two months ago. A total of over 100 were sent back to Russia from more than a dozen countries, accused of being spies in disguise.
The expulsion was initiated by the UK in its ongoing push to blame the March poisoning of former Russian-British double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter on Moscow. The UK itself led the way with 23 expulsions, but the US outdid everyone with 60. Most others limited the expulsions to one to four diplomats. Russia mirrored the act with an equal number of expulsions….
Following Trump’s scrapping of the Iran deal, Juncker has also declared that the US is thereby losing its global influence, and needs to be replaced. At least Russia has shown that it stands by its word, at least most of the time, whereas America is demonstrating that it doesn’t care what international law or trade rules say. America does what it wants, whether it is beneficial for global prospects or not.