20 October 2015
The European Parliament in Brussels held a meeting dedicated to transatlantic cooperation in the context of the policy of Vladimir Putin. The event was organized by the Security and Defense Subcommittee (SEDE) chair Anna Fotyga and it was attended by Dr. Fiona Hill, one of the leading American experts on the subject of Russia, together with a large group of American diplomats and politicians from Central and Eastern Europe – from Finland to Georgia, including Ambassador of Georgia Natalia Sabanadze, chargé d’affaires of Ukraine to the EU Liubov Nepop and numerous MEPs, including MEP Ryszard Legutko, vice-chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament.
In her speech, Dr Hill presented the diagnosis of Western perception by Russian society. According to Dr Hill, at that time the West wrongly analyzed Russia’s direction.
The expert pointed out how the personality of Putin changed the system in Russia, and particularly the media, which from the beginning were regarded as his personal instrument of power. In this context, the author of Putin’s biography drew attention to the skills the current president of Russia acquired during his fifteen years of service in the KGB, including information management. Ms Hill emphasized Putin’s particular ability to use tools such as manipulation and blackmail. “Putin does not believe that events such as e.g. The Orange Revolution could occur spontaneously. Everything is seen through the prism of conspiracies”, said Dr. Hill.
Anna Fotyga reminded the participants that politicians in Central and Eastern Europe had perceived early signs of Putin’s policies and had informed Western partners about them. The SEDE Chair stressed that Putin was not only struggling to regain influence in Central and Eastern Europe, as evidenced by the events in Georgia and Ukraine, but also in the Middle East, which is proved by the involvement in Syria. “Putin is effectively intimidating the international community with supposed unpredictability and the possibility of use of nuclear weapons”, said Anna Fotyga.
Ambassador of Georgia Natalie Sabanadze stated that the international community had showed no moral condemnation of the crimes committed by the Soviet Union, so with such ease, Putin declared the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century, taking action to restore its sphere of influence from the times of the Soviet Union.
Liubov Nepop, Chargé d’Affaires of Ukraine, pointed out the inadequate response of the West to the annexation of the Crimea. “The war in Georgia in 2008 was the right time for an appropriate response. We did not do this. If we now leave the question of Crimea, we cannot talk about any international rules”, said Nepop. “As long as we remain united, we have a chance. Otherwise, we will wonder who will be next. The Russians do not want the equality in international relations, they want to treat other nations from the position of power”, she added.
Next speaker, Sandra Kalniete, an ex-commissioner and head of the Latvian diplomacy called for greater involvement of the United States in this part of Europe, including Ukraine. Lithuanian MEP Petras Austrevicius pointed out that a new strategy towards Russia was needed. “The whole West – Europe and the United States – now require a joint comprehensive strategy towards Russia. The instruments used in the East, i.e. combating Russian propaganda and opposing the Kremlin’s strategic communications, are important and we see their effects, but equally important – if not more important – are the instruments in the West which will help in changing the way of thinking about Russia, including the European Union countries,” he said. Airis Rikveilis, Latvian diplomat, stressed very strongly the importance of an American military presence in the region.
Urmas Paet, a longtime foreign minister of Estonia, noticed that it is a wrong perception to consider Vladimir Putin as a Western leader. “Putin behaves differently and thinks differently than the Western leaders. He creates problems to become part of the solution”, underlined Paet.
Ryszard Legutko also criticized the approach which is represented by countries like France, Italy or Germany that is based on a dialogue with Russia instead of tough negotiations. “This is partly reasonable, but it puts us in a disadvantageous position”, Mr Legutko said. According to Mr Legutko, the wrong approach towards Russia is also presented by the US, which by definition assumes democratic solutions in the international relationship. “This comes from natural American longing for democracy and democratization. Meanwhile, Russia cannot be compared to any common political models” – summed up Ryszard Legutko.
“Once again, Central and Eastern Europe came forward with a strong, coherent, common message addressed to our most important partner. During the meeting I had an impression that this joint voice was needed, and found a positive response from the American side. I hope it will remain so in the future”, Ms Fotyga said.
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