The endless debate about EU-Russia relations

By Nina Bachkatov

With the European Council of 25-26 March in sight, reports and proposals about Russia-EU relations have been piling up, creating the impression that something new were brewing. In fact, most of those texts attest that, despite ups and downs, the fundamentals of those relations did not change much during the two last decades: both ‘partners’ still need to adjust to each other, without wishful thinking or bitterness, and doing so open their mind to really new formula. At the light of past crisis all pretty predictable. Continue reading “The endless debate about EU-Russia relations”

Sanctions, actions, counter actions

By Nina Bachkatov

Unsurprisingly, the EU ministers of foreign affairs meeting on 22 February have given the green light for freezing the assets and banning entry of four officials of the Russian police and justice they consider responsible for the “unacceptable treatment” of Alexei Navalny. In October, the EU had sanctioned 6 individuals and one entity for their alleged participation in the poisoning of the opponent. And each 6 months since 2014, it has been prolonging sanctions taken to punish Russia for its Ukrainian adventures. Continue reading “Sanctions, actions, counter actions”

A bumpy road for EU-Russia relations

By Nina Bachkatov

The 5-6 February meeting, in Moscow, between Josep Borrell, the EU Commission Hight representative and Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, has opened an unparallel crisis in the rocky relation between Moscow and Brussels. Ups and downs have been part of that relation since the end of the Cold War. But, even at the most difficult moments, the partners would never have indulged in the stream of emotion that followed this extravagant meeting. The deluge of sharp, undiplomatic, declarations reduce the chances to step into a normalisation process in the short time. It would involve a capacity, and a will, to take the risk of being confronted with charges of being sold to the other, or of accepting a humiliating defeat. Continue reading “A bumpy road for EU-Russia relations”

Fights and counterattacks in Russia

By Nina Bachkatov

The film of Alexei Navalny about Putin’s Palace had an unexpected bonus – the shares of Abrau-Durso jumped 10% on the Moscow Stock exchange after president Putin mentioned his interests for winemaking. They lost 3% the day after. This would be anectodical in another country, including the West where the choice of a coat by the wife of the president can make, or kill, the career of a couturier. But, in Russia, at this particular moment, it shows the extreme personalisation of power – and counterpower. Continue reading “Fights and counterattacks in Russia”

Russian diplomacy and the lessons of 2020

By Nina Bachkatov

Recent international events have offered Russian diplomacy a source of inspiration it might have lacked otherwise. While the Kremlin was pretty much in a reactive drive, not without success as demonstrated in South Caucasus, it found in those events a new impulse towards its decades-old objective – to force the international community to recognise that Russia is not only back, but back as a global actor. Continue reading “Russian diplomacy and the lessons of 2020”

Obama’s message to Russia

By Nina Bachkatov

The book of former American president Obama, “A promised land” is a publisher’s dream, selling millions of copies through the world, at a moment when the foreign policy of his former vice-president, now elected president Biden, is everyone guess. Notably about Washington’s future relation with Moscow. Continue reading “Obama’s message to Russia”

Belarus – Armenia dilemnas

By Nina Bachkatov

With all eyes on Belarus, the latest eruption of violence in the Caucasus came as a shock. But, in fact, both crises were highly predictable due to internal and geopolitical complexities. At least they sent a strong signal to the West about the importance of geography and history over ideology. They highlight the danger of reducing the world affairs to a simplistic opposition between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces. Continue reading “Belarus – Armenia dilemnas”

A very Russian referendum

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

On 3 July 2020, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed the decree allowing the publication of the new Constitution including modifications approved by the popular referendum. The vote had lasted a week, ending with what the Kremlin called a huge victory: 77,92% of voters approved those modifications. Vladimir Putin concluded “Russian citizens made their choice”. The peculiarity of this referendum is that it was not needed. Already in March, Parliament has voted all the surprise constitutional amendments proposed by the president in January. Continue reading “A very Russian referendum”

Different dates, same politic

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

If Vladimir Putin wanted to vindicate those who accuse him of hijacking the celebrations of 9 May for political and personal reasons, he could hardly have done better than announcing two successive postponements. The main motive was of course the coronavirus epidemy, still out of control in early May. Putin decided wisely to cancel an event dragging millions of people through the country’s streets. The event was replaced by a low-key ceremony on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, under the walls of the Kremlin, where Putin bowed his head in respect to the 28 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives during WWII. Instead of a military parade on Red Square, jets and helicopters flew over Moscow. Continue reading “Different dates, same politic”

Putin and coronavirus face to face

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

The attack of a virus coming from China exposed that Russians are not the different species that some Western media like to picture them. Faced with the epidemic, Russians reacted the same way that others. First with indifference “much ado about nothing” and cockiness “we need more to be alarmed”. Then, when it circled closer and closer, a majority of Russians concluded that the authorities were just lying and rush to social medias to stuff themselves with conspiration theories and extravagant recipes to fight the infection. Continue reading “Putin and coronavirus face to face”