European Union leaders will consider whether to seek a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday (June 24) as part of a new strategy for managing relations with Moscow, which the European Union says is in a “negative spiral”.
Special envoys from France and Germany proposed on Wednesday that following the summit between US President Joe Biden and Putin in Geneva, holding a summit with Putin is a possible way to repair relations between close trading partners.
The two opposing parties on issues such as Ukraine and Belarus, as well as differences on human rights issues, the EU and Russia accused each other of interfering in elections, providing false information and threatening security and stability from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
“We cannot isolate Russia because Russia is a reality that none of us can escape,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba told Reuters before visiting Brussels, although he would not attend the summit.
“We need to inspire Moscow to stop its aggressive actions,” he said, adding that he supports the EU’s efforts to propose new methods.
Since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014 and the EU’s freeze on the summit with Putin, EU policy has been wobbly between imposing economic sanctions and allowing the completion of a new natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
However, despite the ceasefire and peace agreement reached, efforts to resolve the conflict with the separatists supported by Russia in eastern Ukraine have reached a deadlock.
As a sign of tension, Russia said this week that it fired warnings and dropped bombs on a British destroyer sailing in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea. Although the United Kingdom is no longer a member of the European Union, it denies this.
At the two-day summit in Brussels, the COVID-19 pandemic and relations with Turkey will also be considered. Leaders hope to build on the Russian strategy document of the European Commission and the European Union’s foreign affairs department earlier this month.
It warned that there would be a “negative spiral” and “further decline” in the relationship. Now, it is expected that EU leaders will build on this document and enrich their call for Russia to take covert actions and cooperate with Moscow to tackle climate change.
This paper, which some people consider to be too confrontational, puts forward a mantra, which is “return, restrain, and participate.”
A senior EU diplomat in support of the EU strategy said: “The confrontation of ideas comes from understanding,” although the envoy doubted the sudden improvement in trust.
Analysts said that Biden’s visit to the European Union signified that the United States hopes that his European allies will deal with Russia’s challenges alone and provide Washington with more resources to respond to China’s growing self-confidence.
French President Emmanuel Macron (Emmanuel Macron) tried to seek a cold relationship with Putin in September 2019, but failed. Some EU diplomats said that before any summits with Russian leaders, relations should improve.
The last EU summit with Putin was held in Brussels in January 2014. Since then, France and Germany have held summits with Putin to discuss the issue of eastern Ukraine in the so-called Normandy format. The last summit was held in Paris in December 2019.
The potential of new flashpoints abounds. The EU will announce details of its economic sanctions on Belarus on Thursday or Friday. Belarus is an ally of Russia and the Kremlin regards it as a buffer state between Russia and NATO.
So far, Western pressure on Belarus has been beneficial to Russia because Lukashenko has accepted an extraordinary settlement with Putin in recent months.