#act power thursdays: Putin’s Russia slanders the EU, fails at producing similar union

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The EU – Part of the hydra of Russia’s enemies imposing sanctions after its military annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Eastern Ukraine: 2014 art work glorifying the exploits of Vladimir Putin

It is Thursday, and we are pouring over Russia practicing statecraft in a networked, hyper-competitive world. Today, I shall for once not discuss an outstanding success, but a semi-failure: Russia’s antagonistic relationship with the European Union, and its inability to foster Russian-sponsored regional integration as a counter-model.

As Viktor Jerofejew, Russian author and TV moderator points out in a recent article published in Deutsche Welle, contemporary Russia is in a bind when it comes to Europe: It needs its money and its products, but it flat-out refuses to buy into the values that tie European countries together – democracy, respect for human rights, goodneighbourly relations, as well as economic competition and cooperation. The result is a strange mix of jingoistic slandering of the EU, while trying to benefit of everything Europe has to offer – trade, investment, and, for the wealthy, the pleasures of going for a visit. Sadly, the lure of the Russian market, as well as the narrative of a certain Russian cultural exceptionalism seem to play quite well in some European circles.

Mocking Europe as “Gayropa”, a decaying continent riddled with social
and economic problems pays at home, and seems to have some success as
a destabilisation technique abroad. Russian governing elites adroitly join forces with those segments of Russian society that range from nationalists, to Stalinists, to fascists who believe in Russian exceptionalism and Orthodox Slavophile surpremacy.

But Russia’s success at discrediting the EU is not matched by a similar success in the area of regional integration. As Sijbren de Jong writes in the EU Observer, the fledgling Eurasian Economic Union, meant to counter the economic and soft power clout of the European Union is in the doldrums. Its members mostly participate for lack of choice, as Russia “made them an offer they could not refuse”. All seem to secretly eye more alluring alternatives, either ties with an economically dynamic China, or with a prosperous European Union.

“Unless Russia’s leadership learns to understand that regional
integration can only succeed on the basis of ties that bind, rather than
creating binds that tie, the future of the EEU already looks doomed
barely two years after it first saw the light.”

Do not hold your breath.

Johanna M

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