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Elections in Russia divided Europe

Elections in Russia divided Europe

22.03.2018
Tags: West, Russia, Politics, Elections, Putin, President, Analytics, Europe, USA

The Old World has reacted polarly to the results of the Russian presidential election, which took place on Sunday. Some politicians consider it necessary to try to restore ties with Moscow. Others are no less sure that Russia under Putin has completely turned away from Western liberal values ​​and norms of international law. And finally, the third group, the London Guardian writes, accepted news of Vladimir Putin's victory with undisguised joy.

While the vast majority of non-European countries simply congratulated Vladimir Putin on his reelection as president of the Russian Federation, in many European countries the situation is much more complicated. The contradictions between the European mainstream politicians clearly showed yesterday's talks in Warsaw between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Polish counterpart Mateusz Moravetsky. It's no secret that Poland is considered one of the main critics of Moscow in the European Union, and Angela Merkel, for her part, despite the positive attitude towards anti-Russian sanctions, is the European leader who stands for maintaining working relations with President Putin.

The deputy head of the Polish Foreign Ministry, Konrad Shimansky, once again called upon Germany to stop the construction of the second stage of the 1200-kilometer Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, according to which gas should flow through the Baltic Sea to Germany and Europe. The Germans responded to the appeal of the Polish diplomat with a polite refusal, referring to the fact that private business is an 11-billion project and that the German government has no right to stop it. Assistant Chancellor of the FRG expressed hope that Vladimir Putin will agree with Ukraine, the main reason, according to Berlin, is the existence of anti-Russian sanctions.

The main European diplomat Federica Mogherini, who visited Kiev last week, said at a press conference that the easing of sanctions is impossible. Official Berlin holds about the same position. A spokeswoman for the Chancellor said that Angela Merkel, of course, congratulated the Russian leader on re-election, as required by diplomatic etiquette, but in the congratulation there is a mention of the "challenges" faced by Russian-German relations.

Numerous polls in Germany show that the demand for a new dialogue with Moscow is strongly supported. It is especially strong among supporters of the right party "Alternative for Germany", which for the first time entered the Bundestag.

According to the new Foreign Minister of Germany, Heiko Maas, the results of the election of the Russian president are difficult to call fair. German Foreign Minister also stressed that Russia, most likely, will remain a difficult partner. He regrets that the Crimea, which was joined to Russia four years ago, also participated in the elections, and called the situation "unacceptable".

Even more harsh was the German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. In an interview with Bild, she said that Putin was no longer a partner, but warned against holding red lines.

Appointment to the post of Foreign Minister Maas shows that there is no need to expect changes for the better, at least significant in the relations between the FRG and the Russian Federation from the German side. Predecessor Massa, Sigmar Gabriel, who did not have a place in the new German government, repeatedly called for the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions. He believes that the EU should accept Moscow's proposal to introduce peacekeepers to Ukraine despite all the complexities and uncertainty of this process.

"We must take the next position," Gabriel said. "We are not naive, but we are not afraid to offer our partner (Russia) a new dialogue ... The voice of Germany must always be the voice of reason."

The same ambivalent attitude towards Russia and the presidential elections and in the second European economy. French President Emmanuel Macron, after his election last May, invited Vladimir Putin to meet at Versailles, which caused confusion among European Russophobes. However, over the past months, the attitude towards Moscow Macron has changed for the worse, mainly because of Syria. The French leader accuses Bashar Assad of using chemical weapons, and Russia - in indulging in Damascus. However, despite threats to the Syrian government, he does not take practical steps to "punish" Damascus, which causes sharp criticism of his predecessor - Francois Hollande.

In Russian-French relations, as well as in the relations between Berlin and Moscow, a significant role is played by business and trade. Emmanuel Macron should arrive in May at a major international economic forum in St. Petersburg headed by a large delegation of French businessmen and meet with Vladimir Putin in Moscow. In France, especially among the right-wing intellectuals, there has been a tradition that Russia deserves more respect and that, with respect for itself, it will be necessary to behave respectfully also.

However, the biggest changes in Europe's policy towards Russia can occur in Italy, where the populist movement "Five Stars" and the right-wing "League of the North" won great success in the March elections. Despite all the dissimilar views, these parties unite a positive attitude toward Moscow. Moreover, the League is even in a formal alliance with United Russia, and its leader Matteo Salvini was photographed on Red Square in a shirt with a portrait of President Putin. "Five stars" supported Russia's interference in the conflict in Syria. Populists oppose NATO and accuse this organization of aggravating the situation in Ukraine and in the Maidan, which led to the displacement of Viktor Yanukovych. "Five stars" as well as the League, calls for the lifting of sanctions against Moscow.

Sergey Manukov
Expert Online
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