The self-fulfilling prophecy of a “dialogue with Russia”

The story of a “dialogue with Russia” has always been popular in Europe. It has been particularly popular since 2014, when relations between Russia and the West began to deteriorate significantly due to Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian Crimea and a further invasion of eastern Ukraine. Ukraine.

The story of “dialogue” is presented as the manifestation of a pragmatic and realistic approach to international relations. It is always presented in a positive light, as the antithesis of the confrontation between Russia and the West. And, from a psychological and emotional point of view, isn’t dialogue better than antagonism?

Indeed, peace and cooperation are preferable to conflicts and quarrels. European nations – who for centuries have soaked European soil in the blood of others and invaded, plundered and oppressed their neighbors – perhaps know this best. This is why the European civil war ended up giving way to European unity and the emergence of Western defense organizations.

Many European politicians, while insisting on the need for a dialogue with Russia, recognize that this is not easy. Speaking to an Austrian radio station in May, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg admitted that relations between the EU and Russia were “certainly strained and overshadowed”, but said the EU wanted “channels for dialogue” while maintaining that Russia was not interested in it.

Putin’s Russia is not simply indifferent to dialogue with Europe. The Kremlin believes that the EU does not deserve dialogue with Russia.

The only country with which Moscow really wants to dialogue is Washington. The Putin regime defines its place in the world by rejecting American world leadership and, simultaneously, by emulating what it considers to be American behavior on the international stage. Russia’s own subversive, but often erratic, behavior on the world stage can, to some extent, be seen as a continuing eye-catcher aimed at forcing Washington to ask Moscow for cooperation.

The most recent example is the unprecedented massive spring constitution of russian troops along the Ukrainian border – an accumulation that ended after US President Joe Biden proposed a meeting with Putin.

With the acceleration of global competition between Washington and Beijing, Moscow understands that its chances of being accepted as a pole of equality in a multipolar world depend on Washington’s willingness to engage in dialogue with Moscow.

The EU, however, seen from behind the Kremlin parapets, is not a global player. Putin’s Russia does not define itself in relation to the EU. It is seen as weak, indecisive, and on the verge of collapse – a development Moscow is happily trying to push forward by supporting anti-EU parties.

Putin looks at Europe with disdain. Western Europe is a commercial center that claims to have values ​​and yet readily betrays them when duly paid. The post-socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe are spineless vassals who exchanged Soviet masters for Western masters.

If we see Europe in this way, what is the point of dialoguing with it? It makes more sense to talk to the puppeteer, i.e. the United States, rather than the puppets who have no ambition for world leadership. Or you can just buy influence.

Few are unaware that the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder job for Russian energy companies – perhaps Moscow’s most successful acquisition to date – but Alexander Schallenberg’s own country of Austria is arguably Europe’s main supplier of former officials for commercial projects and Moscow policies.

Former Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel (2000-2007) has been a member of the board of directors of the energy company Lukoil since 2019. Former Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer (2007-2008) is a member of the supervisory board of the Russian organization “Dialogue of civilizations ”founded by former KGB officer and former CEO of“ Russian Railways ”Vladimir Yakunin to advance Russian foreign policy interests in Europe. Former Finance Minister Hans Jörg Schelling (2014-2017) has been adviser to the controversial Nord Stream 2 project since 2018. Former Chancellor Christian Kern (2016-2017) has been a member of the board of directors of “Russian Railways” since 2019 .

In addition to buying networks and influence from former ministers, the Kremlin is also investing in communicating the kind of behavior of European politicians that Moscow will reward.

This is the case of former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl. Before joining the federal government at the end of 2017, Kneissl was a lecturer and the ministerial post was her first political job. By the time the government collapsed after two and a half years in power, Kneissl had acquired no political influence and no political network. Yet she used to make pro-Kremlin statements while still a minister and, after her resignation, posted editorials on the website of the Russian state-controlled RT television channel.

This spring she was appointed an independent director on the board of the Russian oil company Rosneft. With an annual salary of $ 500,000 for the independent director position, the Kremlin sends a message: you abide by our rules, and we will even reward those of you who have neither network nor influence.

With Europe, it is negotiation on the price of someone’s influence and contacts rather than political dialogue that Moscow sees as the most effective means of communication. In addition, the Kremlin considers the very expression by European politicians or officials of the idea of ​​a need for dialogue with Russia as a sign of weakness, as a signal of willingness to sell, whatever the real intentions. behind this idea. In this sense, the narrative of “dialogue with Russia” turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A self-fulfilling archetypal prophecy spreads rumors of the inevitable bankruptcy of a particular bank. The masses believe the rumors, lose faith in the bank and withdraw their assets from it, which leads to the bankruptcy of the bank.

The opposite of this is the myth of “dialogue with Russia”, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When Europeans articulate it, the Kremlin reinforces its conviction that Europe does not deserve dialogue.

It is important to speak in the Kremlin and communicate with the Russian leadership. But it is the application of dialogue, rather than the expression of the need for dialogue, that is likely to work.

The Czech Republic, which recently excluded more than a dozen Russian diplomats after accusing Russian agents of being behind the explosion of an ammunition depot in a Czech village of Vrbětice in 2014, is a good example of how to resist intimidation can force Russia to engage in dialogue with even a small European nation.

The opinions expressed in opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the position of the Moscow Times.

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