The new European Commission (EC) will take its office on November 1st, 2019 with President-Elect Ursula von der Leyen.
The Washington and NATO-funded think tank – the Atlantic Council took it to heart to educate the “new” politicians of one of the supposed global superpowers on how to deal with Russia, among other things.
On September 18th, the NATO mouthpiece released a memo named “A transatlantic agenda for the new European Commission,” which contains suggestions and proposals by various Atlantic Council experts, which provide insight into how the new EC needs to tackle economy, the digital field, defense, AI and foreign policy. [pdf]
The part on foreign policy in regard to Russia focuses on how to impede the construction of Nord Stream 2, fight against “misinformation” and help Ukraine resist “Russian aggression”. The Atlantic Council cites the behavior of the Polish authorities as an example of exemplary engagement with Moscow. Former Ambassador to Poland Daniel Fried presents a picture according to which Washington is trying to lobby its own interests in Europe, regardless of the needs of its European allies.
Fried said that the EU had so far done a “credible” job countering “Putin’s Russia,” but of course more could be done, since Russia was a formidable foe in its “current form.”
“The Putin regime in its late phase presents a toxic combination of aggression—including armed attacks against Ukraine, the use of nerve gas to attempt assassination in the UK, and disinformation campaigns against many EU Member States—and a stagnant authoritarian kleptocracy at home, which leans on repression to maintain itself.”
Russia can be countered in the following ways:
- Full implementation of the Minsk agreements (to resolve Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine);
- Closer ties with Russia’s former Soviet neighbors (meaning no recognition of a Russian sphere of domination).
HINT: This is specifically a show of complete denial, refusing to recognize that Russia even has a sphere of influence is simply absurd.
- Strengthening EU resilience to Russian threats;
- Selective engagement with Russia on certain issues, such as counterterrorism;
HINT: This is realistic, since it is apparent that the “heavy-lifting” in fighting terrorism, in specifically Syria was done by the Russian forces and the Syrian Arab Army.
- Support for people-to-people contact.
Fried also said that the EU needs to do this, since under the Trump administration that wouldn’t happen from the side of the US.
“If the professionals in the Trump administration were able to publicly articulate their own approach to Putin’s Russia, it would probably be similar.”
Regarding Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky is named as a person who is there to remove corruption and take Ukraine out of the control of oligarchs, despite quite obviously being under Igor Kolomoisky – an oligarch.
Furthermore, the French and Germans need to support Zelensky if he were to make the right decisions, especially in the Normandy Format. Russia should be subject to more sanctions if they don’t “act in good faith.”
That appears unlikely, since the only side of the Normandy Four that acts in ill faith is Ukraine itself.
“Supporting Ukraine should be a joint EU-US project. A Ukraine developing along the successful lines of the post-communist Central Europeans and Baltics a generation ago would mark a huge success for Ukraine and the transatlantic community, and a blow against Putinism.”
The Nord Stream 2 is then mentioned, as an “open sore” between Germany and the Baltics, in addition to Ukraine.
“It is bad policy—increasing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and helping Putin split Europe between energy-satisfied and energy-vulnerable EU Member States—and, therefore, politically corrosive for the EU.”
The new EC may prove more capable of adopting a decision to impede the project. If it is incapable of completely shutting it down, it should get Germany to at least assist in pressuring Russia.
“If the Commission cannot convince Germany to abandon the project, it should push for Germany to help intensify current efforts to mitigate the downside risks for Central Europeans whom Nord Stream could damage, e.g., by supporting even more investment in liquefied-natural-gas (LNG) facilities and pipeline projects to reduce the consequences of dependence on Russian gas”
In terms of disinformation, Daniel Fried claimed that the EU was much further ahead than the US in terms of a campaign to counter disinformation from Russia, but the new EC needed to actually implement it effectively. The idea is to further censor social media, among other things.
The EU is well ahead of the United States in framing a counter-disinformation strategy (through its Action Plan and Code of Practice) negotiated with leading social media companies. The new Commission now needs to implement it, which may lead to establishing a new regulatory framework for social media, intended to strengthen integrity and transparency (rather than focusing purely on content).
Finally, the mentioned people-to-people ties include all efforts by the EU and US to reach out to Russian society and attempt to stir things up.
“Recent demonstrations in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia suggest that the Putinist social contract of political authoritarianism in exchange for rising living standards may be fraying—or worse. The problem is likely to get worse; absent another spike on oil and gas prices, the Putinist model of a leader-run kleptocracy with massive expatriation of wealth can-not deliver sustained economic growth. Reaching out to Russian society is not a euphemism for seeking “regime change.” Rather, it is a recognition that Russian society may come to determine Russia’s future, and that Europe and the United States have an interest in investing in that society.”
He underlines that this doesn’t mean “regime change,” but rather if Russian society would like to do so, the US and EU should assist it in doing so.
In closing, Fried said that military balance should be sought after, and that Russia may have interest in arms control, citing alleged difficulties in designing “exotic (and destabilizing) missiles.”
Of course, any such talks would require a US-lead, but “ought to be the subject of US-European consultations.”
“A more propitious time for reaching out to the Russian government may come when Russian authorities realize that their current course of principled confrontation with the West and “permanent stagnation” at home has failed.”
Not much new is said in the memo, and it is unlikely that anything would result from it, since it essentially presents a European Commission that is often described as a mouthpiece of the US and is specifically working as its subordinate.
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