“The Brussels Diary With Yana Toom”: Relationship Between Europe And Russia Is Becoming More Complicated


The relationship between Europe and Russia is becoming more complicated by the day. Everything is entwined into one skein: Ukraine, Navalny, US sanctions, Nord Stream 2, Sputnik V, and the same Russian nationals involved in both the Salisbury poisonings and the explosion in Czechia. It is impossible to predict what will affect what.

For instance, Germany announced the start of negotiations on the Sputnik vaccine, but the “devil” is in the details, which, if it shows up, would nip negotiations in the bud. This is that the recent US blacklist includes the 48th Central Scientific Research Institute of the Russian Ministry of Defence, which, according to the US, was involved in the development of a Novichok agent. The same 48th CSRI, together with the Gamaleya Centere, developed the Sputnik vaccine. Any purchase of Sputnik by an EU country may lead to severe US sanctions against that country.

In all fairness, as a Washington official told the EU Observer, America will not stoop to this, as it does not strike humanitarian targets. Stabbing Europe in the back amid the pandemic would really be vile. It is good that the Biden administration understands this.

Or let us take the explosion at an ammunition depot in Czechia. I am far from thinking that all these are evidence-free accusations; I am not permitted access to Czech state secrets to judge for myself whether the “sweet couple”, Boshirov and Petrov, were involved in the explosion, as I can only use the media. But this sensation from seven years ago has economic consequences: the Czechs have excluded Russia from competition for the construction of the Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant, which is a very lucrative contract worth 6 billion euros.

Formally, the decision has not yet been made as the Czech Deputy Prime Minister said Russia would be banned if Moscow’s involvement in the explosion were confirmed. That is, the Czechs are not one hundred percent sure. But the diplomats have been expelled, and the press is simmering. And something tells me Russia can give up on participation in the tender. I should not wonder if a US entity ultimately wins it. The Cold War is primarily an economic war: nothing personal, just business.

I vote that we first tease out the details, and then decide. Alas, fans of the “up and ban everything” decisions are strong-voiced. Our ex-president Ilves tweeted: “Maybe there should be a “time out” for any and I mean *any* visits from Russia ... Just freeze visas except for family emergencies. It is Europe’s security at stake. Enough.”

Some objected to Ilves: were ordinary Russians at fault? Still, it is stupidity to punish people for the actions of the authorities. We do not deny visas to Turks, although Turkey occupies the territory of an EU member state, Cyprus. But 80,000 Russian citizens in Estonia is another story: should they not be expelled? Along with those Russian nationals who left their homeland precisely because of their disagreement with the Kremlin. And if we are taking revenge for Crimea, let us also take revenge for Iraq: prohibit the entry of US citizens as an aggressor country. Or maybe we should multitask and declare war on everyone? Why waste time on trifles?

And it is clear that the battle-cry to “throw them out and never let them back in!” will happily be discussed at length on some talk show on Russian TV. Neither Crimea nor Navalny can possibly benefit from Ilves’s brave tweets. But harm could be done. If we spin the flywheel of the info war, the ending will be unpredictable.

I am still convinced that if anything will save the world from war, it will be astute diplomacy.