Autor - European Values

Spain

Summary: Spain is an EU and NATO member state located in the westernmost part of Europe. Being located far away from Russia and not affected by the same fears as the easternmost EU member states, Spain remains focused on engaging in dialogue with Russia. This, however, does not negate Spain’s concern with Russian military build up and Russia’s actions in Ukraine. At the same time, Spain remains skeptical over possible European expansion, and Russia’s status as a strategic partner in the fight against terrorism has left a mark on Spain’s attitude of hesitance in making strong moves to counter Russian threat. However, this is more of a sign of the lack of any serious ties with Russia, rather than Spanish attempts to oppose other EU member states who have real concerns over Russian threats. Economy-wise, Russia does not play a significant role in Spanish energy imports, but Russian tourism plays a big role in Spanish economy. Thus, Spain was one of the several countries to voice criticism against anti-Russian sanctions, but so far, Spain joined other EU nations in supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

I. Relationship Parameters

History: Despite the geographical distance between Spain and Russia, and the rather limited historical and cultural ties, the relationship between the two countries is nowadays quite deep and friendly. Spain and Russia fully established their diplomatic relations in 1977, after the end of Franco’s regime, even though the relationship deepened only after the end of the Cold War. Under José Maria Aznar (prime minister from 1996 to 2004)[1], Spanish foreign policy was focused heavily on cooperation with the USA, even though he established very friendly links with Putin as well. After the terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and during the prime ministership of José Luis Zapatero, Spanish foreign policy changed its focus to the “heart of Europe”, while desiring national affirmation and promoting multilateralism. Spain fiercely denounced the Bush administration for its intervention in Iraq. Efforts to develop a Russia-specific foreign policy led to the signing of the “Declaration of Strategic Partnership” in 2009, which focuses on cooperation in the energy sphere, economic relations in general and tourism in particular.[2] Nevertheless, Putin never fully trusted Zapatero because of issues such as LGBT rights or withdrawal from Iraq. In the last decade, Spain has been very supportive towards Russia, backing Russia’s positions on many issues.[3]

Energy, trade, investment, sanctions: Between 2012 and 2016, the cumulative trade in goods between Spain and Russia fell by 45,3%, mainly due to the Russian economic recession and sanctions.[4] Spanish exports of food and agriculture were heavily hit by the Russian embargo in August 2014.[5] Overall, bilateral economic relations, although promising in some sectors, are not particularly strong. However, it is noteworthy to mention that Spain is very popular amongst Russian tourists, who represent a priority market for the Spanish tourist industry.[6] The number of Russian tourists visiting Spain began to skyrocket in 2008 with half a million visitors and peaked in 2013 with more than 1.5 million. This still represents only a small portion of the approximately 60 million tourists who visited Spain last year. But Russia is the fastest growing origin market and its tourists have higher average expenses per person than others.[7]  Regarding energy, the purpose of the 2009 deal was to further interconnect the energy markets of Spain and Russia, but as for oil and gas, Russia accounts only for 11% of Spain’s crude oil imports, and no Russian gas is imported to Spain.[8] Spain is not a supporter of sanctions, as they have negative effect on the Spanish economy. In 2015, the then foreign minister of Spain said that the sanctions are “beneficial for no one.”[9] Only 10% of Spaniards who consider Russia to be responsible for the war in Ukraine (59%) thinks that the EU should sanction Russia.[10]

Euroscepticism: Spaniards are amongst the most Eurosceptic countries in the EU, with almost half of the population having an unfavourable view of the EU.[11] However, that is a direct outcome of austerity policies, and in spite of that, 80% of Spaniards believe that Spain should stay in the EU.[12]

Eastern Partnership/EU-28 Watch: “Spain has never foreseen a scenario with the member countries of the Eastern Neighbourhood as members of the European Union as a real possibility. The Ukraine crisis, with the conflict with Russia, has only reinforced Spain’s views on the question of enlargement towards these countries. That does not mean that Spain thinks there should not be close economic and political ties between those countries and the EU, but rather that the Eastern Partnership is not and should not be the first step towards an EU perspective for them.”[13]

View of Russia: When it comes to Vladimir Putin personally, 88% of Spaniards have no confidence in him, according to the Pew Research Center.[14] According to the latest Eurobarometer, 58% of Spain’s population have a negative view of Russia (42% very negative, 16% somewhat negative). On the contrary, 31% looks at Russia positively (25% somewhat positive, 6% very positive).

II. Expert Assessment

Power Audit (2007): Strategic partner. Among large EU member states, Spain has the least developed relations with Russia, although Putin has been careful to treat Madrid with the respect it generally accords to big states. Spain’s approach to Russia is driven by economic priorities and a desire to avoid irritating the Kremlin. Maybe because it is less dependent on Russian gas, Spain supports full ownership unbundling of EU energy companies. Also, Spain is wary of engagement in the Eastern neighbourhood.

National Perspectives (2013): Official positions place Spain as a supporter of a multipolar world, where the USA is not a leading superpower, but one great power among others, namely Russia. (…) The development of a clear Spanish interest towards Russia can be categorized in two main aspects. On the one hand, the availability of opportunities for interaction in regional security issues, such as the Middle East, where Spain has been actively engaged and where Russia remains a central actor. On the other hand, there has been an overlap of security perceptions, mainly on issues of terrorism, which the post 9/11 context further reinforced. Today, due to Spain’s engagement in global settings such as Afghanistan, and Russia’s increasingly vital role in NATO efforts, both countries have furthered bilateral co-operation. (…) Besides high politics in the global and EU-Russia bilateral agenda, Spanish relations with Moscow have also focused on economic co-operation, investment and cultural relations.

ECFR Article (2016): Spanish diplomacy’s default approach is that the incentives of engagement with Russia outweigh those of containment and deterrence. Spain continuously cooperates in common security frameworks while also trying to avoid isolating Russia and overlooking its role in key dossiers, such as Syria and Ukraine.[15]

III. Policy Documents

Official statements by the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs (2016)[16]

In relation to Ukraine, Spain’s position is in favour of a political solution to the conflict, based on compliance with the Minsk Accords and full respect for international law and the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine. As regards relations between the European Union and Russia, Spain defends a balanced and constructive approach, both as neighbours and as strategic partners, which is based on dialogue and allows for open discussion on the main international issues that concern and are of interest to both parties. The State secretary also underlined the need to make decisive progress on human rights issues.

Strategy for External Action (2015)[17]

Ukraine is a sovereign country with the full right to decide its status freely among nations. This is Spain’s departure point. From this stance, we inevitably understand and incorporate Russia’s special sensitivity which derives from diverse factors such as the strategic value that Ukraine has for Russia and, in turn, Russia has for Ukraine; a strong emotional value; economic weight; and human closeness among a large part of respective societies. (…)

Russia’s attitude in the common neighbourhood—particularly in the Ukraine conflict—has lead to considerable distancing in relations with the European Union that can only have undesirable consequences for all. (…) Spain wishes to work towards achieving a more solid relationship with Russia. Spain has the capacity and aspirations of being a key partner in the modernisation process of the Russian economy mapped out by its leaders. We also aspire to further strengthen the ties between both societies which have only recently begun to know each other better.

National Security Strategy (2013)[18]

Russia is the EU’s largest neighbour and a key strategic actor of great importance to the European energy market. Cooperating with Moscow is essential to Europe’s security and stability. Russia must contribute to settling longstanding conflicts in the strategic environment it shares with the Union, as this will enhance the democratic stability of the countries involved and the security of everyone. Russia must consolidate its role as a strategic partner of the EU – this will have a positive effect on the security of Spain and its partners and NATO allies and on global governance.

National Security Reports (2014–2016)

2014: The Ukraine crisis is a major challenge to European security. The situation has been aggravated by the annexation of Crimea and the decisive military support from Russia to separatist groups, which poses a threat to the stability and security of the entire Euro-Atlantic space, with possible long-term effects in the area Black Sea and for the allied countries of the East.[19]

2015: The Ukraine crisis together with the exchange of accusations between Russia and the US on Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the new deployment of tactical nuclear weapons by the US have generated tensions which could lead to a new nuclear arms race. There is a will on both sides to maintain diplomatic activities on WMD non-proliferation. In its 2014 military doctrine, Russia emphasizes modernization and development of nuclear forces and SLBM test launches. In 2015, Russia added forty new ICBMs to its nuclear arsenal.[20]

2016:  The modernization of the Russian’s Federation’s nuclear and ballistic weapons is a factor generating a certain degree of tension, compounding that already existing in the Eastern European scene.[21]


 

 

[1] https://www.cidob.org/biografias_lideres_politicos/europa/espana/jose_maria_aznar_lopez

[2] https://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/Documents/46d9-3123-declaraciondeasociacionestrategica.pdf

[3] Simão, Licínia, Portugal and Spain, Chapter 7 in National Perspectives on Russia.

[4] https://www.icex.es/icex/es/navegacion-principal/todos-nuestros-servicios/informacion-de-mercados/paises/navegacion-principal/el-pais/relaciones-bilaterales/index.html?idPais=RU

[5] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/spain/

[6]https://www.cidob.org/en/publications/publication_series/notes_internacionals/n1_108/spain_and_the_european_union_russia_conflict_the_impact_of_the_sanctions

[7] https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_how_should_europe_respond_to_russia_the_spanish_view354

[8] Ibid., https://uk.reuters.com/article/gazprom-repsol-idUKL357888920090303  https://www.cores.es/sites/default/files/archivos/icores/i-cores-imp-export-gn-marzo-2015_eng.pdf, https://www.cores.es/sites/default/files/archivos/icores/i-crudosjulio2015_eng.pdf

[9] https://euobserver.com/foreign/127940

[10] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/spain/

[11] https://www.pewglobal.org/files/2016/06/Pew-Research-Center-Brexit-Report-FINAL-June-7-2016.pdf

[12] https://www.gallup-international.com/web/files/richeditor/filemanager/Spain_WE_Tabs_201216_1.pdf

[13] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/spain/

[14] https://www.pewglobal.org/2016/06/29/2-obamas-international-image-remains-strong-in-europe-and-asia/ga_2016-06-29_balanceofpower-1-04/

[15] https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_spains_balancing_act_with_russia

[16]https://www.exteriores.gob.es/Portal/en/SalaDePrensa/NotasdePrensa/Paginas/2016_NOTAS_P/20160209_NOTA021.aspx

[17]https://www.exteriores.gob.es/Portal/es/SalaDePrensa/Multimedia/Publicaciones/Documents/ESTRATEGIA%20DE%20ACCION%20EXTERIOR%20ingles.pdf

[18] https://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/Documents/estrategiaseguridad_baja_julio.pdf

[19] https://www.dsn.gob.es/es/estrategias-publicaciones/informe-anual-seguridad-nacional/informe-anual-seguridad-nacional-2014

[20]https://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/serviciosdeprensa/notasprensa/Documents/INFORME%20ANUAL%20DE%20SEGURIDAD%20NACIONAL%202015.pdf

[21] https://www.dsn.gob.es/es/documento/informe-anual-seguridad-nacional-2016

Slovenia

Summary: Slovenia was a first ex-Yugoslav state to join the EU and NATO in 2004. Slovenia has expressed full support for preserving Ukraine’s borders, as well as for fulfilling the Minsk agreements in Ukraine. Nonetheless, Slovenia is eager to maintain energy-focused economic ties with Russia. Moreover, the country supports lifting the sanctions imposed after the annexation of Crimea, even though the policy of supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity remains intact. Thus, Slovenes see the conflict in Ukraine as a bilateral Russo-Ukrainian issue, and not a direct threat to the EU and NATO.

I. Relationship Parameters

History: almost entirely free of the painful historical Soviet legacy. Sense of shared Slavic identity and appreciation for the contribution of the Red Army in liberating part of Slovenia. Agrees with historical narrative about the importance of SSSR in the defeat of fascism. Slovenian politicians stress “mutual respect for different opinions” in relations with Russia.

Economy and trade: Russia is Slovenian 7th largest trade partner and the 6th biggest investor in the country.[1] Despite the fall in trade after 2014, Slovenia still has a trade surplus with Russia. Within the EU, Slovenia has always asserted strengthen co-operation with Russia. Slovene-Russian Business Club actively promotes business ties under the banner ‘Fostering the Slavic Bonds’. Therefore, it favours of lifting the anti-Russian sanctions stressing their negative impact on the economies.[2] Economic cooperation is high on the agenda during regular visits of Slovenian president Borut Pahor in Moscow and vice versa. Imports consist mainly of energy, while exports are dominated by pharmaceuticals, nuclear reactors, machines and mechanical devices. Slovenia is also a popular tourist destination among Russians.[3]

Ukraine crisis, anti-Russian sanctions: Slovenia supports territorial integrity of Ukraine and advocates full respect of the Mink agreements.[4] It has provided TV and radio broadcasting equipment and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine due to the situation in Donbas.[5] Russian President Putin’s visit to Slovenia in 2016 has angered Ukrainians living in Slovenia, who protested in front of the Russian embassy in Ljubljana.[6] Mykhail Brodovych, Ukraine’s ambassador to Slovenia, commented on this that “these commemorative events are just a pretext for Putin to demonstrate that he is normally accepted in the country that is a member of the EU and NATO”.[7] Nevertheless, relations between Ukraine and Slovenia remain friendly.

Energy: Slovenia depends on Russian energy imports. Approximately 42% of gas imports supplied from Russia and 35% from Austria.[8] Current agreement on gas from Gazprom runs through 2018.[9] Slovenia has joined the Russian-sponsored South Stream arguing that it is entirely in line with the EU’s energy security goals at it promotes diversification of supply routes, not suppliers. It is keen to be a transit country to profit from the fees and other Russian investments.[10]

View of Russia: According to the latest Eurobarometr, 45% of Slovenians had a positive view of Russia.

Warm relations with Moscow have continued even as Slovenia joined EU sanctions. The close co-operation between the countries is manifested in annual meetings of their presidents or PMs. Slovenian politicians perceive their country as a bridge between the East and the West.[11] Slovenian President Borut Pahor has offered to host a venue for a meeting between the Russian and U.S. presidents modelled on the summit between George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin in 2001 (famous for a comment of G.W. about looking Putin in the eye and getting “a sense of his soul.”).[12]

Eastern Partnership: Slovenia supports association with EaP countries and their reform programmes as well as visa liberalisation. During a visit of PM Dmitry Medvedev to Slovenia in 2015, Slovenian PM Miro Cerar spoke out in favour of lifting sanctions and agreed on cooperation in cultural, economic and energy relations. Mr. Cerar reiterated his support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Slovenia promotes deepening partnership with EaP countries as a precondition for stability in Europe, while avoiding their membership since it does not want to endanger relations with Russia.[13]

II. Expert Assessment

Power Audit (2007):[14] Friendly pragmatism: tends to put its business interest above political goals and to oppose actions which might irritate Moscow.

National Perspective (2013):[15] Economic interest are important drivers of Slovenia’s foreign policy towards Russia. Officials from both countries stress their shared Slavic identity and are supporting wide cultural relations as well. Ljubljana was chosen as a headquarter of a new established Forum of Slavic Cultures jointly sponsored by presidents of Slovenia and Russia. Cooperation is manifested every year by a commemoration held at the Russian chapel in the Vrsic mountain where approximately three hundred Russian war prisoners were killed during the First World War. Slovenian MEP Alojz Peterle was until 2014 a Vice-Chair of the EU-Russia Parliamentary Co-operation Committee. Slovenia was also successful in launching the negotiations on a new agreement with Russia in 2009 during its presidency in the EU.

EU-28 Watch (2015):[16] Slovenia condemns Russian aggression in Ukraine and strongly supports its territorial integrity, while endeavours to maintain economic relations with Russia. Anti-Russian sanction have a negative effect on its economy.

European Foreign Policy Scorecards:[17] Slacker on relations with Russia on energy issues and efforts to diversify supplies in Europe reducing dependency on Russia (2014).

III. Policy Documents

Foreign Policy of the Republic of Slovenia (2015):[18] 

Russia is an important market for Slovenia, which seeks cooperation in tourism, agriculture, culture and education. Slovenia will make long-term endeavors within the European Union to encourage Russia to join the circle of shared European values with a view to establishing a long-term EU-Russia partnership. Furthermore, Slovenia will call on the players in the post-Soviet region to establish cooperation, while showing respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the countries of the region.

National Security Strategy (2010):[19]

Slovenia will continue strengthening its alliance with the US and its partnership with the Russian Federation.


 

 

[1] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/slovenia/

[2] https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/analyses/2017-02-15/slovenian-presidents-visit-to-moscow

[3] https://www.sloveniatimes.com/russia-slovenia-s-traditionally-important-trade-partner

[4]https://www.vlada.si/en/prime_minister/news/a/slovenian_prime_minister_miro_cerar_and_russian_prime_minister_dmitry_medvedev_support_further_strengthening_of_economic_cooperation_between_their_countries_57/

[5] https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/prezident-ukrayini-zustrivsya-z-premyer-ministrom-respubliki-38686

[6] https://www.rferl.org/a/putin-seek-divide-slovenia-eu-on-sanctions-during-visit-july-30/27889575.html

[7] https://www.rferl.org/a/putin-seek-divide-slovenia-eu-on-sanctions-during-visit-july-30/27889575.html

[8] https://www.geoplin.si/en/natural-gas/slovenian-market

[9] https://www.gazpromexport.ru/en/partners/slovenia/

[10] Gower, J., Slovenia, chapter 15, in M. David, J. Gower and H. Haukkala, ‘National Perspectives on Russia: European Foreign Policy in the Making?’, Routledge 2013.

[11] https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/analyses/2017-02-15/slovenian-presidents-visit-to-moscow

[12] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-putin-slovenia-idUSKBN15P1VK

[13] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/slovenia/

[14] https://www.ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR-02_A_POWER_AUDIT_OF_EU-RUSSIA_RELATIONS.pdf

[15] Gower, J., Slovenia, chapter 15, in M. David, J. Gower and H. Haukkala, ‘National Perspectives on Russia: European Foreign Policy in the Making?’, Routledge 2013.

[16] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/slovenia/

[17] https://www.ecfr.eu/scorecard

[18]https://www.mzz.gov.si/fileadmin/pageuploads/Zakonodaja_in_dokumenti/Strateski_dokument_slovenske_zunanje_politike_ang.pdf

[19] https://www.mo.gov.si/fileadmin/mo.gov.si/pageuploads/pdf/ministrstvo/RSNV2010_slo_en.pdf

Slovakia

Summary: Slovakia has been an EU and NATO member state since 2004.  Though highly energy-dependent on Russia, Slovakia is a firm supporter of the EU and NATO measures to counter Russian aggression in Europe, particularly in the aftermath of the annexation of Crimea. Still, Slovakia prioritizes its economic ties with Russia, which sometimes leads to backing down on certain security measures, such as the deployment of US missile shield in Slovakia. The country’s transit status for energy coming from Russia to Western Europe is important for the Slovak government. Potential threats to Slovakia include presence of pro-Russian fringe elements in politics and ex-Communist politicians who may harbor sympathy for Russia. Nonetheless, when it comes to the Eastern Partnership and the EU and NATO expansion, Slovakia has expressed enthusiasm in including ex-Soviet states, which Russia believes to be parts of its sphere of influence.

I. Relationship Parameters

History: Notwithstanding the communist-era, Slovakia has established a pragmatic relationship with Russia after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Early in the 1990s, Russia was considered a guarantee of Slovakia´s neutrality and an important economic partner.[1] The vision of Slovakia as a bridge between the East and West was promoted. In addition, Slovak intelligence services and security forces closely cooperated with their Russian counterparts. This changed in 1998 when Slovakia shifted its policy to join the EU and NATO. Nevertheless, Slovakia remains one of the most pro-Russian countries in the EU.[2] Unlike in the Czech Republic, Hungary or Poland, issues related to the Communist past are seldom raised by Slovak authorities.[3] This corresponds with the fact that there are several former communists in the government. What is more, several former StB officers and communist political Commissioners (“politruci”) hold important positions in the security structures of the country.

Pendulum policy: Slovakia does not have a conceptual or an ideological approach to Russia that would provide a ground for a clear foreign policy programme.[4] Slovakia balances between preserving close economic ties with Russia while following EU policy against Russian aggression towards Ukraine. During the negotiations of anti-Russian sanctions in 2014, Slovakia wanted to keep some of the high-profile Russian names off the sanctions list to safeguard its interests.[5]

Tough position over Russia is kept by the President Andrej Kiska, who agrees that EaP countries should be offered a membership perspective after the complete fulfilment of EU’s criteria. The minister of foreign affairs Miroslav Lajčák is balancing between a strong support of Ukraine and constructive dialogue with Russia, contrary to the PM Robert Fico who is the most vocal pro-Russian politician in the country. He speaks against maintaining Russian sanctions and prefers trade ties and gas imports before punishing the Kremlin. Society is rather mentally divided in the affiliation with the West and Russia. While a clear majority condemns Russia’s action in Ukraine, support for sanctions is not that strong.[6]

View of Russia: According to the latest Eurobarometer poll, 49% of Slovaks had somewhat positive view of Russia and 12% very positive, with 28% somewhat negative and 8% very negative. However, the survey does not focus primarily on foreign policy. [7]

Energy: Energy dependency on Russia. Approximately 97% of Slovakia’s gas and 98% of oil demands are covered by Russia.[8] Slovakia is important trading gas hub in the region. It opposes Nord Stream 2 which would deprive it from transit fees. In order to diverse its gas deliveries, interconnectors between Slovakia-Hungary and Slovakia-Ukraine are now up and running, and a connection with Poland is being negotiated. All in all, diversification is of high priority, but the commercial interest of the energy companies play a key role as well. Russian company TVEL is an important supplier of nuclear fuel and will cooperate in the project to complete the Mochovce Nuclear Power plant.

Slovakia provided reverse flows to Ukraine during energy crisis and its supplies from Russia have been consequently cut by 50%. In 2014, Slovakia signed an agreement with Ukraine allowing supplies of Russian gas from EU countries to Ukraine through Slovakia. This step was criticised by Gazprom. Slovakia has expressed interest to join the project “Turkish Stream” (aiming at circumvent Ukraine) despite the fact that it will deprive the country of lucrative transit fees.[9]

Economy and trade: Bilateral economic relations are a long-term priority of Slovak policy toward Russia. Key roles are played by the Intergovernmental Commission for Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation co-chaired by foreign minister Miroslav Lajčák and Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin who is banned from entering the EU.[10] The main pillars of the Russia-Slovakia economic relationship are gas and weapons. Russian investors with ties to Russian government are interested in acquisitions in areas of strategic importance. Russian Railways are interested in Cargo Slovakia and Severstal is interested in the US Steel company.[11]

Military relations: tend to be free of any serious security-related problems. Slovakian PM Robert Fico opposes the deployment of a radar system of US missile defence shield in Europe.[12] The Slovak military remains heavily dependent on Russian armaments.[13] Nevertheless, modernisation of the Slovak army which will reduce its dependence is in progress. The program includes the acquisition of nine pieces of Blackhawk helicopters, two Spartan transport aircrafts and replacement of Russian radar systems. Replacement of the MiG-29 is being negotiated.

Eastern Partnership: Priority countries are Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus. Slovakia is a strong supporter of the integration efforts of Ukraine and Georgia into the EU and NATO. It is willing to help eastern countries with reforms to fulfil their commitment under the EaP. On the other hand, in relations with Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan, pragmatism prevails and human rights are sometimes overlooked.

II. Expert Assessment

Power Audit (2007):[14] Friendly pragmatism: tends to put its business interest above political goals and to oppose actions which might irritate Moscow. Influenced by almost complete energy dependency striking bilateral energy deals with Russia. Shares Russia’s position on Kosovo. Slovakia supports EU’s role in the Eastern neighbourhood, but it was against EU peacekeeping mission in Moldova.

National Perspective (2013): [15] Pragmatic ‘business as usual’ approach has been sustained. Slovakia has been labelled a ‘quasi-Russophile’ country. Directly supporting eastern dimension of EU external relations, also within the Visegrad Group. Prioritized countries: Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus. A degree of a ‘Russia-first’ principle regarding the support for their EU and NATO aspirations.

Russia-cautious political parties: Slovak Democratic and Christian Union-Democratic Party (SDKU-DS) in Slovakia. Currently also Most-Híd (Hungarian minority) and SaS (Liberals). Pro-Russia camp include SMER and nowadays also the neo-nazi party LSNS.

EU-28 Watch (2015):[16] Policy of friendly pragmatism is likely to prevail. Economic interests in relationship with Russia and almost complete dependence in energy sector. In light of the conflict in Ukraine balancing between securing its national interests and supporting unified voice in the EU, therefore preferring political dialogue as a solution.[17]

View from the capitals (2015):[18] Slovakia had traditionally sought economic cooperation with Moscow as most of its gas deliveries and nuclear fuel for its Russia-built nuclear power plants as well as some of its defence equipment come from Russia. Following the crisis in Ukraine, Slovakia changed course on Russia and began diversifying its defence, economy, and energy away from Russian sources.

European Foreign Policy Scorecards (2013-2016):[19] Leader on diversifying gas supplies away from Russia, supporting political reforms in the Eastern Neighbourhood through bilateral assistance, Ukraine’s efforts to implement reform agenda and deal with Russian aggression, visa liberalization with Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine (2014). Slacker on sanctions attempting to protect Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister, from being banned, but eventually subscribed to the common approach (2015).

III. Policy Documents

Security and Defence strategies are currently under preparation.

Focus of the foreign and European policy in 2016:[20]

In relation to the Russian Federation it is of importance to continue political dialogue without changing our approach to the annexation of the Crimea. We will also foster cooperation in the field of energy and in addressing open bilateral issues. From a political and military point of view it is not possible to find a solution to the current crisis in Ukraine without the RF. It is necessary to maintain an intensive dialogue within the EU on a common position and future arrangement of relations with Russia. The future of restrictive measures imposed against the RF for violations of international law remains an open question. For the Slovak Republic, it is of high priority to maintain its potential as a transit country for energy carriers coming from the RF to Western Europe. Despite the difficult international political situation, we are interested in seeking new forms of bilateral cooperation. Following the military strengthening of the Alliance on its eastern flank Slovakia will gradually ease pragmatic dialogue between NATO and Russia with the aim of reducing mutual tensions and building trust.

Report on the SIS activities (2015):[21]

Russia: The dominant trend has been the strengthening of conservative forces within the state leadership and their interest in maintaining a high level of regulation and control over the internal events in the country. In accordance with this trend, there was a further reduction in operations of the third sector, especially organizations with foreign support that the Russian leadership considers to be the forces prepared to organize the so-called color revolutions on Russian territory. In the foreign field, the Russian Federation continued in its efforts to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence and to strengthen its positions in Central Asia region. Russia used the Syrian campaign and the fight against Islamic terrorism to distract the West from the Ukrainian conflict and to strengthen its great powers ambition.


 

 

[1] Dangerfield, M., Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, chapter 11, in M. David, J. Gower and H. Haukkala, ‘National Perspectives on Russia: European Foreign Policy in the Making?’, Routledge 2013.

[2] https://www.pism.pl/files/?id_plik=19695

[3]https://www.academia.edu/6005353/Slovakia_s_Eastern_policy_from_the_Trojan_horse_of_Russia_to_Eastern_multivectoralism_full_text_

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_slovakia_changes_course_on_russia311312

[6] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/slovakia/

[7] https://ec.europa.eu/finland/sites/finland/files/ebs_451_anx_en.pdf

[8]https://www.academia.edu/6005353/Slovakia_s_Eastern_policy_from_the_Trojan_horse_of_Russia_to_Eastern_multivectoralism_full_text_

[9] https://www.rferl.org/a/putin-ratifies-deal-build-turkish-stream-gas-pipeline-southern-europe/28297156.html

[10] https://www.mzv.sk/web/en/news/current_issues/-/asset_publisher/lrJ2tDuQdEKp/content/lajcak-met-with-rogozin-on-the-eve-of-the-meeting-of-slovak-russian-intergovernmental-commission/10182

[11]https://www.academia.edu/6005353/Slovakia_s_Eastern_policy_from_the_Trojan_horse_of_Russia_to_Eastern_multivectoralism_full_text_

[12] https://zpravy.aktualne.cz/zahranici/slovaci-nechteji-radar-usa-v-cesku/r~i:article:418934/

[13] https://www.congress.gov/crec/2016/03/22/CREC-2016-03-22-pt1-PgH1502-2.pdf

[14] https://www.ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR-02_A_POWER_AUDIT_OF_EU-RUSSIA_RELATIONS.pdf

[15] Dangerfield, M., Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, chapter 11, in M. David, J. Gower and H. Haukkala, ‘National Perspectives on Russia: European Foreign Policy in the Making?’, Routledge 2013.

[16] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/slovakia/

[17] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/slovakia/

[18] https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_slovakia_changes_course_on_russia311312

[19] https://www.ecfr.eu/scorecard

[20] https://www.mzv.sk/documents/10182/2198827/2016+-+Zameranie+zahrani%C4%8Dnej+a+eur%C3%B3pskej+politiky+Slovenskej+republiky

[21] https://www.sis.gov.sk/pre-vas/sprava-o-cinnosti.html

Romania

Summary: Romania has been an EU and NATO member state since 2004. The country’s high domestic fossil fuel reserves make the question of energy secondary in Romania’s relations with Russia. Romania’s primary concern is with its immediate neighbourhood. It was supportive of a pro-EU and pro-NATO measures in Georgia, and forming a common Black Sea partnership within Europe. Moldova, Transnistria and the EU expansion are key issues in Romania’s foreign policy. As Chisinau’s foremost advocate in Europe, Romania’s interests in Moldova’s accession to the EU have collided with Russia’s desire to keep Transnistrian conflict frozen. Romania remains dedicated to deeper ties with the US and NATO, and with the Black Sea partners, such as Georgia and Ukraine.

I. Relationship Parameters

History:  Romania had a complex relationship with Russia even prior to the unification of the two voivodeships of Moldavia and Wallachia into one country in the late 19th century.  Following the WWI, Romania annexed Bessarabia and Bukovina from the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires, but lost them during the WWII. During the Cold War, Romania broke away from the USSR and pursued independent foreign policy under Ceausescu’s regime, which was finally deposed in a violent revolution in 1989.

Moldova: Romania and Russia both have special relationship with the ex-Soviet Republic of Moldova. After the collapse of the USSR, a separatist Russian-speaking region of Transnistria broke away and established its own unrecognized state with the support of Russian troops.[1] Since then, the Russian-Romanian relationship has been shaped by the question of Moldova’s identity as a part of the Romanian nation or that of the “Russian world”, as well as the status of Transnistria. Romania remains Moldova’s main advocate in the EU, emphasizing the need of Moldova’s deeper European integration.[2]

Energy: Romania has a domestic supply of fossil fuels, making its dependence on foreign gas imports insignificant (only 30% imported from Russia), but as they dwindle, the question of Russian natural gas price hikes is raised, also warning that the Russian energy business can take over Romania’s energy sphere.[3]

View of Russia: According to Eurobarometer, 40% of Romanians have somewhat positive view of Russia, 30% somewhat negative, 13% very positive and 11% very negative.[4]

II. Expert Assessment

Power Audit (2007): Frosty Pragmatist. Romania is supportive of the Nabucco pipeline project and lowering energy dependence on Russia. Additionally, Russia’s role in Moldova’s affairs draws open criticism from Bucharest.[5]

National Perspectives (2013): History has shaped the two countries’ relationship more than anything else. Romania supports strengthening Black Sea partnerships and remains wary of Russian threat, particularly the one coming from its heavy military presence in Moldova’s breakaway Russian enclave of Transnistria. Romania has started the Black Sea Synergy co-operation imitative in 2007 which tried to stress Romania’s active role in regional partnership, and showed support to the Nabucco project, which aimed at transporting fossil fuels from Central Asia to Europe without using Russia as a transit state.

EU-28 Watch (2015):[6] Romania remains suspicious of Russia and shows enthusiasm in deepening ties with the United States, especially following the events in Ukraine. Romania remains a supporter of measures employed to penalize Russia for violating international law.  However, its own maritime border dispute with Ukraine and criticism of the Eastern Partnership not including Moldova make Romania’s situation special. The question of Moldova is particularly troubling for Romania, as it remains the main advocate for including Moldova into further EU extension plans.

III. Policy Documents

Titus Corlatean’s (Foreign Minister) statement (2014):[7]

Recent months proved that outside the confines of the European Union a forged unstable context can ignite at any time, using any reason and questioning everything: from human life to EU integration aspirations. In these circumstances, the international law and human rights are recklessly violated. We have seen this in Georgia, six years ago, we have witnessed a similar situation in the Republic of Moldova, in the bloody month of April 2009, and this year in Ukraine. Such course of action sets aside the interest of the people and their chance for a better future. Together, we must stand against this manipulation by demonstrating that EU enlargement brings development and serves the interest of the people.

Bogdan Aurescu’s (Foreign Minister) statement (2015):[8]

During the past years, we have seen significant negative developments, such as the financial crisis and the economic instability; energy supply disruptions derived from political turmoil and armed conflicts, not only in Middle East and Northern Africa, but also in our own neighborhood, in Ukraine. The recent events in our Eastern neighborhood have proved once more that access to energy is not just an economic issue, but a security one as well.

Bogdan Aurescu’s (Foreign Minister) speech on the annual meeting of Romanian diplomats (2015):[9]

We cannot ignore the fact that around the two organizations we are part of, a genuine belt of instability has emerged, with many hotspots, from the ingressions of the Russian Federation in Ukraine and the shift in the balance of security in the Black Sea region through the illegal occupation and militarization of Crimea in the East and the rise of the terrorist phenomenon, the growing challenges of illegal migration, various crises and state instability in the South.

With regard to the Russian Federation, the main features of bilateral relations should be predictability and pragmatism. We want a relation that should respect the legitimate interests of Romania, just as the legitimate (I repeat, the legitimate) interests of Russia should be normally respected. However, the level of interaction with the Russian state will depend on its positive involvement in solving the Ukrainian conflict and on restoring the strategic balance in the Eastern Neighbourhood. Respecting all international commitments is an absolutely necessary prerequisite to intensify dialogue.

National defense strategy 20152019[10]

Today, the region is marked by active conflicts and the deterioration of the relations between NATO and the Russian Federation…An important actor in the European and Euro Atlantic environment is the Russian Federation. Its actions in the Black Sea Region, infringing upon international law, questioning international order, preserving frozen conflicts and the annexation of Crimea have raised again the NATO awareness upon fulfilling its fundamental mission that is collective defense, as well as the validity of the security arrangements agreed upon with Russia at the end of the XXth century….The Russian Federation is trying to consolidate its status as a power at the regional level, its actions having an impact upon regional stability and the European path of Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia.


 

 

[1] Micu, M., Romania, chapter 13, in M. David, J. Gower and H. Haukkala, ‘National Perspectives on Russia: European Foreign Policy in the Making?’, Routledge 2013.

[2] https://www.mae.ro/en/node/19584

[3] Micu, M.

[4] https://ec.europa.eu/finland/sites/finland/files/ebs_451_anx_en.pdf

[5] https://www.ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR-02_A_POWER_AUDIT_OF_EU-RUSSIA_RELATIONS.pdf

[6] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/romania/

[7] https://www.mae.ro/en/node/27503

[8] https://www.mae.ro/en/node/31359

[9] https://www.mae.ro/en/node/34702

[10] https://old.presidency.ro/static/National%20%20Defense%20Strategy%202015%20-%202019.pdf

Portugal

Summary: Portugal is one of the founding NATO member states and one of the westernmost EU member states. The country’s distance from Russia makes it generally less aware of the issues at the Union’s eastern borders. It is generally independent from Russian fossil fuels. Portugal is generally unconcerned with Russia, and it remains outside of immediate Russian interests as well.

I. Relationship Parameters

History: Bilateral relations between Portugal and Russia were repeatedly interrupted and re-established, which happened for the last time in 1974 after the Portuguese democratic revolution. The countries really started to focus on improving their relations in the 1990s. Many formal improvements have been made since then (e.g. the signing of the 1994 Treaty of Friendship, high-level visits at the presidential and governmental level since 2001, regular meetings of the ministries of defence since 2004, or efforts for further military cooperation), however, these improvements have not led to significant practical outcome.[1]

Energy: Portugal does not import any gas from Russia, but since it imports gas from Algeria, Russo-Algerian gas relations are watched in Portugal. Portugal does import Russian oil.[2]

Trade: Even though Russia is only the 30th Portugal’s trading partner, two areas in trade relations with Russia are important for the Portuguese – oil (which forms 80 percent of total imports from Russia) and Russian tourists.[3]

View of Russia: According to the latest Eurobarometer, 26% of the Portuguese had a positive view of Russia.

Number of Russian diplomats: 17 (without spouses).[4]

II. Expert Assessment

Power Audit (2007): Friendly pragmatist. Russia is not a priority for Portugal and the two countries do not have significant economic or political relations.

National Perspectives (2013): Russia as an area of interest has been rather neglected by the Portuguese, however, a multi-sectorial view of the challenges posed by an interdependent world, and of the integration processes in the EU and NATO, has made Lisbon much more aware of the importance of enlarging the scope of its foreign policy interests. Even though the diplomatic relations between the two countries are robust now, not much actual co-operation has taken place.

III. Policy Documents

National Defense Strategy (2013)[5]

The new Strategic Concept expresses NATO’s resolve to deepen relations with its strategic partners, including the EU and Russia. It underlined the unique and fundamental importance of the strategic partnership between NATO and the EU, as well as the critical importance of bilateral partnership between NATO and Russia to European stability.

National Cyber Security Strategy Green Paper (2015)[6]

The document does not mention Russia at all.


 

 

[1]Simão, Licínia, Portugal and Spain, Chapter 7 in National Perspectives on Russia.

[2] https://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/a_power_audit_of_eu_russia_relations, Simão, Licínia, Portugal and Spain, Chapter 7 in National Perspectives on Russia.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.embrussia.ru/ (/embaixador, /diplomaticos, /militar)

[5] https://www.defesa.pt/Documents/20130405_CM_CEDN.pdf

[6] https://www.mita.gov.mt/en/cybersecuritygreenpaper/Documents/NCSS%20Green%20Paper.pdf

Poland

Summary: Poland is one of the EU and NATO member states which were formerly in the Eastern Block, notable for its high economic growth and strong military. Though it is traditionally suspicious of Russia, Poland’s strong stance on common EU policies and complex history with Ukraine do not translate into sympathy towards its eastern neighbour. Poland’s already chilly relations with Russia in the aftermath of Lech Kaczynski’s death in Smolensk have been worsened by the annexation of Crimea. Poland’s history left it aware that international treaties alone cannot protect the country, leading to a military build-up as a reaction to events in Ukraine. Furthermore, Poland is firm on abandoning Russian natural gas imports in favour of alternative import sources from Denmark and Norway. Naturally, Poland has shown full support to sanctions against Russia, urging the parties in the conflict in Ukraine to respect the Minsk agreements.

I. Relationship Parameters

Distance: Borders with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast.  Due to the suspension of Small border traffic (SBT), entrance to the Kaliningrad Region is carried out only on the basis of valid visa.[1]

History: Deep historical burden prevents normalisation of relations with Russia. Issues from the past are causing distrust towards Russia and are being translated into political as well as economic ties. Especially the crimes committed against Poles during the Second World War by Soviet authorities, the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, the Katyn Massacre in 1940 (which many Poles see as genocide, Russians rather as a war crime) and subsequent denial of truth about the massacre (by blaming Germans for it) have lasting repercussions on the mutual relations. On the other hand, Russia blames Poles for not showing any gratitude for liberation from the Nazi occupation.[2]

Investigation of Smolensk airplane crash: Russia is criticised for its failure to examine all the circumstances of the airplane crash in Smolensk in 2010 which killed 96 people onboard, among them President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria, the chief of the Polish General Staff and other top military officers and politicians. Moreover, the ruling party Law and Justice has long challenged the official investigation of the crash.[3] Poland is considering the possibility of submitting a dispute regarding the investigation to the ICJ.[4]

Security services activity: Poland is of high interest for Russian intelligence services, therefore Russia is the country with extensive spy network in Poland. In 2006, Polish president Lech Kaczynski dissolved the Military Intelligence Service (WSI) which was considered the base of communist-era spies. Subsequently, a report[5] on the operations of the WSI was published.[6] Number or Russian intelligence officers operate under diplomatic cover as well. In 2014, several Russian diplomats were expelled on suspicion of spying in favour of the Russian intelligence services. As a response, Russia has expelled several Polish diplomats for what was described as an “unfriendly and unfounded” step.[7] Former Russian military attaché in Poland Eduard Shishmakov who was expelled for espionage is accused of participating in the plot in Montenegro.[8]

Diplomatic mission: Number of diplomats accredited at Russian embassy in Poland is 64, 118 with their spouses.

Migration: EU’s most popular destination country for Ukrainian temporary migrants.[9] Currently, most refugees applying for asylum in Poland come from Russia, Ukraine and Georgia.[10]

Economy and trade: Poland’s most important trade partner from outside the EU. Poland supports the EU-Russia Partnership for Modernization. Nevertheless, Russia’s trade with Poland has halved since 2014. Following anti-Russian sanctions in 2014, Russia has banned import of Polish fruit and vegetables. Russia’s food hygiene authorities claimed it had contained unacceptable levels of pesticide residues and nitrates.[11] In 2013, Poland exported to Russia agriculture products valued at 1,3 bln. EUR (6,2% of all agriculture export) – which made Russian market the third most important destination. In 2015 this value dropped to 398 mln. EUR. At the same time, the overall value of agriculture export in 2015 rose by 7,7% to 23,6 bln. EUR.

Energy: Poland opposed the Nord Stream pipeline. A liquid-natural-gas terminal LNG in Poland reducing its dependence on Russia was inaugurated in 2015. The Polish government has decided not to prolong an agreement with Russia on the purchase of gas which is due to expire in 2022; instead they started to negotiate with Denmark and Norway on the construction of a gas pipeline from the North Sea to Poland’s LNG port. In order to diverse its gas deliveries, several plans for connections in the region exist on paper, including routes such as: Poland-Czech Republic, Czech Republic-Slovakia, Poland-Slovakia, Poland-Lithuania, Slovakia-Hungary, Hungary-Croatia and Hungary-Romania.[12]

Military tensions: Acute security concerns of a “frontier” state with memories of Soviet takeover of 1939. Poland fears being left alone in a confrontation with Russia. Therefore, it has requested for increased presence of NATO in the country[13] and has increased its military spendings from 1,6% GDP in 2013 to 2,2% in 2015.[14] As a part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, American soldiers are being deployed in Poland along with tanks and heavy equipment serving as a deterrence. The Kremlin considers this to be an aggressive step along its borders and a threat to its security. It has already deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad which borders with Poland and Lithuania. Russian media often heats up the atmosphere between both countries by spreading fabrications, such as the alleged crash between Polish and Russian submarines which have allegedly taken place in 2016. In fact, the the Polish submarine was anchored in Gdynia at the time.[15]

Dispute over the US missile shield: Russia opposes plans to build a part of the NATO missile defence system in Poland that is due to be ready in 2018. As a response, Putin said that Russia “will do everything needed to ensure and preserve the strategic balance, which is the most reliable guarantee from large-scale military conflicts,” in addition, the Kremlin has vowed to modernize the Dnepr Missile Launch Detection System located in Crimea.[16] Russian media also usually reminds of the presence of the Iskander missile system in Kaliningrad whenever discussion about the construction begins within NATO.[17]

Eastern Partnership: Polish diplomacy flagship initiative. Promoting eastern dimension in the EU, as well as within the V4 countries. Strongly supporting EU and NATO aspirations of EaP countries (including commitment to Ukraine’s “European perspective”).[18] Ukraine has always been its priority country and Poland was active in supporting the Orange Revolution. Nevertheless, Poland is reluctant to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons, its military support is focused mainly on military training of Ukrainian soldiers. Poland underpins anti-Russian sanctions until the full implementation of the Minsk agreement.

View of Russia: According to the latest Eurobarometr, 27% of Poles had a positive view of Russia.

II. Expert Assessment

Power Audit (2007):[19] New Cold Warrior: overtly hostile relationship with Moscow, willing to use the veto to block EU negotiations with Russia. Suspecting Russia of waging a new cold war against the EU. Active in shaping a more critical EU stance towards Russia. Frosty political relations with Russia that often spills over into the economic field (meat and vegetable embargo, disputes over phytosanitary norms). Poland blocked negotiations on the new PCA with Russia.

National Perspectives (2013):[20] Energy security, common neighbourhood and historical issues key subjects of cooperation. Anyway, feelings between Poles and Russians are a mix of admiration, envy and disrespect, with a prevailing mistrust.

EU-28 Watch (2015):[21] Polish-Russian relations have deteriorated due to the annexation of Crimea with no sign of future improvement. Poland is a leader in maintaining anti-Russian sanctions and supporting Euro-Atlantic ties of EaP countries. Its tough approach toward Russia is not widely shared by the entire EU. Ukraine’s association remains the long-term aim, but the objective is currently seen with more realism.

Views from the capitals (2015-2016):[22] Poland´s security concerns and distrust exacerbated by Russian imperialist turn has brought their relationship to its lowest level in 25 years. Official contacts are limited. Poland is convicted that the conventional military conflict with Russia is possible, therefore deterrence is the pillar of its strategy. Anyway, it prefers sanctions to any military operations and thinks the EU should reconfirm its commitments towards the EaP countries. Conflict in Ukraine and Syria should be dealt with separately. Nevertheless, the political consensus on approach towards Russia is not as clear as it has been in the past.

European Foreign Policy Scorecard[23] Leader on ambitious agenda in the Eastern neighbourhood, support for ratifying and implementing Association Agreements with Georgia and Moldova, promoting a tough sanctions policy and a response towards Russian aggression in the Donbas. Strong political, financial and military support of Ukraine (2016). Leader on diversifying gas supplies away from Russia and author of the initiative for an Energy Union, trying to hold Russia to its WTO commitments and pushing for EU-US cooperation on Russia (2015), pushing for assistance to EaP and visa-free travel, supporting European Commission in resisting Russian pressure on EaP countries (2014) and leader on putting pressure on Belarus for political liberalization (2013).

III. Policy Documents

Annual address on foreign policy goals (2017):[24]

Stability in our neighbourhood and beyond – in the European neighbourhood – is a key task for Poland…[Russia´s] withdrawal from the deal on plutonium disposal with the U.S. was a chance to learn about Russian ambitions vis-à-vis CEE, such as, the de facto pulling out of NATO from the entire region, and drawing a dozen or so countries with their tens of millions of citizens into a grey zone condemning them instability and uncertainty. Poland will not accept such a vision of the political order in Europe, and will not condone the carving up of our continent into spheres of influence. Never again Munich or Yalta. Russia’s political actions go hand-in-hand with concrete military steps. We are concerned by the expansion of the Western Military District, to which three new divisions were added in 2016. The militarization of Kaliningrad Oblast continues, with the deployment of new types of weaponry, such as medium-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads….At the same time, we recognize the need for dialogue with our Russian neighbour. We are going to take steps to develop social dialogue, people-to-people contacts, and cultural cooperation, as well as to restore bilateral economic relations.

Annual address on foreign policy goals (2016):[25]

Russia aims to revise the post-Cold War European order and is ready to use force, as its aggression against Ukraine shows. Russia seeks to expand its own sphere of influence and inhibit democratic transition of those Eastern European countries which aspire to rapprochement with the West. It is a policy supported by the expansion of the Russian military potential and hybrid activities, including propaganda…Pragmatic and substantive relations with Russia are in the interest of Poland and Europe alike. Rather than based on one-sided concessions, however, cooperation with Russia should be built in the spirit of constructive dialogue, respect for bilateral agreements and international law.

Eastern Policy: Russia[26]

Since 2013, relations between Poland and Russia have lost their dynamics. The basis thereof was different attitude towards the architecture of the European security, controversies regarding the role and position of the countries of the Central Europe, as well as energy security. Differences between Poland and Russia have been exposed to the biggest extent after Russian aggression in Ukraine. Poland, fulfilling joint EU policy, limited its political contacts with Moscow – at the same time keeping open different channels of dialogue and technical cooperation.

National Security Strategy (2014):[27]

As a neighbour of the Russian Federation, Poland considers that both bilateral relations and NATO-Russia and EU-Russia relations should be developed on the basis of full respect for international law, including sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, as well as freedom to choose their own path of development, political and military alliances…The reassertion of Russia’s position as a major power at the expense of its neighbourhood, as well as the escalation of its confrontational policy, has a negative impact on the security in the region.

Internal Security Agency Report (2014):[28]       

ISA confirmed continued high level of activity of Russian intelligence services directed against Poland and linked with the Kremlin’s propaganda strategy. Their aims were discrediting the position of Poland and other NATO member states in the Ukraine crisis; bringing attention to the complex history of relations between Poland and Ukraine to cause antagonism between their societies; creating and highlighting divisions among the EU and NATO members. Kremlin media spread anti-EU and anti-American statements, especially by Euro-sceptic politicians and voices speaking against further sanctions and tougher policy on Russia. The strategy relied on Russian media as well as Polish citizens representing the pro-Russian stance, and in some cases paid by the Russian state institutions.


 

 

[1]https://www.kaliningrad.msz.gov.pl/pl/informacje_konsularne/opieka_konsularna/polak_w_ok/zasady_wjazdu/zasady_wjazdu;jsessionid=C6BA2DA3DF0DA1D606CE3945D18B39F5.cmsap6p

[2] Cichocki, B., Poland, chapter 6 in M. David, J. Gower and H. Haukkala, ‘National Perspectives on Russia: European Foreign Policy in the Making?’, Routledge 2013.

[3] https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_view_from_warsaw_deterrence_above_all7150

[4] https://www.thenews.pl/1/10/Artykul/291622,Poland-to-lodge-complaint-in-Hague-tribunal-over-Russian-Smolensk-inquiry-FM

[5]https://archive.org/stream/MacierewiczReportOnLiquidationOfThePolishMilitaryInformationServices/WSI_Report_full_djvu.txt

[6] https://www.stratfor.com/geopolitical-diary/geopolitical-diary-trying-redefine-poland

[7] https://www.euractiv.com/section/europe-s-east/news/russia-orders-out-polish-and-german-diplomats-in-tit-for-tat-expulsions/

[8] https://www.euractiv.com/section/enlargement/news/eu-calls-for-rapid-investigation-into-montenegro-coup/

[9] https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/osw-commentary/2015-10-19/migration-ukrainians-times-crisis

[10] https://politicalcritique.org/cee/poland/2016/forgotten-refugees-chechen-asylum-seekers-in-poland/

[11] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28603140

[12] https://www.neweasterneurope.eu/interviews/2007-russia-ukraine-and-europe-s-energy-security

[13] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/MS.MIL.XPND.GD.ZS?locations=PL

[14] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/poland/

[15] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-russia-poland-idUSKBN14W1E4

[16] https://www.rferl.org/a/us-nordic-summit-russian-aggression/27733484.html

[17] https://neweasterneurope.eu/articles-and-commentary/2057-from-prussia-to-russia-how-koenigsberg-the-fortress-city-became-kaliningrad-the-iskander-base

[18]https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/poland/

[19] https://www.ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR-02_A_POWER_AUDIT_OF_EU-RUSSIA_RELATIONS.pdf

[20] Cichocki, B., Poland, chapter 6 in M. David, J. Gower and H. Haukkala, ‘National Perspectives on Russia: European Foreign Policy in the Making?’, Routledge 2013.

[20] https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_view_from_warsaw_deterrence_above_all7150

[21] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/poland/

[22] https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_view_from_warsaw_deterrence_above_all7150

https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_sanctions_are_the_eus_only_tool311339

https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_poland_and_the_eastern_partnership_the_view_from_warsaw3038

[23] https://www.ecfr.eu/scorecard

[24] https://www.msz.gov.pl/en/foreign_policy/goals_of_foreign_policy/annual_address_2011/

[25] https://www.msz.gov.pl/resource/601901dd-1db8-4a64-ba4a-9c80f2d5811b:JCR

[26] https://www.msz.gov.pl/en/foreign_policy/eastern_policy/russia

[27] https://www.bbn.gov.pl/ftp/dok/NSS_RP.pdf

[28] https://bs.net.pl/sites/default/files/media/rozne/raport_2015_int.pdf

Netherlands

Summary: The Netherlands is one of the founding EU and NATO member states. The Netherlands is generally too distant from Russia to concern themselves with the issue of immediate Russian threats. So far the major dimension of Russo-Dutch relations has been economic. However, the downing of the MH17 flying from Amsterdam, and Russian behavior in its investigation worsened the two countries’ relations. Though it is one of the more Euroskeptic Western European nations, the Netherlands did raise a concern that Russia’s behavior threatens international order and the integrity of the EU. This has led to the Dutch becoming more aware of and more concerned by Russian threats, both military and “hybrid”. Furthermore, the Netherlands is hesitant but generally supportive of the common EU stance on Russia, even though the Dutch still believe that political reforms and democratic transformations in Russia are possible in the future.

I. Relationship Parameters

Distance: Dutch foreign minister Koenders considers the Netherland’s location an advantage, as it is far from “the East and the unpredictability of Russia,” as well as other sources of instability.[1]

Energy and trade: The Netherlands is one of Russia’s main trading partners (2nd among EU states) and sources of foreign direct investment (2nd in the world). Oil, gas and other energy products constitute the most important element in the two countries’ trade relations. The Dutch company Shell is a major investor in Russia, including in a large LNG project in Sakhalin. The Dutch natural gas infrastructure and transmission company Gasunie has a close partnership with Russian state operator Gazprom, which led to Dutch participation in the Nord Stream pipeline project. The former CEO of Gasunie heads the South Stream pipeline project’s Amsterdam office. Finally, Rotterdam is the main transit port for Russian oil and oil products, and Russia has plans for investment in downstream facilities in the port area.[2]

Normative issues: The Netherlands has traditionally seen itself as a country with an international responsibility. It is one of the few EU member states running a programme for funding of and assistance to Russian civil society (MATRA), and has not hesitated to raise critical issues on human rights and the state of democracy in Russia. However, this has never interfered with the defence of Dutch business interests.

Euroskepticism: One of the founding members of the Europe Coal and Steel Community and NATO, the Netherlands have undergone a ‘revolution’ of their Europe policy, with an increasingly defensive and sceptical attitude towards Brussels. In the aftermath of the negative Dutch referendum on the Constitution, the Netherlands has chosen a foreign policy course in which bilateral relations are favoured over supranational solutions, and European co-operation is only desirable ‘when a national approach does not lead to the optimal promotion of the interests of Dutch society’[3]. In 2016, Dutch voters rejected the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in a referendum. Observers say the No camp was less motivated by Moscow than by antagonism toward Brussels and fears over chaos in Ukraine.[4]

Political meddling: During the 2017 elections in the Netherlands, Russia has tried to influence the outcome by spreading disinformation, leading the Dutch intelligence service AIVD to conclude that Russia is trying to use freedom in Western societies to undermine them.[5]

MH17: The downing of civilian airliner Malaysia Airlines MH17, in which 196 Dutch people were killed, was an enormous shock for the Dutch public and a game changer for Dutch relations with Russia.

View of Russia: According to the latest Eurobarometer, 8% of the Dutch had a positive view of Russia.

STRATCOM: The Netherlands are a sponsoring nation of the NATO STRATCOM COE.

II. Expert Assessment

Power Audit (2007): Frosty pragmatist. The Netherlands has a very strong economic relationship with Moscow, approaching the importance of Germany-Russia or UK-Russia relations. However, the Netherlands does not put Russian concerns above a common EU Eastern neighbourhood policy, and it tends to raise human rights issues in relation to Russia – although not strongly enough to endanger trade and economic relations.

Views from the capitals (2015): The Dutch have consistently combined excellent economic relations with Russia with a broader critical dialogue, which has included discussions on politically sensitive issues such as human rights. Balancing the two has always been difficult, often leading to tensions…
Respect for international law and support for the post-war security order are important principles in Dutch foreign policy. When the Ukraine crisis broke out, the Netherlands strongly condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s support for the destabilisation of the Donbas. The Netherlands worked closely together with the EU on the issue and followed Germany’s lead as the main international mediator in the conflict. At first they did not favour stronger economic and financial sanctions, but after the downing of MH17, it became clear that there could be no quick return to “business as usual”.[6]
The Dutch policy remains moderate for several reasons. The ongoing investigation of the MH17 crash requires Russian cooperation; business lobby is wary of substantial losses as a result of sanctions; the government has not found a way to translate the ”no” vote in the Ukraine referendum into policy.[7] Also, the Dutch still seem to believe that Russia will eventually make a successful transition to a modern law-based economy and society. However, developments in recent years point in a different direction.

European Foreign Policy Scorecards: Leader on maintaining a strong and united sanctions policy (2016), developing sanctions towards Russia (2015), promoting human rights in Russia (2013).

III. Policy Documents

Foreign Minister’s speech on international security (2016)[8]

In recent years Russia has taunted us with its involvement in Ukraine, its illegal annexation of Crimea, its criminal military involvement in Syria, its placement of Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, its snap military exercises, cyber-attacks and hybrid threats. Russia seems to be becoming less a partner and more a strategic opponent. This huge risk must be avoided at all costs. Russia is a country with which we share many interests, such as the fight against terrorism and energy security… What we need is a business-like relationship based on our interests… But we must not be naïve. Putin himself has said he has a 19th century view of interstate relations in the 21st century. This means naked power politics, with the big countries forming a ‘concert of nations’ to share out the spoils… I still support a relationship with Russia. One we shape together in a united international alliance… We must do this through the outstretched hand of the OSCE, the fist of European sanctions and the muscle of NATO (by means of deterrence and an enhanced forward presence in Lithuania and elsewhere)… Above all, let us not forget that Russia is so much more than its leaders. There will come a day when even closer rapprochement is possible. The Netherlands is already paving the way through its people-to-people contacts and, for example, through its support for impoverished civil society organisations and independent Russian-language media.

Foreign Minister’s speech on the European Union (2015)[9]

On Europe’s eastern flanks Russia is trampling all over the foundations of the modern world order…
A divided Europe is a weak Europe as far as the Russian Federation is concerned… Russia is determined to undermine European unity, for example by supporting anti-European parties like the Front National and by portraying the West as the enemy… It’s essential to respect the Minsk agreements. And that requires an open hand as well as a clenched fist. We must continue putting pressure on the Russian Federation, but also seek political solutions. Russia and the Russians are not our enemy, but we cannot allow the European rules on national sovereignty and the use of force to be unilaterally flouted. The EU’s sanctions and joint diplomacy have an impact that the Netherlands could never achieve on its own.

Foreign Minister’s op ed on free press (2015)[10]

Russian government has been investing in spreading disinformation to audiences both inside and outside Russia. We do not want to ban Russian television channels or news platforms, even if they are controlled by the state or are spreading disinformation. We certainly do not want to launch any counter-propaganda. What we want to do is help independent journalists interested in reporting news in Russian.

International Security Strategy (2013)[11]

Mentions Russia as “one of the new economic and geopolitical powers demanding a role on the world’s stage”, including through increased defense spending and investment in military technology.

Defence Intelligence and Security Service Report (2014)[12]

Russia’s annexation of Crimea, involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine and troop build-up near NATO territory are signs of its assertive and aggressive foreign and security policy. Outside Ukraine, Russia is flexing its military muscle and sending strategic messages by increasing number and complexity of deployments of its strategic bomber fleet and navy close to NATO territory.  The aims of the Russian security policy are not only to preserve nuclear equilibrium and a strategic balance with the United States, but also to maintain influence in the former Soviet republics and bring about fundamental change in Europe’s security architecture. In response to increased Russian military activity, the North Atlantic Council approved measures for the military reinforcement of NATO’s eastern border. Netherlands contributed by stationing F-16 fighter jets in Poland, deploying naval warships to the Baltic Sea and pledging Dutch units to NATO’s ‘spearhead’ force. The demand for intelligence products on the Russian Federation rose sharply as a result.


 

 

[1] https:/‌/‌www.government.nl/‌binaries/‌government/‌documents/‌speeches/‌2016/‌11/‌17/

[2] https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_how_should_europe_respond_to_russia_the_dutch_view311233

[3] Casier, T, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, in National Perspectives on Russia.

[4] https:/‌/‌themoscowtimes.com/‌news/‌russian-bear-looms-over-dutch-referendum-52333

[5] https://www.politico.eu/article/russia-spread-fake-news-during-dutch-election-report-putin/

[6] https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_how_should_europe_respond_to_russia_the_dutch_view311233

[7] https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_view_from_the_hague_an_eternal_balancing_act7146

[8] https:/‌/‌www.government.nl/‌binaries/‌government/‌documents/‌speeches/‌2016/‌11/‌17/‌speech-foreign-minister-koenders-on-international-security/‌Speech+Minister+Koenders+on+international+security.pdf

[9] https:/‌/‌www.government.nl/‌ministries/‌ministry-of-foreign-affairs/‌documents/‌speeches/‌2015/‌03/‌30/‌renewing-the-european-promise-speech-by-minister-koenders-on-the-european-union

[10] https:/‌/‌www.government.nl/‌ministries/‌ministry-of-foreign-affairs/‌documents/‌media-articles/‌2016/‌05/‌02/‌speakers-of-russian-also-have-the-right-to-a-free-press

[11] https:/‌/‌www.government.nl/‌ministries/‌ministry-of-foreign-affairs/‌documents/‌policy-notes/‌2013/‌06/‌21/‌international-security-strategy

[12] https:/‌/‌www.government.nl/‌government/‌contents/‌members-of-cabinet/‌jeanine-hennis-plasschaert/‌documents/‌annual-reports/‌2015/‌07/‌21/‌2014-annual-report-netherlands-defence-intelligence-and-security-service

Malta

Summary: Malta is a non-NATO EU member state. Malta is a small country dependent on oil imports, of which Russia takes the biggest share. Malta’s relations with Russia are insignificant. The Maltese government emphasizes the EU’s mediating role in the Ukraine crisis.

I. Relationship Parameters

History: The first important event in Maltese-Russian relations in the 20th century was the wave of Russian refugees which fled Russia after the Bolshevik revolution and settled in Malta. These refugees have been perceived positively since they were mostly urbane, highly educated and cultured people. After securing its independence, Malta established official diplomatic relations with Russia. After the fall of the USSR, various bilateral agreements across a number of sectors has been signed.[1]

Trade: Besides oil, one of the most important trade relations between Malta and Russia is tourism, Malta being one of the most popular summer destinations for Russians, although Russians are far from being the majority of Maltese tourists and the number of Russian visiting Malta is currently declining.[2] Malta actively tries to attract Russian entrepreneurs and investors and both countries work on furthering their economic ties.[3] The country is also popular amongst Russian students, especially the ones coming to Malta to study English.[4]

Energy: All electricity on Malta is produced from petroleum on which Malta is 100% dependent.[5] Russia is its biggest importer of petroleum with a share of 21%.[6] Malta does not import any natural gas.[7] Malta’s extremely high dependency on energy imports has influenced its policies, as the dependency forces Malta to maintain good relations with exporting countries.[8]

View of Russia: According to the latest Eurobarometer, 37% of Maltese had a positive view of Russia.

Number of Russian diplomats: 10 (19 with spouses).[9]

II. Expert Assessment

Power Audit (2007): Friendly pragmatist. Malta does not have significant economic nor political ties with Russia, most significant is its interest in attracting Russian tourists.

National Perspectives (2013): For Malta, the post-Cold War era has brought changes to its basic foreign policy orientation. The earlier pro- Eastern stance had been replaced with a more pro-Western course, as exemplified by the island becoming a member of the EU and NATO’s PfP, while still retaining its neutrality status. With respect to its relationship with Russia, the Maltese government, whether Nationalist or Labour, has sought during the past two decades to adopt a pragmatic position, largely focussing on securing its national, political and economic interests, as it witnessed the lack of unity among EU member states around a common approach to Russia. Russia itself sees Malta as its priority foreign partner.

Carnegie Europe – Letter From Valletta (2015):[10]

As for the crisis in Ukraine, Malta believes that the EU should continue its mediating and monitoring role and should insist that parties to the conflict in eastern Ukraine adhere to the February 12 ceasefire agreement. Despite a pledge by Malta’s Labour government in 2014 to strengthen ties with Moscow, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat made it clear that his country supported the imposition of sanctions against Russia for its behaviour in Ukraine.

III. Policy Documents

Strategic Objectives of Malta’s Foreign Policy (2006)[11]

According to this document, the top three foreign policy objectives of Malta are:

  • Harness Malta’s geopolitical relevance to maximise political and economic benefits;
  • Make a success of European Union membership and contribute towards the construction of a European Union which gives added value to its member states and its citizens;
  • Strengthen Malta’s bilateral relations, in particular relations with its immediate neighbours.

The document does not mention Russia at all.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs Annual Report (2014)[12]

Even though relations with Russia were affected by the crisis in Ukraine, the Embassy of Malta in Moscow is still working hard to raise the profile of Malta in Russia through various events. The Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation entered into force, removing Malta from the Russian list of ‘offshore’ countries. The Ministry increased diplomatic contacts with Ukraine and Moldova in order to demonstrate the Maltese Government’s support for the signing of the Association Agreements with the EU. Malta continues to maintain that any attempt to solve the crisis in Ukraine should be based on the principles of international law and should fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Ministry has participated in EU discussions in Brussels on the elaboration of restrictive measures on Russia and continues to follow developments.


 

 

[1] Alshinawi, Arsalan, Malta, Chapter 16 in National Perspectives on Russia.

[2]https://nso.gov.mt/en/News_Releases/View_by_Unit/Unit_C3/Population_and_Tourism_Statistics/Documents/2017/News2017_020.pdf

[3] https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160228/business-features/the-russian-connection.604110

[4] Alshinawi, Arsalan, Malta, Chapter 16 in National Perspectives on Russia.

[5] https://www.transport.gov.mt/admin/uploads/media-library/files/DAirMaltaStudyVisit_The%20Energy%20Sector%20in%20Malta.pdf

[6] https://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/import/mlt/show/2711/2014/

[7] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2252.html

[8] Alshinawi, Arsalan, Malta, Chapter 16 in National Perspectives on Russia.

[9]https://foreignaffairs.gov.mt/en/Pages/Foreign%20Diplomatic%20Missions%20accredited%20to%20Malta/Russia.aspx

https://www.malta.mid.ru/eng/diplist.html

[10] https://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=59122

[11] https://www.doi-archived.gov.mt/EN/press_releases/2006/02/pr0184a.doc

[12]https://www.gov.mt/en/Government/Publications/Documents/Annual%20Reports/2014/MFA%20Annual%20Report%202014.pdf

Luxembourg

Summary: Luxembourg is one of the founding NATO and EU nations, and one of the three Benelux states. However, Luxembourg is a small and militarily insignificant NATO state, whose primary source of economic wealth and prosperity lies in financial services. High amounts of investments from Russia make the country hesitant to implement EU measures designed to curb shady finances coming from Russia. Though Luxembourg does not wish to bar Russian finance, it supports common EU policies designed to penalize Russia for violating international law. Furthermore, Luxembourg officials expressed hope that a peace in Ukraine is possible, and that Russia and Ukraine could find a compromise over their disagreements.

I. Relationship Parameters

Investment: Due to its role as a tax haven and banking hub, Luxembourg is an important country of origin of FDI. It is considered to be among the top-3 investors in Russia, although precise data are confidential. According to Putin, in 2015 Luxemburg investment funds held $40 worth of assets in Russia, while Russian investments in the Duchy were worth $12 billion.[1]

Sanctions: FDI numbers include Russian money cycled back to Russia via Luxembourg. The Duchy is home to Volga Group, owned by Putin associate Gennady Timchenko; Rosneft Finance, run by Putin associate Igor Sechin; and an asset management branch of Gazprombank. With all of them under EU and US sanctions, Luxembourg is a hotspot in terms of compliance. According to Luxembourg’s prime minister, it has not frozen the assets of any Russians on EU blacklists as of 2015.[2] Luxembourg banks were also accused of laundering Russian mafia money by Hermitage Capital, a UK firm whose lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was killed in Russia in 2009. The Duchy froze €6.5 million of Magnitsky-linked funds.

View of Russia: According to the latest Eurobarometer, 21% in Luxembourg had a positive view of Russia.

II. Expert Assessment

Power Audit (2007): Friendly pragmatist: maintains a close relationship with Russia and tends to put business interests above political goals.

National Perspectives (2013): In the case of Luxembourg, normative concerns over the political situation in Russia are hard to find. In a 2010 interview, ambassador to Moscow Gaston Stronck called political relations with Russia ‘very very stable’ and ‘extremely friendly’. He stated: ‘Russia is a democratic state. Russia is able to find its own way and it does not deserve comments… from outside. We fully respect the developments underway in Russia.”[3] The pragmatic attitude is illustrated by the Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn’s 2009 statement: “Russia doesn’t have a veto right over the choices of countries like Georgia and Ukraine. However, it is important to take Russian concerns into account to avoid the stability and political balance in our region being endangered unnecessarily. The advantage of a strategic partnership based on mutual trust is that divergences can be approached in an open and constructive way.”[4]

EU-28 Watch (2015): In Luxembourg, the violation of international law and the annexation of Ukrainian territory were strongly condemned. But there is growing opposition to the economic sanctions against Russia, which have proven to be inefficient in achieving the intended goals. Foreign Affairs minister Jean Asselborn’s 2015 declaration in parliament points out that lasting international isolation of Russia would be counterproductive, and that sanctions cannot be a solution to the Ukrainian conflict. “We must create a new basis of cooperation with Russia to keep peace and a certain level of normality,” he said.[5]

III. Policy Documents

Minister Assleborn’s Declaration on Foreign Policy (2016)[6]

After the Maidan revolution, Russia occupied and illegally annexed Crimea, before eastern Ukraine was set ablaze. Since April 2014, more than 9.000 people have lost their lives to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, among them the 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. After the terrible escalation of violence in the winter of 2014, the arrangement regarding the implementation of the Minsk Agreement of 12th February 2015 created some hope for a permanent political resolution of the conflict. Beyond demanding a cease-fire and the retreat of weapons in accordance with the Minsk Memorandum of September 2014, this package asks for a political process of decentralization and local elections, at the end of which Ukraine shall regain sovereignty over its eastern border.

Following the annexation of Crimea and because of the destabilization of eastern Ukraine, the European Union was left with no other choice than adopting targeted sanctions against the separatists and Russia. The sanctions remain a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves. They are intimately linked to the implementation of the Minsk agreements in their entirety, and can be lifted as soon as the conditions are being met (…) The full implementation of the Minsk agreements remains absolutely essential, not just to stabilise eastern Ukraine, but moreover to normalise our relations with Russia. We have to keep seeking dialogue with Russia, because, in the long run, it is inconceivable to share a continent without communicating and without working on the creation of a common, shared, space. In those areas that are not affected by the sanctions, mainly the prevention of and fight against terrorism, our cooperation with Russia can and should be enhanced. We are also well aware that a solution in Syria is not conceivable without Russia, and therefore it is crucial to sustain dialogue with Moscow.

Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs Activity Report (2015)[7]

Bilateral relations with Russia were framed by the international political context marked by crises in Ukraine and Syria. Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Luxembourg met Russian and Ukrainian leaders in the context of bilateral relations and Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Before meeting the Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel said in an interview for Euractiv: [the Minsk Agreements are not being respected because] “both sides have made mistakes. I do not want to put the blame only on one side. It is important to see how we can move forward, because at the moment, we are all in a lose-lose situation… For the moment the pattern is sanction, reaction, sanction, reaction… Everybody in the EU speaks about the need for change, led also by the ‘Exit’ debate, including Brexit.”[8]

Foreign Minister Asselborn met his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. He expressed regret that implementation of the Minsk agreements remains unsatisfactory, highlighting the importance of Russia exercising its influence positively and of Ukraine carrying out its responsibilities for the local elections in the Donbass. Regarding relations between the EU and Russia, as well as cooperation with NATO and within the OSCE, Asselborn said that the continuation of a constructive dialogue must be encouraged in order to reach an even closer partnership with Russia, a key political and economic player.[9]


 

 

[1] https://euobserver.com/foreign/130589

[2] https://euobserver.com/foreign/130589

[3] Casier, T, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, in National Perspectives on Russia.

[4] Casier, T, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, in National Perspectives on Russia.

[5] https://eu-28watch.org/issues/issue-no-11/luxembourg/

[6] https://www.gouvernement.lu/5800768/Discours-de-politique-etrangere—Version-EN.pdf

[7] https://www.gouvernement.lu/5921759/2015-rapport-affaires-etrangeres-europeennes.pdf

[8] https://www.gouvernement.lu/5186616/31-bettel-euractiv

[9] https://moscou.mae.lu/en/News/Working-visit-of-Minister-Jean-Asselborn-to-Moscow-on-13-September-2016

Latvia

Summary: Latvia was one of the first ex-Soviet states to join the EU and NATO in 2004, and it remains a key NATO member state, sharing a border with Russia and Belarus. Latvia is the most Russified of the Baltic States. Like Estonia, it has a sizeable Russian minority, including non-citizens, living in the country. Due to its geographic location and existing infrastructure, Latvia was traditionally dependent on Russian fossil fuels. Large percentages of Russian speakers increase threats posed by Russian intelligence, fake news and disinformation – something that the Latvian government is very aware of. Still, Latvia is highly active in the EU and NATO efforts to counter Russian threats, and it was highly supportive of closer ties between the EU and Ukraine, as well as the sanctions against Russia for the annexation of Crimea.

I. Relationship Parameters

History: Latvia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 but it had to cope with the presence of Russian troops on its soil for a few more years. Since then, Latvia has been orienting more westward and joined NATO and the EU in 2004. In 2007, Latvia and Russia signed and ratified a border treaty agreement. The relationship between the two countries is negatively affected by their different views on history (for example, many politicians in Moscow dispute the fact of occupation of the Baltic states) and the question of Russian minority living in Latvia.[1]

Energy: Regarding natural gas, currently the only player in the Latvian gas market is the Gazprom-controlled Latvijas Gaze and Russia is Latvia’s sole gas supplier. Latvijas Gaze also imports some gas from Lithuania but only for sales in Estonia. However, the sales monopoly of Latvijas Gaze will expire in April 2017 and Latvian gas market will become more open and, therefore, able to decrease its dependence on Russia, most probably by using gas imported through the Lithuanian Klaipeda LNG terminal.[2] As for oil, Russia is Latvia’s third biggest supplier (after Lithuania and Finland) with a 23% market share.[3] Latvia has a very high share of renewables in its energy consumption mix (36%).[4] The Baltic states want to decrease their overall dependence on Russia, which is why they also want to link their electricity network to one of the EU member states at the expense of Russia. This particular intention makes Moscow worry that the Baltic electrical emancipation would cut off Kaliningrad.[5] Latvia opposes the proposed construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, as it would be against Latvia’s energy policy oriented on diversification of suppliers.[6]

Trade: Trade with Russia accounts for 8% of Latvia’s foreign trade. Latvia’s biggest trading partners are the other two Baltic states, and 74% of Latvian exports goes to the EU.[7]

Russian minority: Ethnic Latvians account only for 61% of all Latvian population and the second largest ethnic group are Russians with 26%. If we consider the total number of Russian native speakers in Latvia, the number gets even higher.[8] Similarly to Estonia, there is a significant gap between the two groups in terms of views on many political issues. Moscow’s rhetoric often focusses on an alleged discrimination of ethnic Russians in the Baltics, which is a sensitive topic considering Russia has used the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians in its “near abroad” for territorial expansion.[9]  Latvia’s Russian minority is being heavily targeted by the propaganda spread through Kremlin-owned or supported media, which are the most important source of information for local Russian speakers. Moscow also supports various local Russian initiatives. In 2012, there was a referendum whether Russian should become Latvia’s second official language which turned out unsuccessful.[10] 12% of Latvian society are non-citizens because to become citizens they would have to pass a test of Latvian language, history, and government, which many of them resent.[11] There is also a rational calculation, because people with non-citizen passport can go to Russia and the EU without visa, which makes sense economically.

Secret service activity: According to Latvia’s security police, the main counter intelligence risks faced by Latvia come from Russia, which not only organizes espionage activities against Latvia but also conducts information operations.[12]

Disinformation and propaganda: Latvia has been heavily targeted by Russian disinformation and propaganda. In 2016, Latvian authorities shut down Russia’s pro-Kremlin news site Sputnik for being a “propaganda tool”.[13]

View of Russia: According to the latest Eurobarometer, 43% of Latvians had a positive view of Russia.

Number of Russian diplomats: 32 (53 with spouses).[14]

STRATCOM: Latvia has a national seconded expert working at the EEAS East STRATCOM Team. Latvia is a founding nation of the NATO STRATCOM COE

II. Expert Assessment

National Perspectives (2013): Despite having a lot in common with other Baltic states, Latvia may be a bit more pragmatic in its stance towards Russia.

EU-28 Watch (2015): For several years prior, Latvia has adhered to a cautiously positive approach towards Russia, not ignoring disagreements, but heavily focusing on economic cooperation. However, after Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Russia became a threat once again, even though economic cooperation is still important for the government. At the same time, Latvia’s active participation in the sanctions against Russia shows that it is ready to bear with even grave economic losses. Latvia believes that sanctions can be softened only when the situation in Ukraine’s eastern regions improves, and lifted only after the annexation of Crimea is resolved. It does not stand for complete isolation of Russia but also rejects appeasement as a failed strategy that led to World War II.

Power Audit (2007): Frosty pragmatist. Latvia has increasingly sought a more moderate tone in its relations with Russia and, in fact, Russia tends to cultivate good relations with at least one of the three Baltic states at any given moment, and Latvia dissociates itself from the two others. However, Latvia has also had its oil supplies cut off and been exposed to political pressures.

European Foreign Policy Scorecards: Leader on “maintaining a strong and united sanctions policy” and on “commitment to Eastern Partnership countries” (2016). Leader on “developing sanctions towards Russia” and “supporting a free press in Russia” (2015).

III. Policy Documents

Annual Report on accomplishments and further work with respect to national foreign policy and the European Union (2017)[15]

In 2016, Russia continued pursuit of foreign policy that fuels conflicts and escalates tensions internationally. Russia’s violation of international norms and the use of military force to achieve political goals have created insecurity for all of Russia’s neighbours.

Latvia will be insisting that a prerequisite for the review of restrictive measures is full implementation of the Minsk agreements. Latvia will advocate consistent compliance with the policy of non-recognition of Crimea and stand up for retaining this issue on the agenda of EU-Russia relations until there has been a return to full compliance with international law.

The dynamics of bilateral cooperation between Latvia and Russia is shaped by Russia’s political and economic course, the overall climate of EU-Russia relations and current security conditions. Concurrently, Latvia will move ahead with practical cooperation with Russia at the expert and sectoral level on matters which are not related to sanctions and in which Latvia is clearly interested.

Latvia will be prepared to respond to attempts to divide its society or endanger the democratic system and security in the country. Counteracting Russian propaganda and disinformation in international organisations and the media will continue in tandem with work to strengthen the information space in Latvia and across the EU. Latvia will keep the democracy and human rights situation in Russia high on its agenda.

The State Defence Concept (2012)[16]

By continuing to improve and modernise the national defence capabilities, by strengthening North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s collective defence and by contributing to international security, both bilaterally and multilaterally, Latvia reduces the risk of external military aggression or an outbreak of other national threats, and, if necessary, is ready to ensure effective deterrence measures.

It is within the interests of Latvia to promote the principle of openness and mutual trust in the dialogue with the Russian Federation in bilateral contacts, and at the levels of the OSCE, EU and NATO. There is a need to promote military cooperation, for example, for ensuring maritime safety and search and rescue coverage in the Baltic Sea, as well as promoting the involvement of the Russian Federation in trainings and exercises organised for NATO partner countries.

The National Security Concept (2015)[17]

The Russian Federation implements its foreign policy by using complex measures that causes so-called hybrid threats. (…) The main nature of these measures is gradual weakening of the country by use of internal policy. (…) The Russian Federation benefits from creating a conflict area near its border, in which the transition from peaceful existence to crisis and later to war is very difficult to identify. (…) [Russia also] benefits from creating a fictional notion that NATO causes external threats due to internal policy. (…) These risk factors require to increase the national security measures in the Republic of Latvia and Baltic region.

Considering the fact that Latvia is a member of NATO and EU, as well as the geographic location of the country, the biggest threat comes from the Russian Special Services. (…) Foreign special services not only gather information, but also execute so-called active measures that try to affect the decision making of the Republic of Latvia, NATO, and EU, as well as the opinion of the society in these territories.

Priorities of the prevention of threats to information space of the Republic of Latvia:

  • Development of the public media
  • Reduction of influence of the information space of the Russian Federation

Development of the Media Literacy and Media Education


 

 

[1] Lasas, Ainius and Galbreath, David J.; Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Chapter 10 in National Perspectives on Russia, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/lv-forrel-ru.htm

[2] https://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFL8N15O3RX, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/andras-simonyi/why-energy-more-than-ever_b_8832354.html

[3] https://atlas.media.mit.edu/4k2804

[4] https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/files/documents/2014_countryreports_latvia.pdf

[5] https://www.politico.eu/article/baltics-threaten-to-unplug-russian-region-power-kaliningrad-electricity-interconnectors-lithuania-poland-sweden/

[6] https://www.dw.com/en/baltic-states-oppose-nord-stream-2-pipeline/av-37726734

[7] https://www.liaa.gov.lv/en/trade/foreign-trade-statistics

[8] https://www.li.lv/upload/files/10022015/45a7f901fa17199f9918fad52a3f80b9.pdf

[9] https://time.com/3456722/latvia-election-russia-ukraine/

[10] https://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/6/13/latvia-resists-russian-soft-power.html

[11] https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/lv-forrel-ru.htm

[12]https://www.mfa.gov.lv/arpolitika/sabiedribas-integracija-latvija/pilsoniba-latvija/pilsonibas-likums

https://www.dp.gov.lv/en/?rt=documents&ac=download&id=15

[13] https://www.stopfake.org/en/latvia-blocks-russian-sputnik-site-as-kremlin-propaganda-tool/

[14] https://www.mfa.gov.lv/images/protocol/DipList.pdf

[15] https://www.mfa.gov.lv/images/uploads/infografiki/Foreign_Policy_Report_2016_ENG.pdf

[16] https://www.mod.gov.lv/~/media/AM/Par_aizsardzibas_nozari/Plani,%20koncepcijas/2012_va_EN.ashx

[17] https://www.mod.gov.lv/~/media/AM/Par_aizsardzibas_nozari/Plani,%20koncepcijas/NDK/NDK_ENG_final.ashx