The European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum this Thursday and Friday. During the stay he will meet Russian president Vladimir Putin.
We regard it as problematic for three reasons:
1.) According to the available information, President Juncker does not have any fundamental message for Vladimir Putin – most of the communication with Moscow happens on the Alliance level. Juncker should emphasize that the existence of the European sanctions against Russia goes hand in hand with Minsk agreements (which Moscow does not follow) and Russian occupation of Crimea. He should also stress that Kremlin interfering with European internal affairs through aggressive disinformation campaign is absolutely unacceptable. However, we do not expect such an attitude.
2.) Juncker’s trip to Russia will be abused by the Russian domestic propaganda to create the impression that weak Western leaders are rather compliant with Vladimir Putin’s initiatives.
3.) It is hard to understand why Juncker tolerates being abused in the context of the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg. It is a Putin’s Potemkin village serving to create the impression that Russia holds a large economic forum comparable for example to that in Davos. Juncker could have pushed only for a bilateral appointment with Vladimir Putin. Instead he consents to participate in one of the main propaganda events of today’s Kremlin politics.
In case of questions or commentaries, please contact Jakub Janda, Deputy Director of the European Values Think-Tank and Head of the Strategic Program Kremlin Watch, via the mobile phone +420 775 962 643 or the e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.