Borrell travels to Russia with Navalni’s arrest in mind

The Head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, travels to Moscow for a meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, this Thursday. This official trip comes four years after the last visit of a High Representative of the European Union to Russia and only two days after the leader of the Russian opposition Alexei Navalny was sentenced to 3 and a half years in prison.

The Kremlin has already made it clear to him, “the future of relations between Russia and the EU cannot be linked to Navalni.”

“I do not think that receiving pressure from the European Union or other external factors, such as the impact of sanctions, will cause changes in the position of the Russian authorities. Therefore, our Western partners have very low expectations of the Russian leadership. Regardless of what Russia does or does not do, no one believes that this relationship can improve. “, explains Andrei Kortunov, Director of the Russian International Affairs Committee.

A journey that divides the Twenty-seven

Criticism of Borrell’s visit to Moscow also comes from within the bloc. A European diplomat has told Euronews that this trip comes at a “bad time” and it is above all very “naive” to believe that dialogue without any bargaining chip or preconditions can work. Likewise, there is a risk that the EU will lose credibility by not being able to achieve its objective in Moscow and the Member States will lose their trust in the head of EU diplomacy.

While states like Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania suggested to Borrell that he postpone his trip and impose sanctions, others like Germany or France applaud his decision and call for direct diplomacy.

“The EU and Russia can begin to normalize their relations. For this, the ball is in the hands of the Russian authorities. Because it is not only about the arrest of Navalny and his supporters, but about the Russian annexation of Crimea, about the war in eastern Ukraine, etc. But of course Mr Borrell has to be very firm to represent the clear positions of the European Union on all these violations of international law by Russia “, says Urmas Paet, former Estonian foreign minister and MEP.

Russia and the EU: neither with you nor without you

Money and business interests could be at the center of tensions. Experts argue that Europe has to find a sustainable way of life with its one of its most strategic neighbors.

“We suffer, but Russia also suffers because it needs Western capital, technology and cooperation. Modernization and diversification of the Russian economy are not having much success. And to achieve this, it is not China that is going to provide the solutions. It is Europe who can contribute the investment. For its part, the European Union can benefit enormously from the contributions of Russia, economically, of raw materials, but not only that. Take a look at the Sputnik V vaccine, which has been recognized as being effective In this area, we could both work together and benefit, “says Marc Franco, researcher at the independent Belgian think tank Egmont.

Borrell knows that the expectations of this trip are not very high, but before putting new sanctions on the table again, he is in favor of giving dialogue a chance.