Although Russia has assiduously tried to drive a wedge between Europe and the United States, relations between Russia and the EU are on a downward spiral. The latest spat arose from the mutual blacklisting of officials. For the first time in 15 years the EU foreign service, the External Action Service summoned Russia's ambassador to the bloc, Vladimir Chizhov, to present a formal complaint, after Russia blacklisted the EU Parliament president and an EU commissioner on May 1, 2021. The Russian ambassador to Paris, Alexey Meshkov was also summoned by the French foreign ministry over the same issue. The Russian Embassy in France branded the summons part of an EU-coordinated demarche and warned that the anti-Russian hysteria in Europe would no help improve ties between Moscow and the bloc. Russia will be one of the topics of the forthcoming EU summit on May 25, 2021.
Russia's veteran ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizov (Souce: Rg.ru)
Russian opinion leaders are seeking to explain the downturn in relations between Moscow and Brussels, by casting the blame on Europe. MEMRI is providing two examples by featured columnists. In this special dispatch, political scientist and senior columnist George Bovt blames the crisis on Europe's incurable racist prejudice against Russia, as proven by derogatory statements made about Russia by Europeans. If such statements were made about blacks there would be hell to pay. Yet, if they are made against Russia, this is considered normal and objective. This inveterate prejudice will not change no matter who is in charge of Russia, be it Yeltsin or Putin. The only thing that interests Europe in Russia is trade, Bovt ruefully concludes.
Bovt's article follows below:
"The European Parliament adopted yet another, as they say in Russia, 'Russophobic resolution.' We can essentially cite a call to disconnect Russia from SWIFT and a call to halt completion of Nord Stream 2. However, nearly 11 pages of this resolution essentially depict the modern perception of our country by the all-European political class. It [the resolution] assembles today's European resentments towards the 'special kind of hell on earth' [Russia], which, due to some historical tragic misunderstanding is separated from the Charlemagne empire's heirs by unfortunate Ukraine. After reading the document, one can observe approximately this attitude, 'there is nothing in common and cannot be anything in common between us, given the huge civilizational, political and value system abyss.'
"The 'complaints' list” includes the Navalny issue; the demand for 'freedom of navigation' in the Sea of Azov; the 'destabilization in Ukraine', where the DPR and LPR forces, according to the European deputies, include at least three thousand Russian soldiers; the recent 'force concentrations' near the Ukrainian borders (which allegedly happen in violation of the OSCE procedures); the situation with human rights in Russia in general; and corruption. Obviously, the 2014 incident at military depots in Czechia was also mentioned, which led to a scandal (albeit after a six-year delay).
"The substantive provisions [of the resolution], aside from an appeal to disconnect Russia from SWIFT, include calls to freeze the Russian oligarchs’ assets (earlier, Europe was not very keen on this proposal), to nullify their visas and introduce other sanctions (including on family members). In addition to the call to stop [construction of] Nord Stream 2, the resolution contains an idea to reduce oil and gas imports [from Russia], and in the case of a new aggravation in Ukraine, to halt them completely. The resolution also urges developing unified legislation against corrupt Russian officials, similar to the Magnitsky Act, adopted by the US. The European deputies also appeal to Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria to annul all 'golden passports' issued to a wealthy Russians. The EU leadership urges the development of a 'new strategic approach in relations with Russia,' including the determination of 'red lines' (which recently became a popular expression) in relation to [Russian] state agencies.
"All the aforementioned provisions were passed almost unanimously, although our Eastern European 'post-brothers' [the Eastern European states that renewed their independence following the collapse of the USSR] were the initiators.
"Russia usually displays a blunt attitude towards the resolutions of this European institution –it shrugs them off ([foreign ministry spokesperson] Maria Zakharova will formulate it better) because they do not enter into force immediately.
"There is only one problem. These 'empty words' signify how our country is currently viewed there. [They in the EU see us] down to the last of its citizens as hostile and 'politically toxic'. And such mindsets will influence the negotiations [with the Europeans] on all issues. I already know of examples where European (not even American) companies refused to supply completely non-military and not even dual-use equipment to Russian companies simply because these companies are Russian, although they were not under sanctions. It was simply a matter of 'one never knows what might happen, it is better not to mess with it.'
"For some reason I believe that ordinary Russians will feel this attitude, while applying for visas at some European consulates. Until the recent events, the call of one former Estonian president (there many have managed to become 'former presidents' in the post-Soviet era of Estonia, it's a matter of rotation you know, to stop issuing European visas to Russians, would’ve appeared to be a vicious slur made by a political marginal. However, after the US embassy stopped issuing visas to Russians (formally due to Moscow’s prohibition to employ local technical staff, which practically stopped the provision of consular services), it appears that such a grand initiative may be partially embraced by some other countries. Such prospects are even more likely since Russia is preparing a corresponding list of such 'unfriendly countries.'
Europe Is Returning To Its Centuries-Old Perception Of Russia As A Barbarous Country
"Meanwhile, old Europe is returning returns to her centuries-old perception of Russia as, first of all, alien country. In the worst case scenario [Russia will be perceived] as hostile and barbaric country and in the best-case scenario it will be perceived as simply exotic and incomprehensible.
"Back in the 1980s-90s (or at the very beginning of the 20th century) there were glimmers of hope that we could love each other. It didn’t work out however.
"The Europeans left behind quite a few notes on Russia-Muscovy-the Russian kingdom), because it was strangely exotic (meaning it was an interesting land), but simultaneously a relatively accessible country. One could get to Russia by land and by sea, unlike to closed China, Japan or distant India. In the perception of medieval Europeans, Muscovy practically bordered India.
"Political correctness was uncommon, so one can read all the filth that Europeans wrote about any nations there is. At the end of the XIX century even presidents of America, currently extremely politically correct about BLM, unhesitatingly used the word “negro”.
"Additionally Russia was also perceived as 'apostate' as it was non- papist, non-Catholic, and then - non-Protestant. Let’s remember that every authentic Catholic and Protestant is a 'missionary,' a bearer of the 'correct worldview' and 'exemplary behavior.' In this regard, the very same American foreign policy includes (and always included) a lot of absolutely sincere and truly unselfish missionary work (or messianism) than has been usually conceded in our country. For some reason, almost no one in Russia believes this fact.
"For example, let’s quote Ambrogio Contarini, a Venetian diplomat who lived in Moscow for almost six months in the middle of the XV century, 'Russians are very beautiful, both men and women, but in general they are a rude people.'
"Back then the stereotype of 'Russian drunkenness' (which appeared when beer in Europe was consumed instead of water, and entire nations succumbed to alcoholism) was propagated in Europe, 'They are the greatest drunkards and they boast of this a lot, despising non-drinkers.'
"Let’s quote the notes of the English navigator Richard Chancellor, who in the realm of trade relations with Muscovy accomplished no less than Michael Calvey in relations with post-Soviet Russia, 'By their nature these people prone to deception. Only strong beating curbs this characteristic... There a lot of impoverished people here, and they live in a very indigent state...” You can verify if you wish how England did poverty-wise in those days, and also what nobles wrote about [their own] lower classes (approximately the same thing).
"Let's fast forward to the XVII century. The Duke of Schleswig-Holstein Frederick III (a century later these lands will give us the future Emperor of Russia Peter III, born Charles Peter Ulrich of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp and his wife, the future Catherine II, born Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst) sends to Muscovy 'the scientist of many sciences' Adam Olearius. Not because he wanted to construct a gas pipeline from Western Siberia, but to create the very same trade relations (Europe was always interested in Russia in this regard). The envoy won the heart of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich [Romanov] who suggested that he enter his service. But Olearius, while not refusing the royal presents and care, inwardly had different thoughts. Upon returning to his homeland, he wrote about the Russians, 'Russians do not enjoy liberal arts and high sciences and have no desire to learn them… Therefore, they will remain ignoramuses and rude people... In terms of their mind, Russians, do in fact, possess intelligence and cunning. However, they use their minds not to strive for virtue and a praiseworthy life, but to seek benefits and cater to their passions.' This is what always happens, first they enjoy our hospitality, and later they will write nasty things about us.
"There are rumors that the Swedes even now treat Russia cooly. This is why they are constantly searching for Russian submarines in their waters.
"Let’s quote the Swedish military Johan Jerne, who was practically sent on a reconnaissance mission to St. Petersburg in the 1720s (Why he was even allowed to Russia is a mystery, since the Northern War [between Russia and Sweden] had recently ended), 'I really have to support the inhuman autocracy instituted in this country, which is usually so hated, since these people cannot be controlled except by extremely severe methods and by treatment worse than that of dogs; freedom and softness there is a deadly poison that could destroy the state; therefore, undoubtedly, nature bestowed upon them a low and slavish character.' Lord, why did they start to teach us democracy, if we are so hopeless?
"The French general Thomas Arthur, Comte de Lally was rudely welcomed by [Empress] Anna Ioannovna’s court, although the court then was thick with foreigners. Offended, he compared Russia to 'a child who remained in the womb for much longer than usual, grew up there for several years and, finally was born into the world. [The child] opens his eyes, sees objects similar to him, stretches out his arms and legs, but does not know how to use them, he feels his strength, but does not know what to use it for. Is it no wonder that such a people would allow the first person they encountered to rule over them? (During the reign of French king Louis XV culture flourished, but the economy gradually declined. The expression 'after us, the flood' is attributed to him. The phrase turned out to be prophetic, his successor was dethroned by the revolution).
"And finally let’s quote the classics. Nicholas I [of Russia] personally invited Marquis Astolphe de Custine and partially “funded” his trip around the country. The tsar was probably thinking, 'the marquis will come, write a good review [about Russia], and may the soft power be with us' (I’m just joking, there was no such term yet). Furthermore, de Custine’s grandfather and father were guillotined by the French revolutionaries. So, the marquis did his best. Actually, he was an 'anti-Westerner' by our standards, and tried to flatter Nicholas in every way possible, by eagerly approving his rejection of Alexander I's reforms, 'Emperor Nicholas is the first to go against the flow, by restoring the Russians to themselves. The world will be amazed by such an undertaking when it realizes what a powerful and indestructible mind has conceived it.' What a great 'Nicholas-knower' (as we say now) the marquis was!
"Actually, he saw a lot of good things in Russia. For example, he considered Russian peasants to possess an almost ancient beauty. In his own way, he even praises Russian uniqueness. However, the marquis hated Petersburg, like the rest of Peter’s 'Western-like' creations, 'The Kalmyk horde that set up camp in shacks encircling a cluster of Greek temples; a Greek city, hastily built for the Tatars as if it was a theater set, which is brilliant but a tasteless frame to a genuine and terrible drama - these are what immediately catches the eye in St. Petersburg.” He was a lout and a rude person despite being a marquis. Nothing else is to say about him.
The Marquis de Custine (Source: Gramquotes.com)
"Were his 'racist' books thrown out of European libraries as a part of some BLM penance? - Oh no. This does not offend anyone in Europe.
"De Custine traveled to Russia in order to convince himself and the European society of a malignancy of the republican rule. However, he, a 'descendant of the repressed' has left Russia, almost a republican, 'The more I get to know Russia, the more I understand, why the emperor forbids Russians to travel [abroad] and impedes foreigners from entering the country. The Russian rule would not survive even 20 years of free relations between Russia and Western Europe.'
Actually he refuses to consider the Russians to be civilized people, calling them 'Tartars [standing] in a military formation.' He wrote, 'Their civilization exists only in appearance. In fact, they are hopelessly behind us and, when the opportunity arises, they will take a brutal revenge on us for our superiority.'
"The European reader apparently still remembered the War of the Sixth Coalition, when the Russian army defeated Napoleon and took Paris and probably liked these statements of de Custine. However, Nicolas I, as a genuine Russian autocrat, did not appreciate marquis’s nuances and banned his book. Anyways, although Nikolas I was a satrap, he did the right thing. By the way, many progressive-minded contemporaries supported him in this, even Alexander Herzen.
If Russians Were Black It Would Be Easier For Europeans To Deal With Them
"But if today such a 'European traveler' would be released from the artificial constrains of political correctness, he would write more or less the same thing. After all BLM's victimization ideology does not seem to apply to Russians. Sometimes I regret that we [Russians] are not black, because it would be easier for them to deal with us.
"If one would look at the attitude towards Russia in today’s Europe, then he would see that over the past decades in many countries it remained the same (no matter who the president was: Yeltsin, Medvedev, or Putin). Thus, according to the Pew Research Center, 15-20 years ago in France about a third of population had positive sentiments towards Russia. The same is true now, while 55-58% of respondents have stable negative sentiments towards Russia... The Swedes didn’t like us under Peter the Great, under Medvedev and continue to do so under Putin...
"Thus, it seems that the political agenda differs from people’s attitudes. However, fundamentally the split between 'us' and 'them' persists. 'And never the twain shall meet,' as the remarkable writer Kipling wrote about the same in reference to his beloved India, which, as is known to many in the West from the local media, practically borders on Russia."
George Bovt (Source: Reporter64.ru)