Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs and Chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, Moscow
Ivan Krastev, Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow, Robert Bosch Academy, and Chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies, Sofia
Ruprecht Polenz, President of the German Society for Eastern Studies (DGO), former MP and Head of the Foreign Affairs Commitee of the German Bundestag
Kadri Liik, Head of the Wider Europe Programe, ECFR, London
Sylke Tempel, Editor-in-Chief, Internationale Politik
Invitation to the Panel-Debate: What does Russia think?
on Wednesday, 2 July 2014, at 5 p.m. in the Berlin Representative Office of the Robert Bosch Stiftung,
Französische Straße 32, 10117 Berlin Mitte
With the annexation of Crimea and its policy of destabilization of Eastern Ukraine, Russia has undermined the post-cold war European security order. On July 2nd, the Robert Bosch Foundation and the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) had the privilege of hosting expert thinkers both from the EU and Russia to discuss the unfolding events in Ukraine. The panel included Ivan Krastev – Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Studies in Sofia, Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, Kadri Liik, head of the ECFR Wider Europe programme, Ruprecht Polenz, President of the German Society for Eastern Studies (DGO) and former Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag as well as Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of “Russia in Global Affairs” and Chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy in Moscow. The discussion was moderated by Sylke Tempel, Editor-in-Chief of “Internationale Politik”.
In his opening statement, Fyodor Lukyanov offered an unapologetic and open account of the prevailing Russian opinion on the question “What does Russia think?”, claiming that the identity vacuum following the collapse of the Soviet Union coupled with Putin's deft use of propaganda created the perfect environment for his narrative to flourish. He went on to point out what Putin and the Russian public believed to be the irony of the West's sudden fervor for international law, prompting Fyodor Lukyanov’s comment, “America is upset that Russia has undermined the West's monopoly on violating international law”. Ruprecht Polenz and Ivan Krastev showed strong support for the defense of international law and made quite clear that they are not convinced by the Russian line of reasoning.
Lukyanov also speculated on the reasons for Russia’s decision to annex Crimea, stating that a closer association between the EU and Ukraine was perceived by Putin to be of great enough geo-strategic importance to justify the “reintegration” (as he called it) of Crimea. The enforcement of trading linkages between Russia and its neighbors also factored in to the decision.
The panelists went on to discuss the implications of the European and American sanctions on Russia, concluding that the latter would undoubtedly suffer from the restrictions imposed upon it by its primary trading partner, the EU. However appealing Putin’s image as the bastion against Western imperialism might be to the Russian public, the consequences thereof gravely threaten the growth of the Russian economy and living standard that have kept him in power for so long.
Following the panel debate, a lively discussion emerged and the audience especially addressed Lukyanov to ask for Russian perspectives and understanding of the situation. As a result, the familiar Western perspective on the issue was supplemented by the countervailing Russian position – an approach that ECFR took in its recent essay collection “Russia´s pivot to Eurasia” that was distributed at the event.