Will we be able to find calm relations with Russia?

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The Russian-led war in Ukraine has led to extreme diplomatic tension between Westerners and Russians. How should relations with Russia be envisaged in the future?

This is a question that European leaders are beginning to think about, but the answer is currently complex. Since the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army, we have rather, and logically, witnessed a deterioration in relations between the European Union and Russia. Considered as an aggressor of extreme brutalitythe country is subject to severe sanctions, aggravated by Russian military operations and the suffering of Ukrainian civilians.

The exchanges are tense and unfriendly. Nevertheless, two phenomena should be noted: first, the most serious sanctions have not yet been taken against Moscow – in particular the fact of no longer accepting Russian gas. A measure that would be painful for Europeans – hence the current procrastination, but also for the Russian economy.

► To read also: Ukraine: the EU takes new sanctions against Russia, including a coal embargo

Then, the dialogue, if it is tenuous, tense, cold, this dialogue is not broken. Diplomatic relations, at their lowest of course, remain in force. So much for the current state of these relations. For the weeks, months, even years to come, everything will first depend on the evolution of the war itself. The more bloody, brutal it will be, the more difficult it will be to speak with Vladimir Putin.

A total break that is not possible

However, can we envisage completely breaking off the dialogue, if not with Vladimir Putin, at least with the Russian people? History and geography answer no to this hypothesis. Russia is part of the European continent, at least up to the Urals. Trade, as we can clearly see at the moment, is very important. In short, the interpenetration of the two blocks is too important to envisage a total rupture.

This is not the first time that a European power has disturbed order on the Old Continent. We can cite Napoleon’s France, or more recently Hitler’s Germany. In both cases, it was necessary to defeat these powers militarily before rebuilding a relationship with them and reintegrating them into the European diplomatic game.

A fragile and increasingly difficult communication channel

But in the case of present-day Russia, the situation is different. Quite simply because this state has nuclear weapons, the ultimate weapon that Putin has threatened to use on several occasions. And this is what makes the situation very complicated. Westerners know very well that if they confront Russia directly, the risk of a world war is very real.

And paradoxically, it’s because we can’t engage in this direct confrontation with Russia that we still have to keep a channel of communication with Moscow. A fragile and increasingly difficult channel as revelations of abuses committed by Russian soldiers in several Ukrainian localities are revealed. But a channel all the same, because with or without Putin, it will be necessary (but when?) to get out of this absurd war by a political negotiation on Ukraine and more broadly on the architecture of a reinforced security for the whole of the European continent.

© RFI

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