Timofey Bordachev: Funny old man Josep Borrell is a typical example of the arrogant mediocrities running the EU
Josep Borrell, the head of the European Union’s diplomacy, known and loved by us, in Moscow, for his paradoxical statements, has reported on the effectiveness of his bloc’s economic war against Russia.
In the first lines of his message, he claims that “sanctions are working” and that those who claim otherwise are simply telling untruths. But the main indicator of the effectiveness of sanctions for Borrell is not even the dynamics of the Russian economy. The emphasis in the report is on the reduction of Russia's bilateral trade with EU countries: This is what particularly pleases their chief diplomat.
However, for him, it doesn’t matter that Russia’s trade with the rest of the world, with the exception of the US, has grown at the same time (even Japan and South Korea do not show a significant decline in trade turnover).
The EU’s chief diplomat is known to live in his own ‘Garden of Eden’, and everything outside this hallowed ground has no meaning for him. One could simply mock the degradation of the Western European perception of the surrounding reality embodied in Borrell's remarks. But this approach is not an aberration; it reflects the whole philosophy of the EU’s relations with the rest of the world. It is only now that we have seen the inadequacy of such a strategy in a reality which there will never again be a center and a vast periphery to serve its interests.
We are now really opening our eyes to the – to put it politely – uniqueness of our partners in Western Europe. What the Russian foreign policy culture, in a delicate manner, has tried not to talk about for the past 30 years is becoming public knowledge. The question is what lessons can be learned for the future when the active military phase of relations with the West subsides somewhat? This will happen sooner or later, unless the world really splits into opposing closed camps. And then it will be extremely dangerous for us to harbor illusions about the fundamental intentions of our Western neighbors towards the rest of humanity.
Josep Borrell is a somewhat caricatured but still credible embodiment of the nature of EU foreign policy. This funny old man is certainly a product of his time – the ‘beautiful 80s and 90s’ in Spanish and European history. In those days, either the most backward or the least ambitious, went into politics. And they are a product of a Western European order which educates its elite in a spirit of exclusivity and contempt for others.
From the point of view of mass psychology, exceptionalism is a very good means of control. Those who consider themselves special, the best and unparalleled in their superiority, never compare their own position with others. This means that they are ready to accept not only aggression against “outsiders,” but also the restriction of their rights: they are still the best in the world. You are already in paradise, fellow Western Europeans, what more do you need?
But it is not just about politics. The strategy of protectionism and running a closed shop has always been pragmatic policy in the bloc. And all the talk about the EU’s commitment to a free-market economy is nothing more than a popular myth. Let us start with the fact that the union of the six countries of Western Europe was created in the mid-1950s with several objectives in mind. Let’s leave aside domestic politics; we’re not particularly interested in that at the moment. If we are talking about relations with the outside world, the main objective was to create barriers against potential competitors of Western European companies. The idea of the common market itself is great for its citizens – it allows them to buy goods produced in all EU countries. At the same time, however, it means imposing major restrictions on products from the rest of the world.
This has always been openly acknowledged in internal documents: but who outside the EU has ever read them? Only a small circle of specialists, and the general public has always paid little attention to their opinions. Let me say more: since the mid-1960s, the main objective of the external economic policy of united Europe has been the struggle against the USSR and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA). It was a fight that involved sanctions, the non-recognition of partners and, finally, the attempt to split their ranks. From time to time, Borrell’s predecessors tried to talk to Romania or Bulgaria, for example, about opening the EU market to their textiles and fruit. But they consistently rejected any dialogue with the USSR or the CMEA – for them, Brussels only ignored and sanctioned.
The first systematic contacts between the European communities and the CMEA began in the second half of the 1980s. By then, it was already clear to everyone where the Soviet government was taking the USSR. Unlike old Josep, EU officials in the 1960s and 1980s had no need to tweet their thoughts and achievements. Or maybe they just didn't have the opportunity, and that's why we think the ‘old school’ Europeans were wiser and more professional than those of today.
You could argue that this was all just normal competition. Especially under the conditions of the Cold War between the West and the East. At that time, the world did not know anything about universal trade openness and the attitude towards it as a sign of progress. So let’s try to blame the protectionism of the Western European bloc, before 1991, on the fact that globalization as we know it did not exist.
But the Cold War ended, and the European Union began preparing for its most ambitious enlargement. It was about to absorb seven countries of the former socialist camp and three Baltic republics of the ex-USSR into the Common Market. All of them, especially the Balts, had historically developed extensive trade with Russia and other CIS countries. Economic relations in the East played an important role in maintaining their social stability, the availability of jobs and the ability to have relatively diversified economies. Maintaining these links could provide reliable economic bridges between Western Europe and vast Russia.
However, in the mid-1990s, Borrell’s predecessors decided otherwise: Brussels’ main condition for the candidate countries was to increase their trade with the Common Market countries. And, as part of the overall package, a reduction in trade with everyone else. It was this indicator that became one of the most important in the list of things that Brussels’ supervisors paid attention to in each of the Eastern European states. Let me repeat: the reduction of trade with Russia and the increase of trade with the EU states was the main indicator of the candidate countries’ progress towards accession.
The Baltic States, and Bulgaria, were explicitly told to reduce any links with Russia and other CIS countries.
Market logic and free trade were simply out of the question. So Borrell has not come up with a new indicator of success here either – for the EU it has always been about increasing its isolation from the outside world in favor of enclosing itself in its own ‘Garden of Eden’. The bloc is a collection of states whose main political goal is to cut off their own citizens from the outside world, to immerse them in sweet dreams of their own exceptionalism, and to rule despite all the mistakes of the elites’ economic policies.
For such purposes, politicians with Borrell's psychology are the most suitable performers. And since this approach is fully in line with Western European foreign policy culture, it will not go away in the future. No matter how relations between Russia and the EU develop in the coming years and decades, economic expediency will always be secondary for the other side, and political dominance will always come first. And it will not matter at all who speaks in the media on behalf of Brussels.