Russia-EU relations the cornerstone of overall European development – Medvedev

As Germany is preparing to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, President Dmitry Medvedev has talked to Der Spiegel magazine about the significance this event had had for the whole Europe.

Fall of the Berlin Wall

Time has been running very fast. Twenty years later, everything that happened in Eastern Europe and everything related to the unification of Germany and the fall of Berlin Wall has become history already.

The Berlin Wall had always been the symbol of the divided Europe, of the division between two civilizations, division of values. And its fall was perceived as a continuation of the policy towards the unification of Europe.

It has been a long time since those events. Some hopes that I had then, and I guess, other citizens of the country also had them, came true, some hopes did not. What matters most is that the dividing lines were removed, and the German state was united, which, ultimately, meant the unification of Europe.

On the other hand, in my view a lot of developments linked to the destiny of Europe and relations between the Russian Federation and European countries could have followed a slightly different scenario.

The Soviet Union collapse

The disintegration of the Soviet Union was really a very big shock for all the people who lived within the territory of the former USSR.

There have been and still are different opinions on the subject.

Anyway, it was a very significant and dramatic event which resulted in the people who for decades and even for centuries had lived within the borders of a common state finding themselves dispersed in different countries. Our former compatriots now live in a considerable number of states, which caused problems with communication and transportation, certain difficulties arose with conversations, movements, contacts with relatives, friends and so on. But it is the task of historians to say whether it is the main geopolitical catastrophe or something else. I believe the Second World War was not a lesser-scaled catastrophe of the 20th Century, and if we look at the consequences, it was a more terrible tragedy. The revolution of 1917 in our country was accompanied by the Civil War, when relatives fought against each other, friends shot each other. Wasn't it a catastrophe?

Russia-Ukraine relations

Let’s talk about Ukraine. We have rather harsh controversies, but those are not between the two societies or the two states. And frankly speaking, there is only one person who is giving rise to the controversies and all the issues – the current President of Ukraine. Such things may happen sometimes. I personally believe indeed that the Ukrainian President took up quite a contentious attitude towards our country. He is dominated by Russophobe perceptions. In recent years all his actions have been aimed at disrupting traditional ties between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Moreover, it was paralleled by unpleasant or, let me put it so, deplorable things: breaches of economic arrangements; the glorification of Nazi accomplices.

In a while, the election will take place in Ukraine. I hope that eventually this state will be ruled by a government that will be more pragmatic in its attitude to our bilateral contacts. Our ambassador will certainly arrive in Ukraine and take up his duties. It is within the limits of diplomatic practice. Situations like this occur between other states as well. And it was indeed an extreme form of response. I even had to address the President of Ukraine directly in an open letter or via the videoblog so that everybody would know the reasons for my actions. I believe that it is honest; it is different from behind-the-scenes diplomacy, when we smile to each other and try to show that everything is good, but in fact we play petty nasty tricks on each other.

A nuclear-free world

As far as the idea of a nuclear-free world is concerned, this is our common ideal, which we have to strive for, but we have to travel a difficult road to get it, because in order to achieve a nuclear-free world, not only the United States and Russia should abandon nuclear arms at some point, but other countries as well should do the same, yet there is no such unity. Even among our close European partners, by far not all of them share our common opinion with the US President that this issue should be dealt with vigorously.

We all know that now there are a number of countries that do not admit that they have nuclear weapons, but at the same time, they do not deny it either. We should think how to convince them to abandon nuclear weapons. This road is very difficult, but I think that we should go along this road.

European security

I will say a few words about the idea of the treaty on European security. It is aimed precisely at creating a framework to give all of us – both NATO members and European countries that are not NATO members – the possibility to discuss the most urgent issues. Otherwise the states with no NATO membership will not be fully at ease.

We should create a comprehensive mechanism to communicate, discuss the most difficult situations and ways to settle our intra-European disagreements on various matters.

I am convinced that we must think about how to enhance European security. It is our common need.

Russia-EU relations

I believe that relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union are the cornerstone of overall European development, because Russia can offer a range of economic opportunities, while Europe has a high technology culture and a vast consumer market. If we want to facilitate the development of the entire European continent which we perceive as Europe, from Vancouver to Vladivostok, we should promote the closest possible cooperation between the European Union and the Russian Federation while paying, of course, due attention to bilateral relations. Take, for example, the relations between the Russian Federation and Germany. They are just a quintessence of European relations: we have a huge volume of trade and implement a great number of joint economic projects.

I hope that there's almost nothing to divide us. I hope that we will be able to continue strengthening our relations with our European neighbors. I hope that the degree of mutual understanding on the majority of issues will grow. I hope that many of the problems that the European continent is facing today, which are quite obvious, will be solved through our active joint involvement.