Interview by Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Russian Mission to the EU Kirill Logvinov for the Russian “Komsomolskaya Pravda” Newspaper, 10 July 2023

Опубликовано пн, 07/10/2023 - 08:06

- Mr. Logvinov, the European Union is known to have "frozen" hundreds of billions of Russian assets. Shall we consider these huge amounts to be irretrievably stolen?

- You know, this assets story looks, frankly speaking, disgraceful for the European Union. First, the entire world community watched EU officials painfully search for them and joyfully find them; then they stayed up late at night stubbornly devising ways to expropriate Russia's international reserves.

And now they have come up with an idea to create a scheme to invest "blocked" state assets in order to generate profit and then hand it over to Kiev. For us, as well as for the rest of the world, only one thing is important in this regard – international law and the constitutional law of the EU Member States do not provide grounds for alienation of private property or sovereign assets of a foreign state.

Thus, Russian assets have been stolen, but not irretrievably. We have all the widely recognised legal grounds to demand their return. And the sooner this happens, the less it will probably cost the European Union.

- Last autumn, the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell called the "privileged" Europe a garden and the world around it a "jungle". How do you feel living in the "garden of Eden" now? Are you under siege?

- It seems more like an overgrown, weedy vegetable garden surrounded by a high fence. Speaking seriously, just recently the EU could be proud of the achievements of European integration, with many seeking to replicate the decades-long positive experience of Brussels. Today, the EU has a siege mind. From a space open to the entire world community, it has turned into a fortress.

And in general, the European Union is no longer overwhelmingly attractive. This is not surprising, given, for example, that candidates for joining the bloc are assessed by the degree of readiness to follow the EU's foreign policy course, rather than by their economic and social performance. For greater convenience, such degree is even measured in percentage points. Thus, this is no longer the EU foreign countries, including Russia, were recently eager to build future-oriented equal relations with.

- Has the Russian Mission to the EU recorded [foreign security services’] attempts to recruit Russian diplomats?

- We, like the staff of Russian diplomatic missions in other Western countries, work in challenging conditions. But the environment here has changed significantly not only for diplomats, but also for Europeans themselves. Take, for example, the increase in the number of Ukrainian migrants. No one here considers its impact on the daily lives of European Union citizens, nor does anyone question the situation of the Ukrainian refugees themselves.

Expulsion of our colleagues last April was the hardest episode the Permanent Mission has witnessed. The EU had no grounds for such a step; they merely decided to take part in a Russophobia contest. Moreover, the Russian diplomats declared personae non gratae received certain instructions on seeking political asylum in their letter boxes. Such a gesture can evoke nothing else but disgust. Well, diplomatic activity in any country is fraught with certain difficulties. So we are not new to them.

- The EU leadership is confident in claiming that the EU residents in their majority unequivocally support Brussels' anti-Russian policy. Is this really the case?

- Oh, the EU leadership is confident about many things. Logically, the EU residents is only ready to support what meets their interests.

Certainly, if one continues to cleanse the information space, to limit access to alternative sources of information – and this is exactly what is happening in the EU today – then, of course, Brussels can easily manipulate public opinion, driving it into a black-and-white framework.

Therefore, they will never hold a poll here asking respondents, for example, whether the Ukrainian crisis should be resolved by diplomatic means, what they think about Kiev's policy of oppressing the Russian-speaking population or about the use of Nazi symbols by the Ukrainian armed forces, whether they trust their governments' assurances that none of the weapons handed over to Kiev will end up in the hands of terrorists operating in Europe. I can assure you that, should such a poll be held, the picture would no longer look that favourable for the EU decision makers of today. Evidently, it is more satisfying to look at the percentages of those who answered the questions formulated on the premise that "aggressive Russia" is to blame for all the current troubles.

- Today, contacts between Russia and the EU are virtually non-existent. What do you think the EU is trying to achieve?

- It is an interesting way of phrasing a question. I am afraid they themselves do not fully understand what they are trying to achieve. The EU's actions in many areas lack any logic whatsoever. It is particularly evident when in certain cases even significant achievements in European integration are put at stake.

Everyone agrees that the whole system of international relations is going through challenging times and is witnessing a stage of transformation. But one cannot, especially aspiring to be a geopolitical player, behave the way Brussels does. The EU acts as if it is the world's supreme actor, and everyone else must follow its whims by default: be it joining illegitimate sanctions or abiding by trade and economic protectionist decisions that serve only EU interests. Not to mention the demands to uphold modern "liberal values".

Whereas in the past Brussels used to apply the "carrot and stick" method in its contacts with third countries, now it is clearly building a dialogue based on the principle of " you are either with us, or against us”. Either support Ukraine and help counter Russia and China, or beware of the EU's wrath. And, by the way, many of our colleagues from local diplomatic corps, irrespective of their countries' relations with the EU, agree with this assessment.

As for Russia, the EU's approach is, in their view, extremely simple – to inflict a strategic defeat on us, to ruin the Russian economy, and to drive our country into international isolation. Everyone in the world recognises that none of this has worked and will never happen. However, the EU will not give up. But the longer the EU continues to act this way, the more difficult it will be for it to break the deadlock into which it is steadily putting itself.

As for our contacts with the European institutions, we maintain them on a purely technical level only. Our interaction mainly concerns the issues which need to be addressed for the full functioning of the Russian Permanent Mission in Brussels and the EU Delegation in Moscow. Apart from that, we have by and large nothing to discuss with the EU today.

- It is no secret that some experts are convinced that the EU cannot avoid a split. Do you agree with this forecast?

- Well, it is more about current developments in the EU than about a forecast. The intra-EU contradictions are enormous, and they are widening as the EU continues to demonstrate its inability to find responses to the current crises that are in the interests of member states and their population. Incidentally, Brussels was engaged in the emergence of many of them. Moreover, they are now actively discussing the idea of amending the principle of adopting certain decisions to replace the consensus approach by a qualified majority one. And this could really lead to a split in the EU, as then the opinions of some of its countries will simply not be taken into account.

The EU has invented a “silver bullet” against a possible split – a so-called "Russian threat". They chose this idea as a basis for the EU’s consolidation. And this, alas, seems to be their long-term choice.

After all, until the EU members find the courage to solve their own problems, and do it at the expense of their own resources, not those of others, they will continue to maintain the illusion of such a threat. However, this – in general terms – convenient approach comes at a price.