December 10th 2014

Russia & Europe.

H.E. Sergey Nechayev, the Russian Federation’s Ambassador to Austria

In a lively talk given at MCI Management Center Innsbruck, His Excellency Ambassador Sergej Nechayev explained the Russian position on Europe.

In the last two decades, Euro-Atlantic relations with Russia have been put to the test; serious problems at the system level have accumulated in Russia’s relationship with Europe and also with the USA. No use was made of the opportunity presented by the fall of the Berlin Wall to follow the path to partnership without ideological barriers.

The problems include the insistent efforts of the West to extend its geopolitical control to areas closer and closer to the Russian border, the failure of Russia’s proposal for a collective security agreement with Europe, and a war of words that generates disinformation, for example about the Olympic Games in Sochi, alleged submarine sightings off the coast of Sweden, and so on.

These negative developments came to a head last year with the refusal of the Ukraine to sign a planned association agreement with the European Union, leading to the overthrow of the Ukrainian government. Most of the blame for those developments was assigned to Russia.

For Ambassador Nechayev, the secession of the Crimea was the result of a free declaration of will of the predominantly ethnic Russian population and was in keeping with the principles of international law.

He said that all the attempts made since the end of the Second World War to isolate Russia had had negative consequences, while the measures taken to integrate Russia had been a blessing for securing peace and economic development in Europe. On the other hand, the Ambassador said that, even though the North Atlantic Alliance was now using the language of war and extending its military presence to the borders of Europe, the Russian view was that one could not speak of a new Cold War. On no account, he continued, would Russia become involved in geopolitical conflict and was ready to enter into a dialog at all times. The Ambassador explained that it was necessary for the various actors to bundle their efforts, overcome their differences of opinion on the Ukraine conflict, refrain from taking unilateral measures and decisions, and observe the provisions of international law. He went on to warn that the more Europe focussed on sanctions against Russia in the hope of triggering change in Russia’s domestic or foreign policies, the stronger the process of consolidation within Russia would be.

Finally, Ambassador Nechayev stressed the need to lay aside the geopolitical stereotypes of the past and seize the opportunity to resolve the conflicts.

With regard to the relationship between Russia and Austria, Ambassador Nechayev said that it was very positive and effective and was based on mutual trust and understanding.

The talk was followed by a lively discussion chaired by Professor Gerhard Mangott.