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Kokoomus.fi / Julkaisut / Politiikka / Pääministeri Stubbin puhe Berliinissä: European policy towards Russia

Päämi­nis­teri Stub­bin puhe Berlii­nissä: Euro­pean policy towards Russia


Speech by Prime Minis­ter Alexan­der Stubb: Euro­pean policy towards Russia

Video of the speech will be publis­hed here: Media library


Meine Damen und Herren, Liebe Kolle­gen und Freunde,

It is always great to be back in Berlin. People here in Germany have their jokes about the ?friend­li­ness? and ?hospi­ta­lity? of Berli­ners ? but perso­nally I truly feel very welcome every time I come here. This was also the case yester­day when I ran through the streets of Berlin with thousands of others sports enthusiasts. The atmosp­here was abso­lu­tely wonder­ful. Seas of people were chee­ring us runners; bands were playing along the route.

I would also like to thank the Körber-Stif­tung for the warm welcome and the oppor­tu­nity to share with you all a few thoughts on Europe and Russia from the Finnish pers­pec­tive. This is a topic on everyone?s lips throug­hout our conti­nent.

In the past few months, many of us must have asked: How on earth did we get where we are now? Russia has annexed one part of Ukraine, and is acti­vely cont­ri­bu­ting to desta­bi­li­sing anot­her. The EU and Russia have impo­sed econo­mic sanc­tions on each other. EU leaders and Russian leaders ? well, a leader ? mostly commu­nicate over the phone. Is this really 2014 or has someone put us in a time machine?

I would like to approach my topic through the following three windows and chap­ters.

  1. What happe­ned to Russia? In the 1990s many hoped Russia could become a Euro­pean country like others. Is all hope lost?
  2. Russia and the EU: How the events in Geor­gia were followed by those in Ukraine, and how we must remain true to our values.
  3. Finland and Russia: The chal­lenge of intel­lec­tual matu­rity, and the road ahead.

1. What happe­ned to Russia?

Euro­pean history of the past 25 years does not need to be narra­ted in detail, not here in Berlin. You have lived through it. And yet, let me look back to the early days of the current rela­tions­hip between the EU and Russia, the 1990s. Let me look, for instance, at the year 1995, for it bears certain signi­ficance for us Finns. I hope you still remem­ber why.

Back then, the EU was as upbeat and ener­ge­tic as an approxi­ma­tely 45-year old can be. A new enlar­ge­ment had just happe­ned, the Cold War was over ? there was space to breathe. Democ­racy and the market economy was the winning recipe for the whole of Europe.

Russia, then, was going through very difficult times. The self-confi­dence of the newly born Russia and the whole nation was weak ? had they lived and worked through the past 70 years in vain? The country?s economy was in ruins. Their poli­tics was a mess.

In this situa­tion, the EU reac­hed out to Russia: open your hearts and minds, democ­racy and market economy will help you rebuild a strong Russia, and it will help us all build a strong and secure Europe. We hoped Russia could become a Euro­pean country like others, abiding by our set of rules and principles. Maybe it was ? and is ? the geograp­hic proxi­mity that made us think Russia could be more simi­lar to us than it actually was ? and is.

But we forgot one thing: these things cannot be plan­ted top-down. They can only grow bottom-up. And they need time, lots of time, as they had done also in the course of our own history. Russia was not yet ready or willing to embrace this road. We must not forget that Russian democ­racy did take some posi­tive steps in the 1990s, and back then Russia did repea­tedly commit itself to Euro­pean principles. Russia did manage to dismantle the Soviet command economy, and it did leap forward econo­mically in the 2000s. The mental proxi­mity between Europe and Russia did increase. But recently, we have seen the clock turn back in so many ways.

What I am saying is: looking at Russia since the early 90s, our hopes and expec­ta­tions have gone through seve­ral ups and downs. But, even so, let?s not give up all hope. Let?s put this into a longer pers­pec­tive. In 25 years, a human being beco­mes a somew­hat mature young adult. But for a country and a society it is a very short time.

Ladies and Gent­le­men,

Many of us must also have asked ? were we blind? Why did we really try and believe in a democ­ra­tic, Euro­pean Russia? Yes, first of all, there was unfoun­ded idea­lism in the spirit of the 90s. ?The end of history?, remem­ber?

But secondly, we perhaps did not work hard enough to unders­tand what Russia was truly like. We wanted Russia to become a rule-taker, while it has always seen itself as a rule-setter. How many of us really know Russia from within?

And thirdly, and very impor­tantly, Russia has taken turns that even the best of experts could not enti­rely fore­see.

Today, it would be fair to admit that Russia?s poli­tical system will not turn into a Euro­pean democ­racy like ours. I say this, even though I know there are also many people in Russia who would want this to happen. We can and must support them in the process, but we cannot impose anyt­hing on them.

Unfor­tu­na­tely the time is not yet ripe, and the future also looks a little gloomy. For instance, until recently, many people laid their faith in the so-called new gene­ra­tion, those born after the break­down of the Soviet Union. They would be free from Soviet memo­ries and expe­riences and grow up as global citizens. But even this story has anot­her side: since these youngs­ters did not expe­rience the Soviet Union, they can now be char­med by the patrio­tic glory and the sheer propa­ganda of the past. And, there­fore, we have seen the revi­val of things as shoc­king as glori­fying Stalin?s rule.

So ? are we back to square one? Back to being suspicious neigh­bours? Wonde­ring if we can still call oursel­ves stra­te­gic part­ners, or even part­ners?

I believe we can co-exist. We need not be alike to be good neigh­bours, or even stra­te­gic part­ners again. We should aim at that. But setting this goal does not mean we should accept the things that are happe­ning in Russian society today.

Let me also examine our respec­tive home turfs a bit. What attri­bu­tes do we attach to today?s Russia? The Russians under­line their great history and natio­nal pride. They nurture nostal­gia for things lost. They are suspicious of the foreign. They seek refuge in a strong leader. They defend tradi­tio­nal family values, and reject libe­ral thought. They play down the impor­tance of the Euro­pean Union.

Have we not heard this popu­list discourse also elsew­here in Europe? Also at home, perhaps?

We might need to widen our scope. This might not be a rift between ?Europe? and ?Russia?. This might be a rift within Europe.

2. Russia and the EU

I became the Finnish Foreign Minis­ter in April 2008. This was a time when Finland chai­red the work of the Orga­ni­sa­tion for Secu­rity and Coope­ra­tion in Europe. That is how I also got to see the Geor­gian war from an even closer distance than I otherwise would have.

In my address to the Finnish ambas­sa­dors? meeting at the end of August 2008, I gave a speech that came to be known as the 08-08-08 speech. In it, I had three main points. One: the Russian aggres­sion ? which had star­ted on 8th August 2008 ? against Geor­gia was a turning point in inter­na­tio­nal poli­tics. Two: it posed a new chal­lenge to the inter­na­tio­nal system. Three: it also affec­ted the long-term agenda of Finnish foreign and secu­rity policy.

Back then, many people told me I had over­reac­ted to the events in Geor­gia. They no longer think so.

Russia has conti­nued along the same lines in Ukraine. And we do not know whet­her Ukraine will remain the last chap­ter in this story. Russia may have new plans, either short-term or longer-term. As I said, even 25 years is a short time in a country?s history.

That is why we need to coun­ter this aggres­sion. We need to do it firmly, and we need to do it now.

We need to unders­tand that our funda­men­tal values ? inclu­ding libe­ral democ­racy and inter­na­tio­nal law ? have been chal­len­ged not only in faraway lands but also in our own conti­nent. We must stand up and defend those values. We still do not live in an era of ?Perpe­tual Peace?.

Russia has turned inwards. Many think it is now turning also east and there­fore drif­ting away from Europe. The extent of this turn remains to be seen and, frankly, I do not think such a turn is only a nega­tive thing. In fact, I think it would be wise for Russia to finally make better use of being geograp­hically so Asian. It would profit their economy ? and there­fore indi­rectly, also ours. It certainly would not exclude co-opera­tion with Europe.

Why am I so confi­dent about this? Let us look at some simple figu­res. 75 per cent of Russian terri­tory is east of the Ural Moun­tains. But only one quar­ter of their popu­la­tion ? that means 35 million people, slightly less than the popu­la­tion of Poland ? lives in that very vast terri­tory that stretc­hes over so many time zones. The entire Russian Far East has some six million inha­bi­tants, slightly more than Finland. For Russia, being a Euro­pean power remains a much more realis­tic option than beco­ming an Asian power.

And, by turning to China, Russia certainly has not chosen the easiest path. With us, ?soft? Euro­peans, they can try and act a little tough, refusing to conform to our set of rules. But with China, they are dealing with a part­ner who can play equally tough ? and who is actually stron­ger.

Dear Friends,

Our policy vis-à-vis Russia must be true to our values, also and especially in difficult times. We defend principles, in a principled manner. We do not flex muscles. We do not do tit-for-tat. That?s why we have made it very clear to Russia: there can only be a diplo­ma­tic solu­tion to the Ukraine crisis. That?s why seve­ral Euro­pean leaders have spent endless hours working on the issue. I would perso­nally like to commend the efforts of Chancel­lor Merkel and Minis­ter Stein­meier in this respect.

Now, more than ever, we must remem­ber why Euro­pean inte­gra­tion came about: for peace. We are made of steel ? and coal.

Peace in Europe was to be built by econo­mic means. It is there­fore only logical that we also defend peace by econo­mic means. That is the power we have, and the power we can rely on.

Once again: we must have a long-term pers­pec­tive. Nego­tia­tions are not a shortcut to a solu­tion, but they are the only sustai­nable way to get there. Simi­larly, econo­mic sanc­tions are not a guns­hot. They need time to show their true strength. Patience is one of the grea­test virtues in inter­na­tio­nal poli­tics.

Since nego­tia­tions have not yet succee­ded in opening the tigh­test knots of the crisis, we have had to look for other means. With sanc­tions, we have done exactly the right thing.

It is very impor­tant to remem­ber that this is not a trade war. Russia has viola­ted the sove­reignty and terri­to­rial integrity of Ukraine. We have coun­te­red this with well-plan­ned, well-timed, well-targe­ted econo­mic sanc­tions. Any furt­her sanc­tions ? or repea­ling the exis­ting ones ? will only be based on Russia?s actions on the ground, not on any econo­mic coun­ter-measu­res they might impose on us.

In the past few months, we have heard criticism towards the Eastern Part­ners­hip initia­tive of the Euro­pean Union. Some have wanted to label it as the reason for Russia?s actions in Ukraine. I strongly disagree.

It is true that we, perhaps, could have kept Russia even better infor­med, we could have commu­nica­ted more. We maybe should not have left so much of the work only in the corri­dors of Brus­sels. We also should have unders­tood that Russia?s foreign policy today is not driven by trust but by suspicion; we were illi­te­rate in the language of the Russian zero-sum-driven foreign policy.

But let us be honest: the Russians could also have shown some inte­rest in the matter already seve­ral years ago when we first star­ted talking about it.

And now, we must not give Russia the right to veto our rela­tions with the count­ries of the Eastern Part­ners­hip. I most certainly would not have liked to see Russia over­see or veto our nego­tia­tions for the EU members­hip in the 1990s.

The Eastern Part­ners­hip has not been the reason for what we have seen. The true reason is somew­here much deeper. And that reason is Russia?s concern for its dimi­nis­hing influence in Europe, and the rest of the world

3. Finland and Russia

I refer­red earlier to the year 1995, the most impor­tant year in our recent history. Beco­ming an EU member was long over­due and most natu­ral thing to happen. We are where we belong.

This is also where we firmly place oursel­ves in the current situa­tion. We are in the EU family, fully commit­ted to our common cause. In fact, Finland and Germany have a very simi­lar approach to the crisis.

But let me make one point very clear. I think we all need to be intel­lec­tually mature enough to diffe­ren­tiate between three things in our approach to Russia and things Russian. Firstly, Moscow-level, very hawkish deci­sion-making and its implica­tions. Secondly, mutually bene­ficial, still func­tio­ning busi­ness rela­tions and people-to-people contacts; at the end of the day they can be our best guaran­tee for peace. And thirdly, Russian-spea­king mino­ri­ties living in our own count­ries.

Finland has a longer common border with Russia, 1300 kilo­met­res, than the rest of the EU count­ries put toget­her. This means that we have a very prag­ma­tic and common-sense approach in all of our Russia policies, knowing we will be in this rela­tions­hip ?in sick­ness and in health?.

Ladies and Gent­le­men,

There are some things we have mana­ged to build in the past 25 years that we must not break in this crisis. One of them is the human-level inte­rac­tion with Russians ? through increa­sed travel and mobi­lity, and within our socie­ties.

Russian-spea­kers are the largest immi­grant group in Finland. In sheer numbers ? some 66,000 ? they are, of course, nothing compa­red with the immi­grant popu­la­tion in Germany, and yet, they cons­ti­tute an impor­tant part of our society. I met some of my Russian-origin compat­riots just last week, and had a great discus­sion about our common concerns.

These times do not make the diffe­ren­tia­tion between the Krem­lin and the grass­roots always easy, but we as deci­sion-makers must lead the way. We cannot draw this picture with one big brush only.

Neigh­bours are actually a bit like rela­ti­ves ? you cannot choose them. You could also call them arran­ged marria­ges ? there is no option of divorce. You stay toget­her in sick­ness and in health, no matter how rocky the road. Unfor­tu­na­tely, this is no guaran­tee of a happy marriage. For that end, both parties would actually have to want to work in the same direc­tion. With our rela­tions­hip to Russia, this is unfor­tu­na­tely not the case at the moment.

Russia is right there. And will be. And we, the EU, need to know what we want from Russia.

We need common deno­mi­na­tors, both within the EU, and vis-à-vis Russia. Some people may claim we in the EU are too diffe­rent to have common goals towards Russia. I disagree. This is about poli­tical will, and poli­tical matu­rity.

We also need to revise our own language. ?Inte­gra­ting Russia into Western struc­tu­res? sounds, frankly, a little 1990s. Firstly, because it has the motherly approach of taking Russia by the hand and taking it along to gree­ner pastu­res. Secondly, because Russia already is in most ?Western? struc­tu­res it can realis­tically be a part of.

I think we all ? both Euro­peans and Russians ? want a stable and pros­pe­rous Russia. The big divide, then, comes from the defi­ni­tion of what cons­ti­tu­tes stabi­lity: top-down cont­rol or an open society.

We must stand firm with our own values and principles. We must oppose the ?divide and rule? games that Russia is cons­tantly playing with the EU.

And yet, even when times are difficult, even when we funda­men­tally disagree, there has to be a basic respect towards the other. We need to listen, and we need dialo­gue, inclu­ding in many inter­na­tio­nal issues where Russian partici­pa­tion is essen­tial for achie­ving results.

At the end of the day, diplo­macy works along the same lines as human rela­tions.

Ladies and Gent­le­men,

What would I like you to take home from this speech? Three things.

First, we must not give up all hope on Russia. At the same time, we should give a serious thought to the rift within Europe.

Second, we have to take Russian aggres­sion very seriously. But in coun­te­ring that, we must remain true to our values.

Third, we need to retain our intel­lec­tual matu­rity when analy­sing our rela­tions­hip with Russia. And at the same time, we need to know what we want from that rela­tions­hip.

Meine Damen und Herren,

Thank you again for this oppor­tu­nity to speak to you today.

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