In the more than five years after Moscow invaded and illegally annexed neighbouring Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, relations between the European Union and Russia have soured to the point that the two sides, along with the rest of the NATO alliance and the Kremlin’s hodgepodge of equally anti-Western allies, are now deeply involved in a second Cold War.
The EU has attempted to take a measured approach to the current situation in regards to relations with the Kremlin, but it has, nevertheless, continues to apply pressure to Russian President Vladimir Putin and those associated with the Crimea invasion and Moscow’s ongoing war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region.
With no end in sight to the current standoff over the Kremlin’s aggressive foreign policy posture towards the West, the European Parliament on 12 March overwhelmingly voted to approve a report stating that Russia “can no longer be considered a ‘strategic partner’” and that “the EU cannot envisage a gradual return to ‘business as usual’ until Russia fully implements the Minsk Agreement which lay out a process for achieving peace in eastern Ukraine and restores the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the Parliament said in reference to a 2015 accord that was meant to de-escalate the fighting in the Donbass.
The ruling noted that the EU is now engaged in areas of tension with Russia that go beyond Europe and the former Soviet republics, but also include Russia’s intervention in Syria, as well as Putin’s interference in Libya, Venezuela, and the Central African Republic.
The Parliament also said the Russian government’s continued and active support for anti-EU parties and far-right movements in Europe posed a major security threat to the 28-member bloc, and that the Kremlin continues to order Russia’s intelligence services to carry on meddling in political elections and violate the human rights of Russian citizens.
In one of its more pointed statements, the Parliament stressed that the EU should stand ready to adopt further sanctions against Russia, especially those targeting individuals.
European lawmakers also did not shy away from noting that the construction of the Nord Stream-2 pipeline project to carry gas from Russia to Germany underneath the Baltic Sea – which has caused a serious rift in the EU’s trans-Atlantic relations with the United States – needs to be stopped as it reinforces Europe’s dependency on Russian gas supplies and ‘threatens the EU internal market’ as it is not in line with the Brussels’ energy policy or the EU’s strategic interests.
Europe’s parliamentarians also made it clear to the Kremlin that relations would not return to a level where Russia would be considered a trusted partner again until Moscow ended its constant, flagrant violations of the EU’s airspace, especially in the Baltic Sea region, and the Russian Navy’s disregard for international rules in the Black and Baltic seas.
For certain EU countries who benefit from major investments by wealthy Russians with connections to the Kremlin, a particularly touchy subject revolves around the granting of so-called “golden- visas” – a permanent residency visa issued to individuals who invest, often through the purchase of property, a certain sum of money into the issuing country. European regulators have expressed growing concern that hundreds of billions of euros are being laundered through the EU every year by wealthy Russians who have exploited the golden-visa programme
In their resolution, the European Parliament was also unequivocal in its call for the adoption of a European ‘Magnitsky Act’ similar to the legislation adopted by the United States in 2012 and meant to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009.
The bill, which has applied globally since 2016, authorises the US government to sanction those who it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the United States.