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Russia and the EU

Mark Mardell | 00:15 UK time, Monday, 22 October 2007

Tensions between Russia and Europe have been on the rise this year. Riots over a war memorial in Estonia. Trade disputes between Russia and Poland. Russian bombers back in the air. And these problems are reflected in increasingly fractious summits between the EU and Russia. It may just be a coincidence that these tensions have got worse since the former communist countries which border Russia joined the European Union.

Is it something to do with their experience of their giant neighbour or the reaction of some Russians to what they may see as defection to the other side?

And it is not over yet. While the Soviet Union once extended its power deep into Central Europe, now the EU is toying with allowing membership to countries that have long been considered within Russia’s sphere of influence.

I decided it would be a good idea to have a look at countries along this age-old fault-line.

After all, Russia has been critical to Europe’s history, and not necessarily a force for ill. What would Europe be like if Russia had not crushed Napoleon and Hitler?

It was hard to decide where to go, and I could quite happily have spent the rest of the year travelling this long border. It seems a miss not to go to the Ukraine. Georgia is fascinating. I had a visa ready for Kaliningrad, that little Russian island, landlocked within the European Union. But time and money are limited so this is a limited snapshot. I went to Latvia, Poland and Lithuania. The Russians, in the form of the ambassador to the EU, get their say in the third article.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 12:58 AM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • matthew wrote:

Everyone knows that Russia has always been and will always be a part of the European community. The only problem for Russia is the fact that it has alienated itself from the rest of the European community ever since the Communist Revolution. Now that everyone knows (willingly or not) that communism simply does not work, Russia under the leadership of Putin has no choice but to lead with an iron fist to gain legitimate clout on the world stage. When ever Putin picks a fight with the US or EU his popularity rises at home. Putin knows this and more importantly his recipients understand this too. However, behind closed doors down deep in the hearts and souls of all Russians there is a strong desire to be respectfully embraced by the EU as a permanent member where we all know they belong. Russia is a beautiful country rich in history and culture that cannot be overlooked by the EU for ever.

  • 2.
  • At 06:19 AM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • Ivi Tagata wrote:

First off, Russia did not crush either Napoleon or Hitler by herself. In both cases, 'liberation' was accompanied by drunken and violent occupation forces (see, for instance Mme de Stael's writings for a description of Cossacks in Paris - the 'bistro' by-product hardly makes the invasion more pleasant), and I doubt we need to have a debate of the negative effects of Russia 'crushing' Hitler on the splitting of Europe into two halves. But since Britain was in the half that was spared the Russians, I am not surprised at the comments here.

Second, what would Europe be without Hunyadi's defence of Belgrade or Sobieski's stand in Vienna? Ever since she got strong enough to make a statement, Russia has always been a predator to European states, just like the Ottomans or the Umayyad Caliphate (what indeed would have Europe been without Charles Martel?) What is it with the Russophilia on this blog and, indeed, on most BBC pages?!

  • 3.
  • At 12:59 PM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • Sergei wrote:


An American of Russian extraction I generally would not consider myself a "Rusophile". However, could not help commenting on a few oddities in your post. First off, the implicit double standard. You clearly do not equate today's France or Germany with Napoleon or Hitler. Yet you seem to imply that today's Russia is the very same entity that it was under czar Alexander I or Joseph Stalin. At best, this is simplistic and naive, at worst - not fair.

Two, so cossaks in Paris not nice. Perhaps. Yet - unlike Moscow - Paris was not burnt and the Notre Dame - unlike the Kremlin - was not blown up. There are always at least two sides to the story, right?

Three, Napoleon was not defeated by the Russians alone? Perhaps. Are you suggesting that Russian winter played part? Well, it is a Russian, after all :) And, more importantly, Napoleon was quite capable to conduct a desert campaign in Egypt but was he really prepared to the Russian gorilla warfare in the snow?

Four, Russia is a reality, whether we like it or not. And it is a strong and resurgent Russia. Which supplies most of EC gas. Shouldn't we better find a way of getting past the blame (that game is endless) and focusing on how best to co-exist with the new reality?

Unless the suggestion is to build a solid wall between Europe and Russia. JFK would appreciate the humour :)

  • 4.
  • At 01:36 PM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • Buna wrote:

What to say-I suggest EU join Russia! As the things are moving, soon neither European country will be able to make any decision, be it of internal state importance, without having approval from Russia. Kosovo is a test for EU! EU does not dare to make any decision that Russia does not like. Welcome to being Russia colonies!

  • 5.
  • At 03:15 PM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • Andrey, Russia wrote:

Just read the article about Latvia
(commenting doesn't work there).

The article is a bit vague and sometimes misses the point.

The only factual mistake seems to be about sprats: they are still allowed in Russia, there was just some grambling on the fringes that Latvia should not be rewarded with Russia market access for all its misbehaviour. (I take a personal view that Latvia has to be punished by closing the Russian market to it.)

The story which Mr. Mardell describes quoting the Latvian explanations for not signing the border treaty are also on the verge of truth. The intrigue happened two or something years ago and included inteference from Barroso and other top EU politicians. Latvians were told off by them in a very strong language for making land demands (Pytalovo district of Russia). Putin openly complained at Latvians' behaviour and Latvians immediately obeyed the EU. It is funny how Pabriks and Co try to heal this public humiliation by accusing Russia (as usual). It is unexcusable that Mr. Mardell re-translates these noises and spins.

Another dodgy bit in the article is about 1920-independence. Firstly, Latvia never "won" it. Secondly, the current propaganda stance of the ruling establishment, that the state that arose on the land of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic is heir to 1020s Latvia is not legally viable and not recognized by many political movements, so at the very least Mr. Mardell takes sides here.

The sentence by Mr. Mardell that justifies mistreatment, discrimination and denial of citizenship to people, who can't prove that their families lived on that land before 1940 is the most controversial and, possibly offensive in the whole atricle.
Should the French president (who is in exactly the same position vis a vie France) by denied a French passport? Some English politicians'
families were from elsewhere too.

The irony of the story is that so many of those Russians are survivors of the Latvian SS squads massacres in Belorussia and were resettled into Latvia because it was decided that parts of Belorussia are so destroyed that it doesn't make sense to rebuild after the war.
Now these survivors are chased by the same people who were mass-murdering them during the second world war, and Mr. Mardell justifies it on the grounds of "perception".

  • 6.
  • At 04:26 PM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • Dima wrote:

Russia is not a threat for EU.
You missed the REAL threat guys.. (Or someone is making you to miss it) - EU is slowly becoming EURABIA.

So, you are very welcome to keep us Russians away from EU. We also look forward to Turkey joining the EU - which will be - finally - the end of it.



  • 7.
  • At 04:26 PM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"Second, what would Europe be without Hunyadi's defence of Belgrade or Sobieski's stand in Vienna? Ever since she got strong enough to make a statement, Russia has always been a predator to European states, just like the Ottomans or the Umayyad Caliphate (what indeed would have Europe been without Charles Martel?) What is it with the Russophilia on this blog and, indeed, on most BBC pages?!"[#2]

That attitude has a long tradition.
Do expressions "fellow travellers"
and "useful idiots" ring a bell?

Incidentally, they've been coined by Lenin, the same guy who's prophetically written:

"One day Western capitalists will sell us with joy a rope on which we'll hang them".

  • 8.
  • At 04:34 PM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • biniolek wrote:

Dear Mark, you are really touching the nerve of the problem. Thank you.
"What would be like if Russia did not crushed Napoleon and Hitler?" you ask. I wouldn’t put Napoleon and Hitler, and implicitly Stalin, together. To answer your question, had Russia did not crush Napoleon, perhaps you would have a president, not a queen in UK (or rather in UR). And we would all speak French, as a second language, wouldn’t we? About Hitler and Russia (or Stalin) - Marc, you know this was not the plan. That idiot Hitler! It was supposed to be a border of friendship between the Nazi Europe and the Soviet Europe.
Cheers, biniolek

  • 9.
  • At 05:20 PM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • Oksana Hasiuk wrote:

It looks like Mark Mardell has picked up that specific Brussels' (European Commission's) Russophilia. I regret you've decided not to visit Ukraine, since you've deprived yourself a possibility to try to hear true history of the WW II. Hitler has been crushed by the USSR, which was a totalitarian, but federal state, comprising different nations, who had even under totalitarian Stalin's regime had their nationalities mentioned in their passports. That's why to tell that Russia crushed Hitler, would have been big offence to the memory of my grandfather who fought against Nazis as a part of Soviet Army, always identifying himself as Ukrainian as well as millions of Belarus people, Georgians Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Uzbeks and all the other representatives of distinct from Russians, currently independent nations. If you have a chance, could you please check with German historical books on the topic, which peoples Hitler preferred to see as slave labourers from the USSR's territory, and you will find that those were Ukrainians and people from Belarus. The same like you offended by the assertion that "Russia crushed Hitler" millions of Soviet Jews, which identified themselves as Jews, not Russians, and have been slaughtered by both Hitler's and Stalin's regimes and who fought alongside Ukrainians and the Baltic people in the special Soviet Army units formed of presumably political prisoners from GULAG. They are dubbed as “secret army of Stalin”, because people from such units have been just thrown on mines fields to clear up way for regular army units.
Your remark about Napoleon I think would not be loved by the French .In the end, after reading your weblog, I do understand something what one EU diplomat located in Ukraine said once in private conversation with Ukrainian journalists (of the records, of course) that "I try to secure Ukrainian interest in Brussels, but to be honest, you cannot imagine how pro-Russian those European Commissioners are." He is Briton, by the way.
Thank you, Ivi Tagata. It seems like you studied not distorted history.

  • 10.
  • At 08:23 PM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • Dankos wrote:

At 06:19 AM on 22 Oct 2007, Ivi Tagata wrote: "...What is it with the Russophilia on this blog and, indeed, on most BBC pages?" Ivi, perhaps this is a laudable, if tardy, counter-swing to the Russophobia flooding too many other comment pages (less so on those of the BBC I'll admit) that you apparently may prefer. And I doubt you would honestly want to compare the behaviour of Russia's armed forces in Europe to those of Napoleon and Hitler (especially Hitler's) once they had invaded Russia - the comparison is in both cases much in Russia's favour. As is the fact that in both cases, the presence of Russia's troops in Europe was provoked and occurred in response to brutal foreign invasions. Europe has shown a far greater propensity towards invading Russia over the centuries than the other way around.

  • 11.
  • At 08:58 PM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • NS wrote:

Russia contributed overwhelmingly to the defeat of both Hitler and Napoleon. The blood of its people spilt for the cause will always speak louder than radical e-mails like the one above. Hopefully the way Europeans see Russia will eventually balance itself out as historical/political "erotica" and petty accusations fade out. Indeed, in terms of body count, Russia suffered from Europe much more than Europe suffered from Russia. Some of us should
settle down to this reality and stop dreaming history in technicolor.

  • 12.
  • At 09:51 PM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • Vlad wrote:

Definitively Russia by origin and culture is European country but similar to USA or Canada at the same time it is something different, which has its own unique features. Thus it would be logical for Russia to be together with Europe and States. But to be together does not mean to be against someone. Unfortunately States and Europe (considered by many like "vassal" of States) quite often ignore the interest of other countries in favor of their own. Of course they accompany it by "sweat" speeches and massive propaganda. The same was in Soviet Union. Most of people
unfortunately take whatever they get from media as the truth. In 90's most of people in Soviet Union consider States and Europe like friends. But when Soviet Union as the gesture of good will withdrew it’s troops from the Central Europe what had happened? Instead of making Central Europe neutral, NATO (controlled by States) put their troops there, under the very border of Russia as well as declared it's "victory" in the Cold War. Now they build antimissile system near the border of Russia claiming that it is against Iran. Imagine if Russia would build antimissile system in Canada claiming that it is
against Iran. Instead of using the fall of Soviet Union as the good reason for mutual nuclear disarmament US left (in sight of weak Russia ) many mutual treaties that were restraining the arm race. Instead they seemed even increased it's military spending. What is the lesson for Russia? Take into account as well poring money by States into "democratic movements in Russia" that are quite often organizations promoting American military, economical and political interests inside Russia (primarily to destroy it).Similar did Soviet Union when funding communist movements in States and Europe. Unfortunately democracy slogans are used quite often as Trojans horse to conquer other countries without usage of guns and tanks, to achieve quiet victories with use of money to bribe top elite. As the result Russians felt this increasing danger over their country and united to support Putin. Of course not because they do not like democracy as G. Bush recently suggested(strange move). When country is in risk democracy shrinks. Quite similar was in States when after 9/11 a lot of freedoms were dropped. All the recent big wars on Russian territory came to Russia from the West (Hitler, Napoleon). Russia is the only country now in the world that can withstand military power of United States. That's why US does everything to destroy it. It's lost opportunity as States, Europe and Russia could be a friends. Definitely Russia historically got a lot of positive from the West as well as West got a lot of positive from Russia. In order for Russia, Europe and States be a friends there should be a balance of interest in the world for all courtiers, small and big, balance set by some international institutions like UN(agree sounds like utopia). Unfortunately a lot of politics are corrupted, they care only about their personal welfare and imperfect humane nature makes the world slowly but surely go to complete destruction. So politicians please no bull sheet. No glorious patriotic speeches. History is full of them. Full with blood, pain and misunderstanding they led to. Let's try all of us to have a conscience and be more human. Think at least a little bit about others. Let's not make greediness rule the world. Then may be the world still have some hope to survive. May be not everything said is so straight forward but essence of said seems is correct.

  • 13.
  • At 10:08 PM on 22 Oct 2007,
  • Greg wrote:

You can not compare Russia to the Ottoman Empire. The effects of the Ottoman Empire include much more violent and hatred fueled conflicts within Europe still lasting to this day (e.g. Former Yugoslavia, Cyprus, etc...). Prior to the fall of Communism, the Soviet Union (including present day EU members and Russia) were all under control of one dictator (e.g. Stalin) which happened to strike their fist from within current day Russia.

Russia stopped Napoleon, and the Soviet Union stopped Hitler (with help). The Soviet Union was of course a trade of one extreme dictatorship to another for most European states. Claiming Russia has been mostly a thorn in Europe is more of a bias than a critical analysis. One must distinguish between the Soviet State and Russian State since they are vastly different. We might as well cast every European State with a history of extreme dictatorship as a predator. Right now Russia is aiming for a legitimate stance in world politics. Russia definitely dislikes the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em philosophy" from a political standpoint and that will always be apart of their culture.

  • 14.
  • At 12:02 AM on 23 Oct 2007,
  • Traveller wrote:

Matthew says "Russia is a beautiful country rich in history and culture that cannot be overlooked by the EU for ever. " Good point. BUT, by the same token, Russia has continually done exactly that to smaller countries that have equal beauty and are as rich in culture and history and their own languages.

The argument that Russia itself was not somehow responsible for the Soviet Union falls a bit thin when we find that in Soviet times it was Russians who moved into Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and other countries, Russians who got all the good jobs, priority in housing etc etc It was the Russian language which had precedence over the language of the native populations , encouraged as the 'language of international friendship'. People in those states couldn't get ahead unless they sucked up to Russian and non-elected communist authorities.

So let's look at this whole situation with the lessons of the past (and the very recent past) in the back of our minds.

Russia tries to portray itself as a responsible international citizen yet now that it has enough money from sales of energy to Europe - starts unecessary military flights:

It threatened Ukraine not so very long ago with shutting of its heating oil and now looks like it will be doing the same to Belorussia - and these are their friends and brother Slavs. And because the freely elected government of Estonia decided to move relocate an innappropriately placed statue - a band of politicians went to Estonia to demand that their government dissolve itself! Incredible.

There many aphorisms that could be applied to Russia's situation - and one is 'A leopard never loses its spots.

  • 15.
  • At 12:04 AM on 23 Oct 2007,
  • Juraj wrote:

Mark Mardell writes in a breezy, stereotypical and uninformed way. Only one side is ever asked to comment (big surprise: Latvians). As another writer pointed out above, the whole discussion about the border treaty is not based on facts, but on stereotypes and facile throw-away simplifications.
But what bothers me is lack of context: 35% of people in Latvia are Russians, most of them born in Latvia, many of them living there for many generations. Latvia - a proud EU member - refuses to give them citizenship, suppresses schools that use Russian in instruction, and basically runs a linguistic and ethnic apartheid inside EU. That doesn't rise to the level of interest for Mr. Mardell, but too much "paperwork" by Russian custom agents does. What are these articles about? Is their main purpose to simply elaborate on pre-existing biases in Western readers? Yeah, Latvians are cuddly great oppresed people, Russians are dangerous and evil force lurking just over the horizont. This is really not all that different from soft propaganda that most of the Soviet block engaged in. Let's have some real facts, some real opinions (from both sides, please)...

We need to remember that Russia controlled Estonia until 1991. It wasn’t until the Singing Revolution, when thousands of people revolted against Russia that Estonia gained their independence. I just saw a website about Estonia’s Singing Revolution –; this is quite inspirational.
Tension between Russia and Europe is inevitable. Recently the cyber attacks on the Estonian computer system were thought to have been Russian doing.

  • 17.
  • At 12:37 AM on 23 Oct 2007,
  • denis wrote:

Response to first two comments
Matthew, Russians do not want to be embarrassed by EU members. How can you say something about Russian hart and soul without being a russian? Western puritan values have never been a part of russian culture. The alienation process is double-sided and it started long time before the Socialist Revolution of 1917 - it is geographic issue. The "russians want iron fist" theory was thought through by americans and widely excepted in the west (recently it has been repeated by pres. Bush, who said "it is in russian DNA to wish for strong rule", which is a discriminative statement by itself, that can be compared to recent Chemistry Nobel Prize winner's statement about African population). Which one is better: puppet government with president who is not able to speak properly and every public appearance turns into disaster, with strong elite that makes less then 1% of all population while controlling 99% of all economic resources and country's assetts or Vladimir Putin's government that at least acknowledges that corruption is bad and tries to fight it? His government is strong and there is nothing to be ashamed of for any russian who supports him. And Putin does not try to "pick a fight" with anybody. The war is bad - this is banal and every kid knows it. But how come there are new military bases and missile stations being put throughout Europe? Who is picking the fight? Why Bush wants another $48 Billion for the war?
Now to Ivi. Ivi, what you doing is trying to change history with false, illogic statements. How does the drunkenness of invaders diminishes russian success? Every european owns a great debt to his grandparents and russian veterans as well. And calling russia a "predator" is also a mistake. The whole western world is doing business buying and selling stuff and making profit. Russia now sells its resources at high prices and benefits from it - nothing wrong here. Russia is just playing by western rules. Why not increase the gas prices for Poland, Estonia and Ukraine, the countries that admire fascism and diminish the success of soviet soldiers? there would be no such countries if it was not for russians. Unlike mongols or persians, russians were fighting for freedom, not to occupy more territory and expand its borders.

  • 18.
  • At 05:13 AM on 23 Oct 2007,
  • David Stevenson wrote:

I think that Russia has become more confident of its power and is now just flexing its muscles. Russia's hostility to the United States is very natural as G. Bush's seeming thoughtlessness towards most areas outside of Europe and the Far East has now become apparent.

We Americans have become used to being hated and we have now become increasingly dictatorial towards other countries. This policy is not a realistic one in the long term.

  • 19.
  • At 06:40 AM on 23 Oct 2007,
  • Chavo wrote:

The negative media coverage on Russia is amazing. Most of the negative comments on Russia are unjustified and stem from poor knowledge of history and ability to make sense of it. While being an early Western Power Russia behaved just like any other imperial power did. Furthermore, being subject to a number of invasions from the West, its expansion westwards after WW2 was mainly a defensive one - it needed a buffer zone. While Russia was weak after the break up of the Soviet Union it was criticised for its inability to implement reforms, its rampant corruption, savage capitalism and unstable social climate. Now that Russia is finally back on its feet, the economy is going well, social order is established and Russian ambitions for becoming a strong economic (and again political) force are no secret ... it is under Western scrutiny again. For whatever reasons. And very often Russian attitudes are not very different than say their American counterpart's. Basically, as long as Russians refuse to play by Western rules they will be

Something positive and constructive must come out of Russian
existence, can we agree on that?

  • 20.
  • At 07:33 AM on 23 Oct 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

Vlad # 12 your own view is biased in the way you wrote your description of Russia. You state reasonably well the interests of Russia and how US may go against them... BUT this is all you consider... you talk Russia and US, and say Central Europe should be left neutral.

This ignores the most important issue here. Central Europe is not some Terra Incognita with savages living there, a view of colonial times past. It is a part of Europe with independent countries, with cultures as old and older than Russia. You do not consider, totally ignore, the interests of these independent countries, and only talk about how it affects Russia.

This is the kind of arrogance that will keep on making Russia enemies.

Central Europe has been invaded and occupied by the various versions of the Russian state on multiple occasions in the past. These countries are being threatened in various ways by Russia even today. It is only natural for them to do what they feel they must to preserve their independence. Make alliances. Or build anit-missile systems.

These countries do not have nuclear weapons. Russia does. Why they do not have a right to stop Russian weapons that could be used against them?

Greg # 13, no comparison is exact, but as an empire comparing Russia to the Ottomans is quite valid. Westerners may not be as familiar with the damage Russia caused to other peoples in its history, as with the Ottomans, but just look at the territories Russia covers now and the various ethnic groups that have already disappeared... or the instabilities in various countries Russian dids in the past created.

Plus the weird thing is that every Russian state was a predatory expansionist dictatorship. This was so under the tsars. The same during the Soviet time. Russia is turning into the same again under Putin. So, conquest, colonialism, and opression and genocide of other ethnic groups by the Russians is not an excpetion to history, but the rule.

  • 21.
  • At 08:59 AM on 23 Oct 2007,
  • aaron wrote:

The previous comments seem to all be focussed on the past but surely it is wisest, when walking, to look in front of you not behind. Russia is not a country to be despised or ignored, except by fools, as a major world player in the near future. Therefore why not consider her as part of Europe especially seeing the European union will only grow in their dependence on Russian resources. A word of warning to the world, in the same way you wouldn't poke an angry bear, be respectful to Russia! But this warning will not be heeded and Russia is going to take measures to cement her power that no one is expecting! If anyone wants to know what is going to happen in world affairs in the near future, read Chapter 38 of the book of Ezekiel which is found in the bible (*Russia is Gog).

  • 22.
  • At 10:41 AM on 23 Oct 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

Re: Russia combatting Hitler.

Perhaps, to put things in a proper context, it should be remembered (learnt?) that Soviet Russia was a staunch ally of Nazi Germany in 1933-1941 period.

Watching Red Army troops parading proudly together with Wermacht ones in Brest in September 1939 after their joint invasion of Poland (which started WWII) might also be quite helpful.
[a video available now on Internet]

  • 23.
  • At 01:05 PM on 23 Oct 2007,
  • Lucy wrote:

Hi guys,

I read this blog with a great interest. I am Bulgarian, having lived in Greece and married to an English. We live in Bulgaria.

Some statements impressed me quite a lot.

That is so true what Dima says about EURABIA! My husband is a proud and desperate English man, who now prefers Bulgaria to England for the same reason like many other fellow Englishmen leaving the country. The government has "a special relationship" with the US. The people of GB don't have that special relationship. The people in GB dont want to be a multi cultural nation (with millions upon millions of immigrants of every skin colour)

I dont blame the Russians for being reserved.

I possibly dont sound completely to the point, but one of the comments that Mark made was "now the EU is toying with allowing membership to countries that have long been considered within Russia’s sphere of influence".

Bulgaria was "under the influence". In fact I think Zhivkov had in them old days "applied" for Bulgaria's acceptance to become a member state of the USSR (one more "respublik") but we werent wanted for "lack of discipline".

Anyhow, for my 32 years of age, I would rather have what we had 20 years ago and not be a part of the EU. I dont have a "special relation" with the EU and its stronger members who bow infront of the US. I dont find it offensive to be in the Russia's sphere of influence. I am finding it worrying that may be Russia isnt completely sure of this. I dont like it when politicians agree to accept US army trainings in Bulgaria and I fear for tomorrow. If Turkey gets in the EU - that would be it I guess. History repeats itself.

(Not that I dont have many Turkish friends.)

The only common thing we have in Europe (all Europe excluding Turkey) is the belief that all know a lot and are very sophisticated. What we lack is faith which is a driving force second to none.

And I dont care if somebody may try to belittle my statement as I am Bulgarian or may be because my English isnt perfect. We dont have faith to fight for our beliefs, we dont have faith to even keep our families close as our grandparents did. We dont stop to think that "European family" has no meaning if we do not know what "family" means anymore. In some places in Russia they still know. And I admire them for that.

If I could choose between a "Central European" family and a Russian family - I will chose the Russian one any day of the week and twice on Sunday! That is the smaller worse.

EU is turning servant to the US. Have we gone completely mad! Servants to ignorant people who work 24 hours so to be able to eat 24 hours and watch reality shows as they have no life of their own! What for?!

Of course there are the few odd exceptions and so what! Walk on Iraq. Why? For fuel. For money. Drag everyone with them. Oh, and we shouldn't forget the "friendly fire". When the Americans fire, everyone hides. When things go pear shaped, go get the English and the French to fix their mess up.

I dont want to follow the Americans. I dont wish them bad just dont want to be involved. And I fear I may be involved when payment day for their unjust actions comes. I dont want any collateral damages in Europe because we provided help to US.

Yeah...I know - who asks me what I want! And, as a true contemporary European, I dont have the faith to fight for my I guess we all deserve to be where we are.

  • 24.
  • At 11:01 PM on 23 Oct 2007,
  • Robert wrote:

The BBC seems to have trouble understanding the meaning of "State". A place like France or Poland is a nation-state. However, the United States is just what it says it is... a union of many states. The relationship between European nations and the USA will never be equal, because the USA is really 50 nations combined into one. States like Texas and California by themselves are larger than most European countries.

The BBC has the same misunderstanding with Russia. The Russian Federation is just what it says it is... a Federation of States. That is several States combined into one huge one.

In order for Europe to have leverage against the USA and Russia, they must act as one. The EU at least is a step in that direction. Russia cannot be part of the EU, because it is already a Federation. You cannot have a Federation of a Federation. Including a huge Federation as an "equal" would be grossly unfair to the individual nation-states of Europe. Russia is really 30 nations put into one. The USA is really 50 nations put into one. So relations will never be equal.

  • 25.
  • At 12:04 AM on 24 Oct 2007,
  • Valentin wrote:

Rob #14 you are trying to evaluate things in black and white. Russia is what it is today due to severe factors and unfortunate circumstances it had been against in the past. The ethnic groups you speak of had been burning down our towns and slaughtering civilians for centuries. The feeling we, Russians get from words such as yours is that we would all be "good boys and girls" if we would allow others to rip our nation apart and turn it into an ethnic minority. We always had to be strong to stand up to challenges world had thrown at us. I believe the time has changed. Europe and Russia do not have to simply co-exist any longer. We can and should work together to ensure our children would consider themselves part of one great European family. The first logical step is not to throw cliché accusations at each other. The second and most important is not to allow any other country to get in the way of our relationship with their fake concerns which are nothing short of anti-European. From here we can continue as: "and lived happily ever after".

  • 26.
  • At 06:23 AM on 24 Oct 2007,
  • Serguei wrote:

Mark, thanks for the blog though it does not seem to be that popular among EU citizens.
I guess both the West and Russia are suspicious about true motives of each other; in addition, many Russians are suspicious or do not believe in civil institutions generally associated with the West:legislature and judicial in particular.
At the same time all European nations,including Russia have centuries of common history (though often tragic) and will have a common future, but it will take some time to come to terms.
I've been recently in Russia and was not happy to see growing utra-nationalism; it's sad that at least partly it seems to be fueled by what is considered by Russians as double-standards policy of the West...
So I guess the question is how and when we'll start trust each other and what can be done to encourage common approach to challenges rather than current divide.

  • 27.
  • At 10:54 AM on 24 Oct 2007,
  • Alexander wrote:

I think that it is about time to awaken to the new realities of the modern world. For many centuries every big European country was (or at least was aspiring to be) an important player in the world affairs. This age has come to an end. Assuming that the current trends continue, in a couple of decades we will see a world dominated by three major powers, China, India and the US (the latter not necessarily the mightiest of all any longer). Russia might well become the largest European economy, but nevertheless it will be a dwarf compared to the mighty China with population ten times as big.

Only if European countries forget the grudges of the past and learn to stand united, Europe will still matter on the world stage.
And it is in the interests of both the EU and Russia, that Russia becomes an integral part of the united Europe (together with Ukraine, Belarus, the Balkans etc.).
EU and Russia should embark on the quest for unification, not confrontation. In my humble opinion,
Russia should formally start seeking EU membership (and EU should make it clear that Russia is welcome to the club when the necessary criteria are met). When it happens, the future of our wonderful continent will look much brighter.

  • 28.
  • At 07:32 PM on 24 Oct 2007,
  • Helen K. wrote:

The way I'd put it - everyone should grow up and quit that "hollier then though" attitude, be that Europeans or Russians.
If European nations don't like to see drunken Cossaks in Paris, or "splitting of Europe into two halves" after the events of WWII, then they should probably stop the attempts to invade and colonize Russia since the times of Livonian and Teutonian Orders ( yes, interestingly enough this "drang nach Osten" idea goes back to 1200s in history.)
Russians on another hand should stop pointing at Europeans and their acceptance of immigration from the Third World countries. Point "A" - "He who laughs last, laughs best," and point "B" - the current level of corruption in the country and inability of Russians through centuries to establish and uphold the word of law comparably to Europeans, makes them not all that different in this sense from the third-worlders.

  • 29.
  • At 02:30 AM on 25 Oct 2007,
  • Andrey wrote:

Mirek Kondracki wrote:
"... Soviet Russia was a staunch ally of Nazi Germany in 1933-1941 period."

Your russophobia is fine with me as long as it does not twist the facts.
I am sure that you that you know well enough that USSR was allied with Germany only from August of 1939 to
June 22, 1941. (Remember who fought on whose side in the Spanish Civil War
in 1936?)

  • 30.
  • At 04:16 AM on 25 Oct 2007,
  • Chavo wrote:

There is one thing about Russia (and any other nation for that matter) - as long as people treat it as an enemy, a potential threat, as long as it is gazed at thru a lense of suspicion, it will become what you want it to be. Try that in any other personal relation and see if it works ...

And all the Poles writing in here, do you think you can have Russian friends at all? For I am sure that many Polish-Russian friendships exist.

  • 31.
  • At 09:10 AM on 25 Oct 2007,
  • janosh wrote:

I don’t understand how those wise EU officials think that Turkey is more important (so can be a member of EU) than Russia as a part of Europe. Russia even Ukraine and Belarus have more common with Europe than Turkey. Look ay St Petersburg and compare with Istanbul or Ankara.

  • 32.
  • At 10:00 AM on 28 Oct 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"The effects of the Ottoman Empire include much more violent and hatred fueled conflicts within Europe still lasting to this day (e.g. Former Yugoslavia, Cyprus, etc...)." [#13]

Examples you're quoting are not a result of the Ottoman Empire, but of a COLLAPSE of the Ottoman Empire.

At the risk of being highly politically incorrect I'll assume a role of advocatus diaboli and remind you (and others) that 500 years (roughly) of the Ottoman rule were the only long period of peace and stability not only in the Balkans, but, much more importantly, in the Middle East.
[no Iraq, no Syria, no Palestine.]

Provocatively (and going on a limb) I'll express a regret that the Ottoman Empire cannot be resurrected.

And if Ottomans ever decided to move up north again?

Well, thankfully there're still those perenially belligerent and feisty Poles, about the only nation in present day impotent Europe with some testicular fortitude. ;-)

  • 33.
  • At 12:41 AM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • maksim wrote:

It strange thing but many westerners forgot their colonial past. Belgians forgot their African cruelty. Britons who killed Africans and Indians by millions,exploited them, robbed them
,Frenchmen who have in their memory
Algerian adventures,Americans who killed almost every Native Americans- all of You have to remember your own history when you are pointing your finger at Russia.You from the same herd.Only 2 world wars made you understand something.You are mostly illiterate bunch of people whose information is Mass media rumors. You do not know that Baltic nations lived much better under Soviets then Russians in central Russia.Nobody banned their national cultures or languages as they do now with Russ ens.

  • 34.
  • At 04:18 PM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

This is getting more and more interesting... now, according to BBC on this same website, Russia is trying to bully Lufthansa to do what Russia wants... and the Germans are threatening to complain to the EU.

This is of course not on the same scale as energy supply... NOT YET :)

Perhaps even the Germans who have attacked Poland here on this blog for stirring up trouble with Russia will understand what Russia is about. Russia will bully, invade, destroy anyone it feels it can. Germany is not immune.

As Walesa said, we need a new EU Solidarity or we will be undermined one by one.

  • 35.
  • At 04:42 PM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • Brian Lawrence wrote:

If you ask a Russian if they are European or Asian, they reply Russian. By far the largest part of Russia is Asiatic. The Country is an Enigma and with enormous riches and resources can be relied on to F? things up. At the moment the economy has at least 10% inflation per year. Facing enormous social problems and inherited millions and millions of mightly sub-standard apartments with no plans to maintain them.
Most families are living in these two room and kitchen apartments and with very little chance to move out to bigger ones.
The birth rate is falling with abortions at an all time high. Life expectancy has fallen with alarmingly high alcoholism. Putin is loved and adored because he has brought some stability to the Russians who do not really care about democracy but only on surviving month by month. Forget Russia if you can because it needs all its energy to tackle domestic problems. The women in Russia are still second has can be seen in the construction of the present Duma. Putin is not leaving the political scene but will take the strong post of Prime Minister and of course be the real power behind the state.
Without doubt Russia is a great country but cannot match the economic and military power of the United States. There population is a little above Germany today.
Last but not least the wealth of the country is in the hands of the Oligarchies.
So let’s not be romantic or nostalgic for a great power. Russia has much more important things than to try evoking memories of its great military power during the Soviet Times.
The last thing Russia can afford is a new arms race with the USA.

  • 36.
  • At 10:18 PM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • Mario brother wrote:

I would like to continue the reasoning of "maksim". It is certainly true that under the Soviets the Baltic nations lived better then Russians in Central Russia. And do you know why? Because before the occupation by the same Soviets these countries were very developped and civilised countries with a high level of education and culture. The Soviet period was a huge decline for these countries, nationalities and cultures. Still the Baltic nations somehow managed to maintain some elements of the previous splendour, and therefore it was the most developed region in the Soviet Union.

And actually no language or culture is "banned" in these countries. Please, do not repeat the Soviet (sorry, Putin's) propaganda like a parrot before you have visited these countries yourself!

Don't you remember that in the Soviet Union people believed that they lived in the most developed and civilised country in the world? And this "beautiful paradise" was always threatened by evil capitalists? And there was only one correct opinion on everything (from politics to milking cows) - the opinion of the Communist Party? Unfortunately, these times are returning in Russia.

  • 37.
  • At 12:34 PM on 04 Nov 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

Mark Mardel asked: "What would Europe be like if Russia had not crushed Napoleon and Hitler?"

One can easily imagine what Europe would be like if Russia(with a little unmentioned help from its then friends) hadn't crushed Hitler, but one can only wonder what would Russia be like today, if it(Russian winter) hadn't crushed Napoleon.

["Comrade Napoleon is always right!"]

  • 38.
  • At 01:17 PM on 04 Nov 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

Mario brother [#34] wrote:

"Don't you remember that in the Soviet Union people believed that they lived in the most developed and civilised country in the world? And this "beautiful paradise" was always threatened by evil capitalists? And there was only one correct opinion on everything (from politics to milking cows) - the opinion of the Communist Party? Unfortunately, these times are returning in Russia."

You've just provoked me into quoting here [from an anonymous manual] couple of examples of how cows are raised/milked in different countries and systems.
[WARNING: these examples are highly non-PC! If you're PC - stop reading right here.]

You have two cows.
The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
You form a cooperative to tell him how to manage his cow.

You have two cows.
The government seizes both and provides you with milk.
You wait in line for hours to get it.
It is expensive and sour.

You have two cows.
You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.

You have two cows.
You have some vodka.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You have some more vodka.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
The Mafia shows up and takes over however many cows you really have.

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