Event ReportsPublished on Apr 03, 2015
Former Prime Minister of Sweden, Mr Goran Persson, feels that India should take an active role in negotiating between the European Union and Russia, who are fighting over Ukraine. He believes that new developments will mean that China-Russia relations will prosper at the cost of Russia-Europe relations.
Ukraine crisis: China gains at the cost of Europe

Admitting that China is set to gain at the cost of Europe over the Ukraine crisis, former Prime Minister of Sweden, Mr Goran Persson, felt that India should take an active role in negotiating between the European Union and Russia.

Delivering a talk on "Europe and the Ukraine crisis" at Observer Research Foundation on March 4, Mr. Persson noted that "India is the future choice for those who want to grow and invest" and so it is time for India to negotiate between its friends Russia and the EU.

Mr. Persson reiterated that Russia needs to respect internationally recognised borders. He underlined that a geo-political balance can come about only when both Russia and Europe are together.

Mr. Persson admitted that new developments will mean that China-Russia relations will prosper at the cost of Russia-Europe relations. However, it would be wrong to blame Europe for it. He also voiced strongly in support of the integration within the EU during times of crisis.

The talk was organised to understand the European perspective towards the prevailing Ukraine crisis. Mr. Persson shed light on the complicated relationship that Europe shares with Russia and vice versa.

The event was chaired by Dr. Manoj Joshi, Distinguished Fellow, ORF. Opening the discussion, Dr. Joshi explained how Indian response to the Ukrainian crisis is mostly coloured by the benign ties it shares with the Russian Federation. He stressed upon the need to have an objective outlook towards the crisis.

Mr. Persson began by giving an account of Europe-Russia ties that have seen highs and lows over different time frames. Mr. Persson explained the current scenario by comparing it with the situation two decades back when the Soviet Union disintegrated and Europe united. He admitted that in the post war period there were apprehensive feelings towards Russia within Europe. However, after the fall of Berlin Wall, there was a general feeling within the European Union that trade and cooperation with Russia would lead to greater integration and understanding between the two. For a few years, the economic cooperation proved to be fruitful but it lost momentum when the Russian economy was unable to reform itself and lagged behind Europe.

According to Mr. Persson, today the situation is unfavourable for both Europe and Russia. So, there is a European Union that is fighting to stick together and there is a Russia trying to build something of the old Soviet regime.

He also opined that the economic development inevitably leads to political consequences. Europe has been going through a monetary crisis for quite some time now and Russian economy too is under doldrums owing to the falling global oil prices. Russia is especially under tremendous pressure because the low oil prices along with the sanctions have hurt the Russian economy. These economic developments, according to Mr. Persson, require political solutions. The ceasefires of September and February have not led to any significant outcomes, so the leadership on both sides need to arrive at a political solution at the earliest.

Mr. Persson admitted that Europe is not in the best possible shape to have a conflict with Russia. Europe’s east neighbouring partners depend upon development in Russia which show no positive signs yet. According to him, Europe is "coming close to a deflationary development" and this is clearly reflected in the demography. Europe is an ageing continent with higher life expectancy and continuously falling birth rate. This is especially true of Germany which is regarded as the engine of the European economy. With no domestic demand and full export dependence, Europe awaits a vulnerable situation in the coming decades.

Mr. Persson emphasised that Europe needs to focus more on demography and not infrastructure because growth in economy is directly proportional to growth in population. He also hoped that Russian President Vladimir Putin would adopt a more realistic approach to the situation as he "needs more partners". He felt the only justification he could think of Russia’s actions in Crimea is that perhaps the Russians feel that the NATO has come too far in Europe. This, he felt was unjustified. Underscoring the importance of Ukraine, he pointed that Europe cannot afford to lose Ukraine in the European family. He expressed positive outlook towards creating a prosperous Ukraine without disturbing Russia.

(This report is prepared by Himani Pant, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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