Gunnar Hökmark calls on the EU to react to Russia’s ’unacceptable’ use of military and economic pressure to exert its influence- Article in the European Magazine

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Once again a curtain is descending across Europe, threatening to divide our continent between open, democratic societies governed by law, and societies where might is always right. The ancient European cities of Yerevan, Tbilisi, Baku, Chisinau and Kiev all risk ending up on the wrong side. Minsk, under the control of a full-fledged dictatorship totally dependent on Moscow, is already there.

Behind that curtain, military force and pressure as well as economic warfare are used to secure or enhance Moscow’s influence. Nationalist rhetoric strives to destabilize multi-ethnic societies while business interests controlled by political forces create a web of dependence. This is not only bad politics, but also bad economics, with decisions being based on the Kremlin’s interests rather than on market logic.

With the so called Euro-Asian customs union, Russia is trying to increase its power in the region by hindering democracy and by tying other economies to Russia’s. Membership in that union will hinder the development of economic exchange with the rest of Europe and will lock its participating states in dependence to Moscow.

The Association Agreements with the EU, in contrast, will stop no one from having economic exchanges with the rest of the world. EU is more open towards the world, Russia and the Euro-Asian economies than Russia is to its neighbours. The only political requirements in the AAs are democracy and respect for European values. Kremlin sees this as a threat.

The case of Armenia is obvious. First the Putin regime armed Azerbaijan and threatened to withdraw military support to Armenia, thereby threatening the country’s existential security interests. With promises of economic benefits, Kremlin then managed to recruit Armenia to its customs union. The decision came from Moscow, not Yerevan. Not only will it hurt the Armenian economy, it also violates the democratic rights of Armenians to shape their own future.

The European Union must react to this unacceptable police of influence. We should stand up for Georgia’s right to its territories and its borders, underline that the decisions regarding Moldova’s future must be taken in Chisinau, that Ukrainians should decide themselves if they belong to Europe or not, and that the Armenian people must have the full right to decide its future. We should make it clear that Russia must respect all its neighbours, and that democracy is an important means for trust and security rather than a threat to peaceful cooperation


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