Exclusive interview of the Ph.D. Alex Grigorievs, Vice Chair of the Board, Baltic to Black Sea Alliance (BBSA)
1/ How can you characterize EU policy in the post-Soviet space?
As a complex phenomenon. Its general long-term direction is correct, but at times one gets understandably impatient with the sheer lack of reaction. Europe’s problem is Russia. EU policy is always a year or two late. When Russia attacked Georgia in 2008, the EU reaction was mostly disbelief. When emboldened Russia snatched the Crimea, the first reaction was denial. Some politicians are still debating whether Russia is still a partner, and for many in the EU it still is, Georgia, Ukraine and the Skripals notwithstanding. The North Stream-2 is being built rather unscrupulously.
The hall of the meetings of the European Commission should have a picture of Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini and Édouard Daladier signing the Munich Agreements on September 30, 1938 on one wall and a picture the Yalta meeting on another as a reminder of what must not be done. It is understandable that EU policy has to be coordinated amongst 28 countries with differing opinions and interests, but EU leaders should exercise more leadership and convey to all countries the fact that the EU is working against an enemy that will not be a partner in the foreseeable future.
2 What can be expected from the oncoming NATO Summit in Brussels?
One could expect further plans of strengthening NATO borders in Eastern Europe, especially Poland and the Baltic states. NATO has fewer illusions regarding Russia than politicians have or pretend to have. I hope military cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia would be advanced as well. Ukraine and Georgia should have some sort of an official status, be it a special ally or an ally of a coalition of the willing, which is the current situation, but it should be made institutional, official. NATO should find a way to circumvent Hungary’s sabotage of Ukraine/NATO relations.
3 How do you assess the security situation in the Baltic-Black Sea region?
As precarious. So far NATO has answered a real threat with symbolic actions. Token NATO presence in the Baltic states is hugely better than nothing and it is a tremendous improvement upon the situation a few years before. Nonetheless, no matter how important symbols are, they are not sufficient to deter a real attack in the long term. Since the Russian threat is here to stay, NATO should start thinking and planning long term for the Baltic security. In the Black Sea region, Russian aggression against Ukraine and annexation of the Crimea by Russia in violation of all international norms and agreements continue to present a challenge to international community, EU, and NATO. Had the response to Russia’s aggression against Georgia been more robust, we would not be discussing Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
Belarus remains the big unknown, and it appears that the continuation of the current state of affairs serves everyone’s interests. Russia seems to want to enhance its military presence in Belarus, Lukashenko resists and is so far moderately successful. Social unrest in Belarus may provoke Russia to annex Belarus – this is a scenario no more fantastic than annexation of the Crimea seemed in January 2014. Lukashenko dictatorship is at the same time the source of such potential unrest and guarantor of stability. In the long term this balancing act is unsustainable, and Belarus is the potential weak link in the region. We are back to the need to stabilize and secure Baltic and Black Sea Intermarium. The alternative is an extension area of instability and military conflict, as Russia will continue to attempt to impose its domination upon the region.