Juncker: EU should speak to Russia

File photo. President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker (R) embraces Russian President Vladimir Putin on the opening day of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, 7 July 2017. [EPA/EFE/DANIEL KOPATSCH]

In an exclusive interview he gave to ‘Groupe d’études géopolitiques’, former Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker advocated for the EU to directly engage with Russia, instead of simply relying on Russia-US relations to solve the continent’s security threats.

The interview was published on Wednesday (22 December), at a time when the tensions between Moscow and the West are reaching a new peak.

Putin vows tough response over US buildup in Ukraine, Eastern Europe

President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday (21 December) that Russia had no room to retreat in a standoff with the United States over Ukraine and would be forced into a tough response unless the West dropped its “aggressive line”.

Putin addressed …

“Unlike with the United States, Russia is our next-door neighbor. We cannot change geography; Europe is close to Russia, and this proximity has consequences. To envisage a security architecture for Europe without reserving a place for Russia is a dead end. I would not say that this is regardless of the problem in Crimea or Eastern Ukraine, but we must have an ongoing relationship with Russia. We have to talk to each other. The Americans are not in Russia’s immediate vicinity. In regard to these two matters — Russia and China — we cannot follow the instructions coming out of Washington; we must have analytical and operational autonomy”, Juncker said.

In itself, Juncker’s positions are not new. During the deepest low in relations over the Crimea annexation, Juncker also advocated “talking to Russia”.

Juncker: We can’t let EU relations with Russia be dictated by US

Europe must improve its relationship with Russia, and should not let this be something decided by Washington, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday (8 October).

Asked about transatlantic relations, Juncker said that “oddly enough”, he had had good relations with Donald Trump, who had called him a “brutal killer”.

Trump told me "You're a brutal killer", Juncker says

Jean-Claude Juncker has been called many things during his premiership of Luxembourg and presidency of the European Commission, but probably never what he says US President Donald Trump called him at the weekend: “a brutal killer”.

“We experienced the Donald Trump era, with whom I got along well with, oddly enough. We have transitioned to the Biden administration. I knew Joe Biden well when he was vice-president to Barack Obama. He is a much better listener than Trump to say the least. But above all, he knows Europe much better. Donald Trump had an inaccurate view of Europe. He held this surprising fantasy that the Union had been created as a sort of plot against the United States, that it had been designed to undermine America’s influence in the world. You can say many things, but this is simply not the case. The Union was a project led by affirmed Atlanticists. That’s the bottom line”, Juncker said.

Asked about the surprisingly hectic retreat of the US from Afghanistan he said the EU should not only develop “strategic autonomy”, but also “analytical autonomy”, a capacity to think independently.

“With the Taliban takeover of Kabul, the Americans, the Europeans, the “NATO countries” lost on two fronts: that of credibility vis-à-vis other world powers and that of the trust in their capabilities. This is the point we must start from. This is what the president of the United States means when he says again and again that we ought to learn to manage our own affairs before concerning ourselves with the affairs of others. To do this, we must develop our own analysis. Rather than talking about strategic autonomy I would urge us to first of all put in place an analytical autonomy through a study of geopolitical positions which must be much more complete than it is at present, taking into consideration interests that are in line with our values’, Juncker said. [Full interview here.]

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