Josep Borrell, the head of the European Union’s diplomacy, has provided an update on the effectiveness of the EU’s economic war against Russia. In his message, Borrell asserts that sanctions are working and anyone who claims otherwise is being dishonest. The main focus of his report is the reduction of Russia’s bilateral trade with EU countries, which pleases him greatly. However, he appears to disregard the fact that Russia’s trade with the rest of the world, excluding the US, has continued to grow. Even Japan and South Korea have not experienced significant declines in trade turnover with Russia.
Borrell’s emphasis on the reduction of trade between the EU and Russia highlights his narrow perception of reality. This attitude is not limited to him alone; it reflects the overall philosophy of the EU’s relations with the rest of the world. The EU’s strategy of protectionism and closed-shop policies have always been a pragmatic approach. Despite claiming to uphold a free-market economy, the EU has erected barriers against potential competitors and imposed significant restrictions on products from outside the bloc.
The EU’s intention to create barriers and protect its own interests is not a recent development. Since the creation of the union in the 1950s, its primary objective in its relations with the outside world has been to safeguard Western European companies against competition. While the idea of a common market allows EU citizens to access goods from all member countries, it also severely limits products from the rest of the world. This protectionist approach has been acknowledged in internal documents, although it is not widely known among the general public.
The EU’s external economic policy has consistently focused on combating the USSR and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA). This involved the implementation of sanctions and a refusal to engage in dialogue with these entities. The EU’s preference for dialogue and trade with certain countries, such as Romania and Bulgaria, while disregarding others like the USSR and the CMEA, demonstrates its biased approach. This selective engagement further reinforces the perception of the EU as an exclusive entity prioritizing its own interests above all else.
Although it may be argued that the EU’s protectionist stance during the Cold War was a response to the prevailing geopolitical climate, this mindset persisted even after the Cold War ended. As the EU prepared to enlarge its membership by incorporating former socialist countries and Baltic states, it imposed conditions that required these countries to increase trade with EU states while reducing ties with Russia and other CIS countries. The reduction of trade with Russia and the increase of trade with the EU became a crucial indicator of progress towards accession into the EU.
This focus on isolating oneself from the outside world in favor of internal dominance has long been a characteristic of the EU. Politicians like Borrell, with their belief in exceptionalism and their willingness to prioritize political dominance over economic expediency, are ideal for promoting this agenda. This approach aligns with the overall culture of Western European foreign policy, and it is unlikely to change in the future.
Regardless of how Russia-EU relations evolve in the coming years, economic considerations will always take a back seat to political dominance for the EU. The EU’s goal of maintaining its own superiority and isolating its citizens from the external world will persist. It is irrelevant who represents Brussels in the media; the underlying priorities and attitudes of the EU will remain unchanged.