To the Brussels address, Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 200, where the official premises of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini are located, the letter was delivered by a courier, early in the morning, on October 20 this year. There was no reason to fear that it would get lost in the daily pile of shipments and, even less, that it would be overlooked. And last but not least, the aforementioned, diplomatically not quite a usual letter, was expected, and its content was known in advance. Specifically, the eight EU Member States, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Croatia, have requested from Mogherini to strengthen up the efforts to prevent and suppress Russian propaganda. States signatories believe that it is necessary, precisely because of the continuous campaign of placing new and new misinformation, to uncover Russian untruths about the European Union, because they are supposedly all deliberately and precisely directed towards creating distrust and dissatisfaction with democracy, European integration and European security.
Russian politics relatively openly sponsors and finances politically and ideologically mutually diverse movements or parties, which in their programs contain the open opposition to the present way of European life. The probably most fresh in the memory, precisely because of the close proximity, is quite direct Moscow’s support for the candidate in the French presidential election, Marine Le Pen, president of the far right-wing National Front, whose eventual election would cause big trouble for the European Union. Part of the interest of Russian foreign and security policy was also the Balkans. For this reason, it was no surprise that only a few months before the elections in France, Russia was accused of participating in an attempted coup and forming the results of the parliamentary elections in Montenegro, a candidate country for a member of the European Union. Also, open lobbying and persuasion of other candidate countries for EU membership that is an insignificant and unnecessary effort, because, in fact, the European Union is already a thing of the past.
Moscow succeeded in convincing that Russia is the biggest economic partner in the region, especially in Serbia.
Only a glimpse of the figures will indicate a completely opposite picture.
For example, last year in Serbia there were only 70 million worth of Russian investments and Serbian exports to Russia were negligible, primarily when compared to the fact that last year there were 1.2 billion worth of EU countries investments in Serbia and two one third of Serbian exports are intended for the European market.
I understand the placing of Croatia’s signature on a letter sent to Mogherini within the provided framework. Today, when the carefully concealed parts of the contract on the manner of crediting of Agrokor concern, signed on June 8th this year, are revealed, it is clear that the creditors were given full powers in the management of the concern and, at the same time, a part of the provisions of a special state law, simply called lex Agrokor, were annulled.
Precisely, the Croatian government has lost its force twice, the first time when Russian diplomatic representatives and Russian state banks have notified it that they have large claims on Agrokor, that they think that the state is the one that is obliged to ensure that the billion debt is repaid and now when it turned out that the fate of a large part of the Croatian economy irradiated by the financing of Agrokor, is in the hands and the decisions of the US funds that were called upon to continue lending, primarily because of the Croatian state fear of the deepest penetration of Russia into the Balkans before the literal entry into the ownership of a part of the Croatian economy and especially agriculture and indirectly in the possession of large complexes of the best arable land.
The letter that she received Mogherini should also read as a kind of message about the way of European life and relations with Russia. An outstanding analyst, professor dr. Igor Grdina wrote that Russia is less than a continent, and much more than a state. He added that at the end of the first Christian millennium, it became part of the Mediterranean-European (Orthodox) East and later was often in very difficult dilemma regarding its position in the wider area. In the recent history, Russia has fluctuated between the possibility of becoming an integral part of the West, which in practice would strongly be expanded this way, or forming a completely independent civilization.
In mid-February 2009, I was a guest of Moscow’s former vice-president of the Russian government and one of the key strategists of the peaceful disintegration of the great empire, the Soviet Union, Yegor Gaidar. That is when I met his longtime associate and friend, the privatization minister, who at the time was the chairman of the Russian energy giant, Anatoly Chubais. I brought him to a meeting one of my clients whose company wanted to trade also with electricity and bring it through Moldova and Romania and sell to Europe. However, despite all of this, our conversations were a matter primarily precious to me.
I told him an anecdote. Of course, I just repeated a true story I had heard at one of the meetings of Dr. Janez Drnovsek and Javier Solana, the then Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and later the High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security Policy.
The aged Russian president, just before the descent from the presidential seat, Boris Yeltsin, was visited by the president of the European Parliament and the president of the European government with his associates. During the conversation, Yeltsin gave everyone a pencil with his signature. From kindness and also because of the respect towards the president, they tried to use them, but it turned out that the pens did not work, they could not write. Yeltsin, Solana was later recounting, had smiled and commented that the promises are faith for the naive. We always had two problems, Chubais added, that February 2009. First, that Russia could not decide whether it would be part of the West or would form its own history, and second, that the West was always in a sort of political crisis in determining its attitude towards Russia. Gaidar talked about a great development opportunity. I was convinced that we would return to the times of Mikhail Gorbachev and Yeltsin in the turbulent years of the newest European history, but he mentioned a completely different time, special time, as he said, between 1880 and 1914. And it was really a very special period.
Russia, which before 1880 was still a negligible industrial power, only thirty years later became industrially comparable with Germany. The then Russian government sent a famous Dimitri Ivanovich Mendeleyev to Pennsylvania to study the American methods of exploitation of oil resources, to transfer their best practices to the Caucasus and encourage the development of the Russian oil industry. It was a time of optimism. Mendeleev reported that Russia will no longer economically and developmentally compete with Argentina, one of the then most promising countries in the world, but only with America.
The matter of fast and successful Russian industrialization in those years was no longer just a matter of economic and technological development, but also a political issue that could change the image of today’s Europe. Russia was becoming part of Europe. Also, thanks to, or thanks above all to two ministers, reformists, Sergei J. Witte and Peter A. Stolypin. If Witte saw the space of Russian modernization in the development of transport routes and rapid industrialization, Stolypin emphasized the significant stability of the state. During the period of their rule, 72 thousand kilometres of railroads were built in the country, and national income increased by 300 percent, the Russian economy became the third strongest in Europe, immediately behind German and English. Nikolai II, for various reasons, and due to the indirect influence of writer Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky, dismissed Witte. In his memoirs, the aforementioned wrote that “our emperor is an Oriental, Byzantine (cunning).”
Somewhat later, the Russian history overcome to one side. Witte and Stolypin had been forgotten for many years.
However, this cannot be a reason for the recipient of letters from eight European Union countries, Federica Mogherini, to understand the letter not only as an appeal, warning and request for protection from Russian state propaganda and daily activities, but also in the context of the Russian search for its territory in Europe.