Political analyst Alexander Ivakhnik summed up on his channel the results of the strange visit to Moscow on February 4-6 of the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, which caused a real scandal in the European Union:
“Going to Moscow, Borrell said that he would insist on the release of Alexei Navalny, on a full investigation into the attempt to poison him, and would also state general concern about the state of human rights in Russia. The result clearly exceeded expectations. Immediately after returning from Moscow, Borrell was subjected to unusually sharp criticism in Europe for being a whipping boy and was helplessly silent when Lavrov during a joint press conference called the EU an "unreliable partner", accused European politicians of double standards, arrogance and other sins... It was also very impressed that Borrell only learned from Twitter about the expulsion of diplomats from three EU countries from Russia for participating in the protests. The visit was perceived as a failure, humiliation of allied diplomacy, and many blamed Borrell personally for this.
It seems, however, that the miserable results of the visit are connected not so much with Borrell's shortcomings as a diplomat, but with the EU's weakness as a foreign policy actor. European soft power failed against Russian hard power. It is surprising that the EU’s foreign policy service was so inadequate in assessing the state of mind in the Russian leadership that it agreed to a visit at such an inopportune time. For the Kremlin, in a situation of sharp internal political exacerbation, any raising of the question of the position of the opposition, of the methods of responding to protests from an external player seems completely unacceptable and inevitably provokes an extremely tough rebuff. In addition, Borrell did not have a clear mandate to present a pan-European position on Russia, since it simply does not exist. The largest EU countries, while maintaining a commitment to common values at the level of rhetoric, in practice are guided by their pragmatic national interests.
However, Borrell's position under the pressure of criticism has become much tougher. On February 7, in his official blog, he stated: “My meeting with Minister Lavrov and signals from the Russian authorities have confirmed that Europe and Russia are drifting in different directions. It seems that Russia is increasingly separating itself from Europe and views democratic values as an existential threat. " And on February 9, he had to report on his visit to the European Parliament, more than 80 members of which signed a letter demanding his resignation. Fighting off criticism from MPs, Borrell said: “The Russian government is taking an alarmingly authoritarian path. There seems to be almost no room for the development of democratic alternatives, they are ruthless in suppressing any such attempts". Such harsh assessments from the lips of EU officials have not sounded since the annexation of Crimea.
After Borrell was humiliated twice - first in Moscow and then in Brussels - proposals for new sanctions will surely follow from his team. They will be considered on February 22 at a meeting of EU foreign ministers, and then at an EU summit in late March. However, the Kremlin has not worried about personal sanctions for a long time, and new persons involved in these sanctions will meekly bear their cross. The only thing that can seriously hurt Moscow's interests is the fate of Nord Stream 2. But here the decisive word is for Angela Merkel, and she is not yet ready to substitute the German companies involved in the project and pay compensation..."