Mark Entin: “Our diplomacy sustains both the limping economy and politics at the moment. Though this won’t last forever”
The Russian diplomat on the disagreement of Russia with the ECHR, unlearnt lessons of the Litvinenko Case, Brexit's hairpin bends and attacks on Saudi Arabia
On the day of the CIS countries’ intelligence summit, ex-Ambassador of Russia to Luxemburg, Professor at Moscow State Institute of International Relations gave an open lecture in the V. Timiryasev Kazan Innovation Institute. During a two-hour talk with local academia, the diplomat expressed his opinion about the rapidly changing vector of relationships of Moscow with EU countries. Read in Realnoe Vremya’s correspondent’s report about counterarguments of Russian diplomacy to the accusations of Russia of a mass violation of human rights, the Skripal Case as a logical continuation of the methodological dead end of the Litvinenko Case and hopes for soon reformation of the Russia judiciary system.
U-turn in EU countries’ moods — after “dead end” in 2018
As an experienced teacher, Mark Entin immediately paid attention to the composition of the audience that consisted of professors and students and instantaneously remembers several funny incidents when he was Russia’s ambassador to Luxemburg where he worked for three years until 2015 having witnessed the peak of cold relations after the events in Ukraine. A couple of minutes later he went into the agenda — analysis of Russian-European talks in the last years, lessons of the history of diplomacy and conclusions he made during his service.
The speaker decided to set the agenda with an example of several bilateral forums held since the noughties: Trianon Dialogue Russian-French Civil Society Forum, Russian-Austrian Sochi Dialogue, the most influential German-Russian forum Petersburg Dialogue. Having left diplomatic service in 2017, Entin actively joined their work and, according to him, every year he saw ups and downs in the development of relationships of Moscow with EU countries.
If in 2017 one could still talk about even friendly relationships, which led to nothing but still were friendly, the year 2018 is a dead end, Entin briefly characterised.
“It seems that our partners were substituted — all their talks were a carbon copy of each other, everything is completely identical, and it is simply disgusting to listen to this,” he added.
A U-turn was outlined in 2019, towards dialogue, and the talks of foreign ministers of Russia and Germany Sergey Lavrov and Heiko Maas at Petersburg Dialogue in July was its proof. Mark Entin mainly focused on the goals the EU countries pursue by participating in the “dialogues”, which, in the speaker’s opinion, total four.
“The Litvinenko Case out of the pocket ‘disrupted’ the relationships between Russia and Great Britain”
The first goal is to demonstrate that there is a dialogue, the doors are open, while the situation can change, one just has to invent what is needed for it, to find out which mechanisms failed and enabled “respectable countries to allow going down to confrontation”, the diplomat explained and rushed to illustrated his story to make it clear.
“David Cameron (Editor’s Note: Prime Minister of Great Britain from 11 May 2020 to 13 July 2016) comes to power in Great Britain as a result of election who launched all this Brexit, the referendum and so on. Leaders of all the countries love to copy others’ experience, especially when it is the “big brother”. He immediately creates the National Security Council according to the model of the United States and some times later sends the vice chairman of the Security Council here, to Moscow, to establish good relations. We met with him then and tried to find out what “disrupted” the relationships between Russia and Great Britain, and then it was a domino effect… The Litvinenko Case that was taken out of the pocket,” the diplomat claimed.
“The performance was great: if something could be destroyed completely, the Litvinenko Case was used,” Entin went on. “Let’s create a mechanism so that the Skripal Case would be impossible in the future? And there is such a situation, and it is similar to the Litvinenko Case, there is step one, step two… We take it under control and don’t allow it to be public, find solutions by all means, even when it comes to criminal prosecution. Current international law includes two principles — judge or extradite. If such a mechanism had been created then, the situation would have been different.”
“The performance was great: if something could be destroyed completely, the Litvinenko Case was used”
“It is supposed that 5% of oil production suffered, prices went up. They were back in the evening”
The speaker gave another interesting example of an effective, in his opinion, action of fact-checking mechanism and coordinated work in case of emergency that might bring to high-profile political squabbles — the air attack on oil capacities of Saudi Arabia, which was on 14 September. Fields and an enterprise of Saudi Aramco state-owned company were attacked by tens of drones. The USA accused Iran of the attacks, however, Yemen Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack.
“The key aspect of the creation of a security system in the Persian Gulf is the use of space and other systems to stay tuned for all critical situations for fact-checking. There was allegedly made an attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia with the use of drones and air-to-surface missiles. It is supposed that 5% of oil production suffered, prices went up. They were back in the evening. Oil facilities can’t be hit if the prices are back. We quickly assessed the photos of the oil facilities, and there is incongruity everywhere,” Entin stressed. “The presence of an objective system of fact-checking immediately creates a completely different situation, as it is impossible to either stage or use anything to say it is aggressive actions, and we are given carte blanche to impose additional sanctions.”
“The European Union has now made an attempt to work in “double-headed-eagle mode”
According to Entin, the second task the EU countries set during the “dialogues” with Moscow is to “feed” with the information they receive from the Russian side. The diplomat expressed an opinion that “Russian specialists’ intellectual training is fine” and “they aren’t subject to intoxication from a perspective of common sense”, and therefore they often win in comparison with Western and Easter colleagues.
We try to maintain an integrated view of the picture — from the States to China, and Southeast Asia, and the Islamic world. There is plenty of closed talks. Touch wood, our diplomacy sustains both the limping economy and politics at the moment. Though this won’t last forever,” the speaker admitted. “It is important for our partners to get information from us and compare it.”
“Test balls” are an important component for “dialogues” for Moscow’s partners. Thanks to them, each side gets an opportunity to raise a lot of topics, as a talk during such forums is about all conflicts that are politically important to both sides, the prospects of China and India, Southeast Asia, the understanding of the role of the Silk Way.
The speaker says that the European Union has now made an attempt to work in “double-headed-eagle mode”, which is characteristic of Russia: on the one hand, the EU adopted its policy of rapprochement of Europe and Asia as containment of China, and, on the other hand, Angela Merkel has recently been to China to represent a French-Germany initiative of creation of an alliance between Europe and China.
“Of course, it is against the United States of America,” Mark Entin drew the attention of the audience.
The last “area” of interests of EU countries, who are Moscow’s partners, the speaker made public was an attempt to reach some practical recommendations each of the sides could send to the top. As it is impossible to formulate general recommendations at this stage, the diplomat sadly acknowledged, though there is some progress in this respect.
“The Russian Federation is different values, it is an imperial country, it is authoritarianism, it is the war in Georgia”
In conclusion, Mark Entin made an unexpected “turn” having claimed that in the last years Moscow’s partners in the EU had “elaborated a very interesting systemic approach to weaken the positions of the Russian Federation”.
Previously, it was disagreement on a matter, now a system is created: “The Russian Federation is different values, it is an imperial country, it is authoritarianism, it is the war in Georgia, in Syria, in Ukraine, Crimea, it is the Litvinenko Case”. One shouldn’t discuss a conflict, specific accusations, it is enough that there are these cases, and as there are these cases, consequently, the Russian Federation can be accused of them too or it can be said that Moscow has a long arm. And it is very interesting, as a simple settlement of a conflict or agreement in a conflict doesn’t cancel problems. To normalise the relationships between Russia and the European Union, we have to remove these basic disagreements,” the speaker summed up.
As an example of one of such “basic” disagreements, Entin talked about the situation with the accusations of Russia of mass violations of human rights. The European side thinks thousands of cases of the country’s citizens considered in Strasburg as evidence of it. However, Russia has five times fewer cases per capita than Balkan states, than Baltic states do, Mark Entin expressed his point of view.
“As a big country, yes, there is a lot of cases that will be against it,” he claimed.
The expert noted that for a more objective understanding of the issue one should look at how the legal system in the EU countries themselves works.
“Look at how the judiciary system in Germany works: the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany is authorised to deal with violations of human rights, the court makes its ruling and in fact becomes a barrier between German society and international, European authorities. There were intentions in the State Duma and the Federation Council to close this system in Russia in the same way, but we chose a more balanced path. But whatever numbers you show and whatever you say… Let’s say the case on the voting of inmates at elections.”
We have a good ombudsman in the ECHR, and a lot is done to eliminate the weak links in legislation and administration of law
We will note that most inmates in Great Britain were prohibited from participating in elections (Editor’s Note: in 2005, the European Court of Human Rights acknowledged the prohibition illegal).
“Great Britain didn’t react to a resolution of the ECHR for long as the Russian Federation did, but as the English have to find common approaches in the European Union and not to rock the boat of Brexit, they decided to change national legislation. We chose to explain that our situation was a bit different from what the ECHR thinks,” the speaker noted.
“But it is a matter of current legislation, and some options can be found. Moreover, we have a good ombudsman in the ECHR, and a lot is done to eliminate weak links in legislation and administration of law. Though we would like numerous reforms in the judiciary system of the Russian Federation to finally bring to stability and conclusion of the process of reforms without leaving numerous gaps we are removing,” Mark Entin concluded.