Brussels (Reuters) – The European Union’s new strategy for its fraught relationship with Russia will be based on pushing back, constraining and engaging with Moscow at the same time, the bloc’s top diplomat said on Tuesday.
The 27-nation EU and Moscow are deeply at odds over human rights, Ukraine and Belarus, security in the Middle East, and cyber attacks, among other issues.
The EU’s executive will publish a new report on Russia on Wednesday after consultations with U.S. President Joe Biden who will be meeting his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Geneva on the same day.
“We have to push back, we have to constrain, and we have to engage at the same time,” the bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell told a panel in previewing the new strategy, which will be discussed by the bloc’s national leaders next week.
Borrell said EU ties with Russia were “at the lowest level”.
“It’s going to be difficult to improve them… The prospects are not bright that things are going to improve anytime soon.”
In an echo of Biden’s own remarks ahead of his first face-to-face talk with Putin since becoming the U.S. president, Borrell said the EU would at the same time be ready to improve ties with Russia should the Kremlin change its tack.