There is still a lot that we do not know about the crisis, about where and how it ends, and about its human, societal and economic costs for both states and societies. This makes it particularly difficult to anticipate how the pandemic, and the measures that have been taken in response, might affect EU-Russia relations.
It seems clear at this stage that the pandemic will accelerate the advent of an international system dominated by the US-China confrontation. Some, including the French President Emmanuel Macron, believe this bipolar configuration will significantly constrain the EU's and Russia's room for international manoeuvre, and such a prospect calls for renewed attempts to create meaningful dialogue in spite of unresolved disputes. Additionally, while political relations are currently strained, societal ties have remained strong. Thus one could think that a common epidemiological enemy, which is equally threatening to both their populations, would bring the EU and Russia closer.
However, the opposite trend seems to be true thus far. Due to an enduring lack of trust, this crisis and the various responses to it have fuelled suspicions, recriminations, distortions and manipulations, even around subjects such as medical relief. It is quite remarkable how quickly policy entrepreneurs have integrated an unprecedented, unforeseen, unclear health crisis into their long-established (geo)political agenda or perennial ideological fight and continue business as usual. How this will affect EU-Russia relations in the long term and in a more meaningful sense will depend on the impact that the pandemic crisis has on unity and solidarity inside the EU, Russia's internal political stability, and conflict dynamics in Eastern Ukraine.