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.
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.