Asian and European leaders met in Milan, turning the capital of world fashion into a center of global politics. No agreements were signed, however Milan forum was more than a ceremonial handshake opportunity. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Western counterparts committed themselves to find the solution of the conflict in Ukraine.
Studio guest Gleb Ivashentsov, Russia’s former Ambassador to South Korea and Myanmar, Deputy General Director of Russian Asia-Pacific Council, Fyodor Lukianov, editor in chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, and Ilya Levin, independent analyst in Berlin, Germany, shared their opinions with Radio VR.
Gleb Ivashentsov: We live in a “global village” and any challenge to Europe or to Asia has become immediately a common challenge for both sides. And economically, Europe and Asia are becoming more and more interdependent. We cannot live without each other. It is no secret that Asia is now becoming more and more active economically and Europe is a little bit behind, but anyway, both sides can balance their needs and promote further cooperation for the mutual benefit.
At the very first day of the summit Sergei Lavrov said that Russia is the only country among ASEM members which is located simultaneously in Europe and in Asia. Can you elaborate on that?
Gleb Ivashentsov: Two thirds of the Russian territory lies in Asia. And history and geography made Russia kind of a bridge between Europe and Asia. Russia can become kind of an integration point not just for Europe and Asia, but for Europe Asia and America as well, because the Russian Far East is the only place where Russia borders the US.
Ahead of the meeting in Milan German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a dialog with Russia and made a keynote address to the German Parliament. She said: “Sanctions, however necessary, do not preclude dialog.” These particular words were interpreted by some in Moscow that despite the remaining difficulties, Germany can still play a decisive role in finding the way how to abolish the sanctions. What is your take on that?
Ilya Levin: Basically, the way Moscow interpreted it, is the right way. In Germany though, many people consider the opinion of Chancellor Angela Merkel the way that only condition for abolishing the sanctions against Russia is the full fulfillment of the Minsk agreement. And Chancellor Merkel is taking about that all the time. So, in my opinion and in the opinion of the German public, the only condition for abolishing the sanctions is the fulfillment of Minsk agreement.
The other question, which was on the agenda of Milan summit: energy security in Europe. To what extent do you think Germany can play the role of a stabilizing factor in the disputes between Moscow and Kiev?
Ilya Levin: Germany has already introduced some talks between the Ukrainian and the Russian sides, with the German representative to the EU Commission, trying to figure out some ways to solve the crisis. Germany is also one of the big customers of Gazprom. Germany is also getting some gas directly via the northern line in the Baltics. So, basically Germany is probably one of the biggest players in that game, because of all those factors. So, it will put really much effort in figuring out the way solve the energy problem with Ukraine and Russia.
Explain to us, what sort of format is this ASEM summit, because this is a relatively new phenomenon?
Fyodor Lukianov: It is a comparatively new. Formally, ASEM was founded in 1990’es, if I'm not mistaken, in 1996, when the importance of ties between Europe, identified as the EU, and Asia started being perceived as extremely important. Since that the members have held several meetings, and Russia joined this club in 2010. All of them used to be very big in scale, but it is much more of an informal gathering – the opportunity to speak for those, who otherwise quite rarely come together, rather than a structured dialog between the two major economic areas of the world.
I think in this format – as a platform for informal speaking – that is very good. As for the more institutionalized role, so far ASEM didn’t achieve this goal.
Do you think it is important that this particular summit took place in Italy and not somewhere else?
Fyodor Lukianov: Yes, for sure! I don’t think that Mr. Putin, for example, would go to ASEM summit, if it would have been somewhere else in Europe, for example, because we know that now the relationship is extremely complicated and several European countries took an extremely aggressive stance vis-à-vis Russia. So, the fact that Italy is a hosting nation just now played a very big role, because all of us know the very intense contacts between our two countries.
So, to bring East and West closer together, do you think that we’ve seen some modest but decent step in that direction?
Fyodor Lukianov: We can say that this is another step. But the way is so long, that one step can barely change the situation, but, of course, without this step it is quite impossible to expect that this way will be completed one day.